Second Sunday After Pentecost
June 18, 2017
“No Quick Fixes”
Rev. John R. Larson
Ascension Lutheran Church Littleton, Colorado
We have become an impatient people. Waiting is not the virtue of many. We want the immediate, the here and now. In this week’s Post an article in the business section told us that the days for waiting, for anything, is over. Amazon’s Prime Now has come to Denver. You can order stuff and for a charge of $7.99, they’ll get it to your doorstep within one hour!! And for those of us who have a little more patience and can wait for an additional hour, if you have signed up for their service, the delivery is free. Maybe our pizza delivery folks can learn from them!!
We like fast. We like quick fixes. More than a few of us thought our money problems were over when the Jackpot hit $337,000,000.00 a week ago. For two or three bucks all of our money worries would be over. All it takes is a quick fix, right?
But I’m sorry to tell you this, but usually there are no quick fixes. Jesus in two different parables gives a lesson about how the Kingdom of God – His reign in life – works. Listen to these. “This is what the Kingdom of God is like. A man scatters seed on the ground. Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how. All by itself the soil produces grain, first the stalk, then the head, then the full kernel in the head.” (Mark 4:26-28) This parable, The Parable of the Growing Seed, sounds like something deliberate is happening – “Night and day, the seed sprouts and grows.” Even the process of stalk and head and full kernel in the head takes time. It doesn’t happen overnight.
There is no quick fix in the Parable of the Mustard Seed, either. Do you remember the mighty work that goes on here – the mustard seed, the smallest seed that you plant, grows and becomes the largest of all garden plants? The smallest became the largest. These two parables are a picture of what God’s action in the hearts of people is like. Christ works consistently, vigorously and miraculously in our lives.
I hope you know that usually there are no quick fixes in life. And I hope that you know that often our problems haven’t started overnight, either. I wonder if our doctors don’t shake their heads when we walk in the office and say, “Didn’t we talk about regular exercise? Didn’t we say that you had to stay away from the sugars and the salts and everything that you like that is ruining your health? What happened”? Or when you show up at your dentist and they wonder why all the plaque has built up between the teeth and you have to confess that flossing is something that you just forgot!! The cumulative effect of poor care will show itself.
I conducted a graveside for a member and after I gave my benediction I noticed that a few of her grandsons have decided to take up the habit of smoking. One of the more forthright relatives looked at the young men who had the cigarettes in their mouth and asked, “Do you know what you are doing?” I think she was asking them to quit!! People that I know who want to quit smoking wish that they had never started. Very few find a quick fix to something that has become part of their life and addiction and habit.
Consider all the sins that people get involved in. They usually didn’t come quickly. The person who has become a liar probably started early and finds it a convenient way to live life. The one who has the affair with someone who is not the one they pledged to love until death, didn’t spend the time and energy needed to keep the marriage alive and well.
There was a pastor who did a great disservice to his congregation in one of the sermons that he preached. He was relating a sad story about a woman that he knew that had everything go sour in her life – health, marriage, job, children – everything. His conclusion was that she had lived her life without God and that if she turned her life over to Jesus, everything would turn around. He promised a quick fix. Sometimes us religious people promise such things, and we shouldn’t. Jesus doesn’t. A little seed becomes a big plant but it takes time – His time with His miraculous action. The seed in the ground grows but first comes the stalk and sometime later the head and finally a kernel shows up. To all of our needs that have taken a lifetime to create – our fallings – our Lord comes with His truth and begins His work.
I remember baptizing four children from the same family on the same day. The family had not been active in church for quite a few years but they knew that baptizing the kids was a step that they needed to take. The children were “active children”, that is a nice way to say that!! They were “active” before they were baptized and they were “active” after they were baptized. And I began to wonder if the mom was saying to herself when the kids were just as “active” as after as before, “I thought Baptism was supposed to cure this!!” NO QUICK FIXES!! Now salvation was brought, the children were saved, but they would spend the rest of their lives letting this little seed that was planted grow into a mature plant. We just don’t baptize around here, we teach, we have a Preschool, Sunday School, Confirmation classes, a youth program and adult Bible Classes. We hold church every Sunday and lots of other days in between and invite you to come whenever we open the doors because this fix that Christ comes to bring us takes a lifetime to receive!!
It isn’t an easy fix being part of God’s Kingdom but it is a most marvelous fix. It was not easy for Christ to come and fix us, either. And He knew it. The fix, our salvation, our rescue from the damages of sin and the fight against evil and the devil was not so easy. Do you remember the temptations that the devil brought to Jesus after His baptism and prior to His public ministry? Stones into bread. Jump from the highest point in the temple and let the angels catch you. And then the simple act of bending the knee to the devil – “The devil took Him to a very high mountain and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and all their splendor. ‘All this I will give you, if You will bow down and worship me.’ And Jesus said to him, ‘Away from Me, Satan! For it is written: Worship the Lord your God, and serve Him only.’” (Matthew 4:8-10)
An easy fix to bring us into the Kingdom of God? NO!! Even His own disciples discouraged Him from going to Jerusalem and going to a cross for crucifixion, but Jesus took no short cuts. He paid the full price to bring us to His side. He dies and brings us life. He comes to life and conquers sin and says that everyone who confesses the name of Christ has everlasting life.
And what a fix He provides! These parables, these teachings allow us to see how wonderfully God works. The mustard seed is the smallest of seeds but it becomes the largest of plants, so large that the birds of the air can come and perch in its shade. God’s Word, His seed, works wonderfully. For everyone of you who has shared a word from God, who has taught Sunday School, who has sung in the choir, who has read a Bible story to children or grandchildren, nieces or nephews, who has brought the needs of others consistently before the throne of God in prayer – you are planting a seed, like this mustard seed and God takes it and does His wonderful work.
So, don’t give up!! Plant the seeds. And let the fixing, the work be done by God. In the first parable, The Parable of the Growing Seed, the mysterious working of God’s seed in emphasized. “A man scatters seed on the ground. Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how. All by itself the soil produces grain – first the stalk, then the head, then the full kernel in the head.” (Mark 4:26-28) And then, of course, is the harvest – a picture in the Bible of the final judgment before God.
I don’t know how this works – God’s seed – but it works. I don’t know how Baptism, putting some water on someone’s head can create faith and salvation in the human heart, but it does. I don’t understand how one reading the Bible or hearing a sermon can go from unbelief and being lost, in darkness, without hope and faith to being converted, saved, filled with Christ and the Holy Spirit, made fully righteous in God’s eyes – but I know it is true. I don’t know how throughout this entire world, in every country, in thousands of languages, among people of all types of differences one saving name – the name of Jesus Christ – is spoken. How does it happen in the heart, in your heart, in this world? It is the power of God – He is at work in you and me and the world.
Quick fixes usually don’t work. Every plumber or electrician will shake their heads over quick fixes that were no fixes at all – they were called to clean up the mess of some wannabe plumber or electrician. No, this is no quick fix. This is God’s fix. And God’s fix can begin today. It is not too late for it.
Whenever God’s truth in Christ is planted the seed can grow. We don’t always know how it will work, but it will work!! It may start small but with the work of God’s Spirit it will grow amazingly well. How do I know? I see it right in front of me. I see it in you. God is working among us, wonderfully. Amen!!
(This sermon was originally preached on June 14th (Flag Day!!) in 2009)