Sermons 2006
Mighty things from Small, Proper 6B, 18 June 2006, Mark 4:26-34

Home | "Light and Darkness", Christmas 2C, 31 December 2006, John 1:1-18 | Christmas Eve and Christmas Day 2006 | "What then shall we do?", Advent 3C , 17 December 2006, Luke 3:7-18 | "Luke's Gospel", Advent 1C, 3 Dec 2006, Luke 21:25-31 | Which Jesus? Proper 29B 2006, 26 November 2006, John 18:33-37 | Apocalypticism and Fundamentalism, Proper 28B, 19 Nov 2006, Daniel12; Mark 13:14-23 | "The Widow's Mite: All and Everything", Proper 27B, 12 November 2006, Mark 12:38-44 | "The Commandments to love God, Neighbor, One Another" Proper 26B, 5 November 2006, Mark 12:28-34 | "Sight -- and Seeing" Proper 25B, 29 October 2006, Mark 10:46-52 | "Baptism: Overwhelming Washing", Proper 24B, 22 October 2006 Mark 10:35-45 | "God's Transforming Love", Proper 23B, 15 October 2006, Mark 10:17-31 | "Divorce", Proper 22B, 8 February 2006, Mark 10: 2-9 | "Hard Sayings and Sharp Words", Proper 21B, 1 October 2006, Mark 9:38-43, 45, 47-48 | "First or Last?" Proper 20B, 24 September 2006, Mark 9:30-37 | "Unintended Consequences", Proper 19B, 17 September 2006, Mark 8:27-38 | "Ephphatha! Open up!" Proper 18B, 10 September 2006, Mark 7:31-37 | "Rituals", Proper 17B, 3 September 2006, Deuteronomy 4:1-9; Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23 | "Choices." Proper 16B, 30 August 2006, Joshua 24:1-2a, 14-25; John 6:60-69 | "Come to the Table." Proper 15B, 20 August 2006, John 6:53-59 | "Do not be afraid." Proper 12B, 30 July 2006, Mark6:45-52 | "General Convention and Jesus' Compassion", Proper 11B, 23 July 2006, Mark 6: 30-44 | "Basics for the Journey", Proper 10B, 16 July 2006, Mark 6:7-13 | "Jesus and Rejection", Proper 9B, 9 July 2006, Mark 6:1-6 | "Trust, Faith, and Belief" Proper 8B, 2 July 2006, Mark 5:22-43 | "Storms, Fear, and Faith" Proper 7B, 25 June 2006, Mark 4:35-41 | Mighty things from Small, Proper 6B, 18 June 2006, Mark 4:26-34 | Trinity, Pentecost 1, 11 June 2006, Exodus 3:1-6; John 3:1-16 | The King Jesus Fire-Baptized Holy Spirit Church, Pentecost , 4 June, Acts 2:1-11; Jn 20:19-23 | "That they may be one" General Convention 2006, Easter 7B 28 May 2006, John 5:9-15 | "Friends, friendship, and love" Easter 6B, 21 May 2006, John 15:9-17 | Mother's Day, two mothers' love!" Easter 5B, 14 April 2006, John 14:15-21 | "Interesting, this Good Shepherd!" Easter 4B, 7 May 2006, John 10:11-16 | "How do you prove you are alive?", Easter 3B, 30 April 2006, Luke 24:36b-48 | "Do you believe because...." Easter 2B, 23 April 2006, John 20:19-31 | "He goes before you to Galilee...." Easter B 2006, 16 April, Mark 16:1-8 | "Journey into darkness", Palm Sunday B, 9 April 2006. Mark 11:1-11, 14:32-15:47 | "Sir, we would see Jesus!" Lent 5B, 2 April 2006, John 12:20-33 | "Miracles and Faith, Ordinary and Not", Lent 4B 2006, 26 March 2006, John 6:4-15 | "Rage, Rampage, and Outrage", Lent 3B, 19 March 2006, John 2: 13-22 | "Images of the Cross", Lent 2B, 12 March 2006, Mark 8:31-38 | "Baptism, Temptation, Redemption," Lent 1B, 5 March 2005, Mark 1:9-13 | Ash Wednesday , 1 March 2006, Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21 | ""Nanny McPhee' and transfiguration", Epiphany Last B, Mark 9:2-9 | "Jesus, leprosy, and the law of Moses", Epiphany 6B, 12 February 2006, Mark 1:40-45 | "Healing, wholeness, forgiveness, and love", Epiphany 5B, 5 February 2006, Mark 1:29-39 | "Haints, Unclean spirits, and demons" Epiphany 4B, 22 January 2006, Mark 1:21-28 | Epiphany 3B, 22 January 2006, "God's Call -- and Our Response", Mark 1:14-20 | Epiphany 2B, 15 January 2006, "Call and Response", John 1:43-51 | Epiphany 1B, 8 January 2006, "The Baptism of our Lord -- and Ours", Mark 1:7-11 | The Holy Name, 1 January 2006, Luke 2: 15-21

Proper 6B 2006 Mark 4:26-34

I have been watching the corn grow in the fields 0n two sides of our house. It seems just yesterday that the wheat had been cut and the corn planted. Nothing much seemed to happen for a very long while. Part of the delay, of course, was the drought that we had been having. It was true that little tiny corn seedlings had poked up just above the coil but their growth seemed halted.

Then rain from the heavens began. Also halting at first, very sporadic, and, it seemed, not enough to do any more good than to settle the dust in our gravel lanes. But then the rains fell more frequently. And this past week or so for several days rain seemed to be falling without ceasing – wonderful slow rains seeping deep into the earth.

And the corn seedlings – well, they are seedlings no more. We can almost watch them grow. In a matter of a few short days we can no longer see the Great Wicomico River from our house, not even from our deck. We are now shrouded by our every two year privacy fence of field corn. From very small things – corn seed -- a mighty field of tall stalks is growing.

This week the Richmond Times Dispatch reported finding a lost forest along the Nottaway River. In this 40 acre forest was what was rapidly designated a champion tree. The bald cypress, quickly named Big Mama, is 123 feet tall and the trunk is 12 feet wide at the ground – that’s 37 feet in circumference. It may be over 1500 years old. All from a tiny seed or acorn. (1)

The most massive living thing on planet Earth is a giant sequoia found in California’s Sequoia National Park on the western slope of the Sierra Nevadas. This tree is nearly 275 feet tall and is 102. 6 feet around at its base. It may weigh 2,756 tons. It is 2,200 years old. The seeds of the giant sequoia are about the size of an oat flake, and according to the Guinness Book of World Records they weigh only 1/6,000 of an ounce. (2)

From small, even tiny things, mighty things can grow.

One commentator noted that we live in a day of small things: “days of small things are most of the days of our lives, and really days of small things are most of the days of the universe. You know, the scientists say that the universe started as a very small thing, and that the very small thing was there -- people of faith believe created by God --between oh, thirteen and fourteen billion years ago as we think of time now. But this small thing was there before there really was even time. And so even before there was time or space, there was just this very small thing about the size of a marble; and in less than a trillion trillioneth of a second, God must have said, "Let there be," and the very small seed grew to a volume larger than all of the observable space in the universe. That's what the scientists are saying, and I believe them. So God did a very small thing with grace and power and great labor; and in the twinkling of God's eye, a universe was born. “ (3)

Back in 1990 when the now famous Hubble telescope was first launched, there was not much hope for its success. Apparently its reflecting mirror had been manufactured improperly, causing the telescope’s pictures to be out of focus. In fact, Hubble needed a giant -- and expensive -- pair of eyeglasses or refractions to correct its vision, because the curvature of its mirror was off by a mere one-fiftieth the width of a human hair. It seems that if the curve or parabola is not just right, a telescope is useless. It cannot focus light and reflect reality as it is -- or in the case of Hubble, as it was billions of years ago. Small things can and do make a big difference.
The parables of Jesus are small little stories that related familiar everyday small things to greater things.
Another commentator has observed that Jesus’ “parables are the Hubble telescopes of faith and wisdom. In fact, the word “parable” itself is related to the word “parabola,” both meaning in some sense “comparison,” “reflection,” or even “relationship.” The Hubble parabola and Jesus’ parables both reflect light and truth. Both make it possible for us to see what would otherwise escape our attention. As spiritual telescopes, parables bring the Gospel message into focus and challenge us to peer ever more deeply into the mysteries of life and faith, mysteries that we might never come to without the aid of the parable itself. This is why our Lord loved them so. Unlike the unfortunate manufacturers of the Hubble, Jesus got his parables exactly right on target.

Some things of course parables cannot do. They do not tell us much about the weather or engineering, for instance. They do not deal with the nature of the material world the way science and the Hubble telescope do. They do not even attempt to explain some of the deepest mysteries of faith, such as the Trinity or the Incarnation. Nor are parables simple allegories in which we can mechanically correlate each character in the narrative to God or us or Christ himself, if we only know the right combination or key. Parables often raise more questions than they answer. But in helping us raise the right questions, they bring us closer to our true nature and to our relationship to God’s kingdom. They focus us on life’s essentials.

The language of parable is the language of faith -- open to the kingdom of God at work in our everyday lives. In that sense, parables may seem on the surface to be ordinary and everyday. They are about everything from seeds and shrubs to lost coins and wasted money. Nothing very exotic. Nothing people today -- two thousand years later -- cannot identify with. Yet the words of the parable offer more than quaint images of the commonplace in life. They are about the things of this life considered as means of grace and growth. They are about the kingdom within.

The kingdom is the key. Jesus does not say for instance that we ourselves are like the mustard seed, which though small “grows up and becomes the greatest of all shrubs.” On the contrary, left to our own devices most of us would probably remain solitary and small-minded creatures of our own comfort and pleasure. We would not have the grace to live and grow into the life of the kingdom. It is rather the kingdom working within us that is the source of all we can become. And to that there is no spiritual limit. Yet the kingdom in all its abundance cannot be contained or manipulated by mortals like ourselves, no matter how much we may wish it were otherwise. The kingdom is at hand, Jesus tells us in the Gospels, but we cannot grab hold of it and own it as our own. It is not for sale at any price. It is the gift of the God who loves us. (4)


1. RTD, Monday, 12 June 2006, pp A1, A8.
2. eSermons illustrations for 18 June 2006.
3. The Rev. Martha Sterne, "A Day of Small Things", June 18, 2006, Day 1.
4. From Sermon for Proper 6B 2006, Selected Sermons,

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