Scripture Reading July 3, 2011

Mark 4: 26-29

He also said, ‘The kingdom of God is as if someone would scatter seed on the ground, 27and would sleep and rise night and day, and the seed would sprout and grow, he does not know how. 28The earth produces of itself, first the stalk, then the head, then the full grain in the head. 29But when the grain is ripe, at once he goes in with his sickle, because the harvest has come.’

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In this passage from the Gospel of Mark, Jesus uses the image of seed scattered on the ground to describe the Kingdom of God.   The seed, he says, sprouts and grows without the sower knowing how.   There is something “automatic” about it:  first the stalk, and then the head, and then the full grain in the head.   The implication is that the Kingdom (or Realm) of God is inexorable and approaches without human intervention.  

At the same time, we know that human beings are the instruments of God in whatever God purposes on earth.  

Questions:

What is your understanding of the Kingdom (Realm) of God?   Is it simply a utopian vision of this world, perfected . . . something toward which human beings can work?   Or is it something that only God can create?

In your view, what is the relationship (if any) between American Democracy and the Kingdom (Realm) of God?

What examples might you draw from your own life of growth that is “automatic,” that happens without human effort?

Rev. Dr. James Gertmenian
Senior Minister

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4 Responses to Scripture Reading July 3, 2011

  1. Paul Price says:

    Might ‘knowing not how” be the extremely complicated, hard earned, hoped for “free will?” (see social psychology, Stanley Milgram, Philip Zimbardo, etc.) First automatic thought. In fact, I recall (perhaps faultily), a Jewish story that each person is a unique shard of sparkling glass-necessary to God’s creation. Might each seed be a necessary, unique potential? I struggle to see the the uniqueness of others, and not my own psychological screens.

    When I was a very serious artist, with a studio, I learned that I had to show up almost every day whether I felt inspired or not, then almost (virtually) always the “groove” would arise, and my artist brain was at work. Many accomplished writers will say, ‘I sit at the desk every day at 8:00 a.m and put in my time.” No runner’s lungs without running, or since I am now walking more, waIker’s lungs if I pick up the pace. I try to attend 10:30 on as regular a basis as possible (Catholic roots?, away for the Fourth), become involved in ways that I can, and I can feel slow changes happening; not out-of-the-woods, yet.

    I have lately been reading “A Sociology For The Social Gospel” by Walter Rauschenbusch; the online site “Religion Dispatches,” (http://www.religiondispatches.org, Peter Lamaar is a contributor); and coming across references (mildly put, eeh!) to Rousas John Rushdoony, (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rousas_John_Rushdoony#cite_note-18), who appears to be a deeply seminal figure for the religious right and right wing politicians, toss in not inconsequentially, David Barton, etc., etc.

    I am coming to feel there are almost two Kingdom’s of God at work in our world, and taking either of them for granted (or hoping for unaided divine intervention) invites peril.

    I believe democracy is the best thing that humans have come up with so far, and when I reflect on how our brains maintain their capacity by diverse stimulation, I almost see an analogy. But see Milgram, Zimbardo, the Koch brothers, it is perhaps the most vulnerable of government forms, and takes the hardest work to maintain.

  2. Tim Fremouw says:

    What is your understanding of the Kingdom (Realm) of God? Is it simply a utopian vision of this world, perfected . . . something toward which human beings can work? Or is it something that only God can create?

    I believe we see glimpses of the Kingdom of God every day. After all, this is our father’s world. When we follow the teachings of Jesus, it brings out the best in us … the Realm of God.

    It is hard to imagine that we will achieve “Heaven on Earth” anytime soon, without dramatic intervention, but that is not a reason to despair, or to stop trying.

    Indeed, when problems persist, or others don’t share our priorities, we would do well to remember this prayer: “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”

    If you give of your time and resources to help the community (anywhere, including Plymouth), you are planting seeds which grow beyond your wildest dreams.

    In your view, what is the relationship (if any) between American Democracy and the Kingdom (Realm) of God?

    I like to think that we have made the world a better place, but recognize that there is still a long way to go.

    What examples might you draw from your own life of growth that is “automatic,” that happens without human effort?

    Just a few random thoughts:

    When I was 10, our family was a renting a remote farmhouse. That night, we were out watching for meteors. To our amazement, a bright star began forming directly overhead. It grew brighter and larger, eventually covering much of the sky. Beams of light spread from each point of the star to every horizon. One beam seemed to go directly to a nearby graveyard. We were in utter awe, half expecting the end of the world. Years later, I learned that it was a very rare form of the aurora borealis.

    I’ve always marvelled at the creative process. Where do our best ideas come from? Are they our own? Do our brains interact? Are we tapping into the mind of God, or some other creative source?

    We are surrounded by nature … a world of “automatic” growth, which can inspire and enrich our lives. Further, as humans, there are clearly ways of living which bring out the best in us. The role of the “hand of God” remains a matter of faith, but the teachings of Jesus are an excellent place to start.

  3. Hazel Lutz says:

    To me the verses cited show that the Kingdom of God, in relation to the individual, is not something that the individual earns by work. It comes to each of us through no particular merit of our own. We reap the benefits, unthinkingly. The Kingdom just is, and it is always available. For me, it is a peace within, a lack of fear, a centeredness, a place in which I know what I need to do for myself and for those around me. In some sense it’s a knowledge that my needs, your needs, everyone’s needs will be met. These are not the list of needs as depicted in the advertising media, but a more basic set of needs, like the list of requests in the Lord’s Prayer.

    Rational thought and experience tells me that not all individuals needs are being met today, nor have they been n the past; and that someday my needs may not be met. Yet, my ability to reach that peaceful calm and certainty that I can enjoy the Kingdom of God who ever I am, what ever I do, where ever I am, in what ever physical, mental, or emotional state I am in is very very important to my ability to function through trying times. It lies at the basis of my self-esteem and my regard for and patience with others. Without it, I would not be able to be as positive and helpful a person as I manage to be when I’m at my best. Without it, I would not be able to pull myself out of depression or discouragement.

    At the basis of the Kingdom of God, for me, lies a respect for every individual. If we lack that, then the quality of life on earth for all will deteriorate in a society based on self-serving privileges and inequality. Thus the Kingdom of God is dependent upon the actions of the whole of humanity.

    In relation to US Democracy, I also understand that the Kingdom of God is dependent upon a belief in the existence of God in each and everyone one of us. We each can work to make things better for all, if we accept the first premise, that the Kingdom is available to all irrespective of individuals’ merits.

    This does not equate US Democracy with the Kingdom of God. It is no closer than any other form of government. In every form of government, individuals can work to make as real as possible the Kingdom of God on earth–to make the good things of this earth available to everyone.

    Jesus did this kind of work within a colony of the Roman empire. Lack of democratic government didn’t stop him. To think of our form of government as the highest form of government approaching God’s Kingdom is self-flattery. If humans don’t totally destroy the earth, there will be other forms of government to follow us. They may be better at loving and supporting every individual. This certainly is a difficult challenge that faces every form of government.

  4. Lew Zeidner says:

    I think of a multiple person raft on a long river as a metaphor for the balance between the God driven and the human experience of the Kingdom of God. The river keeps moving and has a plan; with rapids and calm areas … the rafters can let the river carry them while being passive; they can try to steer and determine their own experience; or they can fight the river and ultimately drown; with many options along the continuum. The rafters can work together, in oposition or somewhere in between; sometimes good leaders can save the people on the raft other times a misguided decision can cause all to drown or a select few to fall over board. The river is the same wonderous environment starting at the headwaters and ending at the basin; while the human experience can vary dramatically. It is not either God created or man worked; it is both. South Africa during apartheid was the Kingdom of God; as is America at its best functioning as a democracy. The river is flowing but the human experience varies as the rafters work together, struggle or interact in a myriad of ways. I believe that our challenge living in the Kingdom of God is to know when to, “let go and let God” and when to steer away from the rocks. The challenge is made more complex in a world where 7 billion people all make minute to minute decisions about how best to manage the river.

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