“What Do You Do?”
“What Do You Do?”
We live in a culture, a society, that puts a lot of stock in doing. We give glory, laud, and honor to the businessman who makes a billion dollars, to the athlete who hits the most home runs or to the quarterback who wins the MVP. We ask each other, “What do you do for a living?” We ask our kids, “What do you think you are doing?” We rate other people, saying “What did he ever do for you?” or “What have you done for me lately?” Even Yoda told us 35 years ago, “Do, or do not, there is no try.”
Well, if you know me at all you know that yard work, moving a lawn mower around, is not one of my favorite things to do. I am also not very good at keeping flower beds and shrubs and such looking good. Just don’t have a green thumb. For the people of Jesus’ day, though, you had to be a good gardener. If you were not, you did not eat. Most folks in those days had to plant and grow their own food. In our Gospel today, Jesus compares planting stuff to the Holy Spirit’s work of planting God’s Word in people’s hearts. God does this work, and He wants to use us to do this work. And we are going to talk about all this here today as we see the Word at work and ask ourselves, “What do you do?”
When we look at the Parables of Jesus we want to be careful not to try and interpret it down to the last detail. Sometimes it is better to look at the bigger picture when we examine the parables of Jesus. One thing that I think this parable asks of us is that we be patient. In our society, patience is something that is hard to come by. We get mad that it takes “so long” for the microwave to boil that water for our coffee or make that Pop Tart. (I heat mine for like 17 seconds) Many folks have switched from charcoal grills to gas because it took too long for a fire to start the old way. I confess to you today that I am one of those people, and my dad is shaking his head at me in heaven as I say this. My dad was a Weber grill, charcoal guy. A few years ago, Wendy’s had a TV commercial that said they would serve you 46 seconds after placing your order, so much more quickly than Burger King which could take as long as three whole minutes.
And this is getting worse. With our cable modem/wi-fi culture we are expecting more things instantly. You know, instant downloads, instant streaming (Netflix), instant dating (Grindr), instant taxi rides (Uber), instant dinner reservations (Open Table), instant gratification. Amazon has a service in some cities that if you order by 11 the item is at your door by 8. And still, people don’t want to wait that long! Studies are showing that with all our internet junk, patience, which was in short supply before, is now even more rare. One study showed that 25 percent of American will abandon a website if it doesn’t load in 4 seconds. Another study said people will blow off a requested video if it does not start in TWO seconds. I remember trying to load Prodigy in 1994 where it would take 4 minutes to load a picture. Another article said Americans won’t visit an online establishment for a second time if they have to wait too long for the first. Amazon alone could lose 1.6 billion dollars of business if their page loads one second, ONE SECOND, too slow!
It is not surprising then that this mindset affects our spiritual lives as well. We want the full benefits of God’s gifts and we want it now! Many in the church also want to see immediate success with quick and easy growth.
But it usually isn’t like that. Jesus tells us a story of a guy who had patience. It sounds like he scattered his seeds then went about his day to day life. Each day he would get up for work, spend a long day at the office, come home, play with the kids, watch some TV, go to bed, and the next day do it all again. He does not worry about the seeds, he doesn’t run out all the time to check on them. He knows they will grow in their own time. So it is with the Word of God as it is preached, taught, studied, for it will ignite and strengthen faith, hope and love. The Kingdom of God may grow slowly, it may not happen in the way we want it to or as fast as we want it to, but by God’s power in His Word it WILL grow.
The Bible tells us that Jesus, even with the burden of our salvation on His shoulders, took the time to interact in a one on one way with ordinary people, unimportant people, even outcasts. He never had a meeting with Caesar, or Pilate, or Herod in order to speed His mission up. What He came to do was going to get done. The sins of every person everywhere would be paid in full when He would go to the cross. The public demonstration of His victory over death would come as well, not immediately, but three days later, in God’s good time. But Jesus also had dinners with sinners, He hung out with little kids, He went to weddings, even went on a few cruises. Jesus was not all rush, rush, rush like we can be. He took His time. I mean, He made us wait 4000 years from the Fall in Eden to the first Christmas.
What about us here today? What can we do for the sake of the kingdom? First of all, what we are being told here today is that we need to depend on the power of God’s Word. God uses us, but He is the one doing the doing. When we share the Gospel, when we, as Jesus said, spread the seeds of the Gospel, we should not expect to see instant results. That can happen, like on Pentecost, but it is arrogant on our part to think it will happen every time we are involved. We need to trust in the power of God’s Word: the Words of our Lord spoken at our Baptism, the Words of our Lord spoken in Confession, Absolution and in our worship, the Words of our Lord spoken in His Holy Supper. The power is with and in God, not us. Then we are to pray, to study and to trust in the power promises of God’s Word. We know, because God said so, that we will grow in our blessings. And when we share the Word and plant the seed, we may not see the results of that, but we can be assured that they will occur. Maybe not according to our timetable, but always according to God’s.
Another big picture thing we have from this parable of Jesus is He reminds us that sometimes with small beginnings you get large endings. Jesus points us to an everyday miracle that takes a little seed and turns it into huge plants or trees. (The mustard seed) The tallest tree in the world, the California redwood, grows from a small seed. Jesus saw that the same thing was going to happen with His little band of twelve common men and how that group would grow and spread throughout the world and number a billion people. We should not let the simplicity of the Gospel make us overlook its all-sufficient power to accomplish God’s purpose of salvation.
168 years ago, the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod began with 14 congregations and 12 pastors. They were scattered across the country from Buffalo, NY to Perry County, Mo. How could a small, far flung group like this hope to hang on, let alone grow? How could a bunch of German speaking Christians make it in a English speaking country? Well, they did. God guided our Church and blessed it, and now it is thousands of pastors and teachers, 2 million members and 6000 congregations.
It does not take much for us to look around and see the power of God’s Word at work in us, and around us. Martin Luther wrote, “There is no difference between the Word when uttered by a schoolboy and when uttered by the angel Gabriel….Venison, properly seasoned and prepared, tastes just as good in a wooden dish as in one of silver.” God has promised us that His Word will have His power and His care wherever and whenever it is planted. He has planted it in us and it has grown and flourished. And we have the mission to go out and help plant it in those who do not have what we have. We may not see the results. We may think we have failed. But that would be wrong. Because God has promised that His Word has power and will grow and do its thing in the way He has said. The growth and spread of God’s Word does not depend on our skill or talents as we do what we do. It is not us doing the doing, it is God who does the doing through us. God does use us, and empowers us as He supervises the Word at work.