Friday of Pentecost 4 – Mark 4:26-34

26 And he said, “The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed on the ground. 27 He sleeps and rises night and day, and the seed sprouts and grows; he knows not how. 28 The earth produces by itself, first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear. 29 But when the grain is ripe, at once he puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come.”

30 And he said, “With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable shall we use for it? 31 It is like a grain of mustard seed, which, when sown on the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth, 32 yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes larger than all the garden plants and puts out large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade.”

33 With many such parables he spoke the word to them, as they were able to hear it. 34 He did not speak to them without a parable, but privately to his own disciples he explained everything.

We had just finished our third outreach campaign. Fliers had been distributed, friendship Sundays hosted, and the Ambassadors for Christ has been there. There was some urgency here. The congregation was small, we felt like we were on a razor’s edge of solvency, programming much beyond Sunday morning worship and a handful of children in Sunday School was nearly impossible. We just did not have any people to do it. After months of effort, we took a few minutes to evaluate. From all the work, we had netted nothing. One visitor had come but did not leave any contact information and never returned. I must admit, I was discouraged. I prayed some bitter prayers.

That fall, at the appointed hour on a Sunday morning, I put on my robe and walked out to speak the invocation and I saw her: a new face! The next week she was there again. Then another fellow came after I did a funeral for his wife. A spouse of a long-time member started to attend. None of these people had been reached by my outreach campaigns. They had read none of the fliers, been visited by none of the Ambassadors, nor had gotten an invite to the friendship Sunday (perhaps the spouse had, but he had not shown up then.)

What was going on? I think it was Jesus teaching me what He speaks in this parable about the seed that grows all by itself. Jesus uses a word you already know when he says it grows all by itself. He says it grows, “automatike.” That is our word “automatic.” It sounds exactly the same, just with an extra syllable at the end. Jesus was reminding me that this was His congregation and its growth was His task, not mine.  The kingdom of God is like that seed that grows all by itself. I think being smart about outreach is still a good idea. I still strive to contact folks who visit us and try to get into the community with the Word of God, but I have learned something. Jesus is in control of this, I am not. I look forward to what He will do.

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