Sunday, Jan. 19 – Re-creation

Mark 4:1-34 Parables of sower and mustard seed
Psalm 126

In God’s kingdom, even when things seem to die such as a seed, God brings new life through ways we could never imagine. Both the sower and the mustard seed begin small but with God, amazing things happen. Why Church? Because church is a re-creation of boundless opportunities.

Introduction & reflection

This week’s reading from Mark 4 includes the parable of the mustard seed. Jesus tells the people that where God’s word is sown, the opportunities for the smallest of seeds to grow into the largest of trees is boundless.

A few years ago, I was a chaplain intern at a hospital. The main job of a hospital chaplain is to care for the spiritual needs of patients in ways that can help the patient heal from their pain.

One day I visited with a man who was actually HAPPY to be in the hospital. You see, he lived alone in and his health prevented him from going outside in the cold winter months. In Minnesota, that is a LONG time to stay indoors! When the man had to go to the hospital and stay for a few days, it was the first time he had left his home in three months! Even though he wasn’t feeling well, he was glad to have people to see and talk with every day at the hospital.

When I visited with him, his body was healing well but his spirit was in pain. He was about to be discharged and sent back home. It was January and he knew he would have to stay home alone for at least another two months before it would warm up and he could get outdoors.

As he talked about his worries over being alone again, he wondered what his purpose in life was anymore. He wondered what his “mission” in life was now. He once was very active in his small town – especially his church. His family lived far away.

I asked him what he does to get through each day at home. He said, “I pray sometimes. I am on the phone a lot, though. People like to talk with me. I seem to cheer them up.”

“Well,” I said. “It sounds like you have your mission right there.”

Through the Holy Spirit, the man’s words of faith planted small seeds of hope and comfort in the hearts of his friends and family. Even though he could no longer go to church, he could bring the Church to them.

Why Church? Because church is a re-creation of boundless opportunities.

Shari Howell, Pastoral Intern
Grace Lutheran Church
St. Paul, Minnesota

Worship Resources

Call to Worship
L: Praise the Spirit for the gift of growth and life.
C: Let all who have ears to hear listen!
L: Praise Christ for the fruitful harvest of faithfulness.
C: Let all who have ears to hear listen!
L: Praise God for the promise of boundless opportunity for all.
C: Let all who have ears to hear listen!

Prayer of the Day
In story and parable you teach us Jesus – so that seeing through faith’s eye and by the Spirit’s heart, you recreate us to bear the fruit which your people everywhere long for. Take our efforts, even when small, and grow them into the fulsome harvest you seek for all. Amen.

Music Suggestions

• Light Shone in Darkness- ELW #307
• Seed That in Earth is Dying- ELW #330
• Many and Great, O God- ELW #837
• Build Your Kingdom Here- Rend Collective
• God of Wonders- Byrd and Hindalong
• Mustard Seed- Rain for Roots

Reader’s Theater

Mark 4:1-34

Narrator: Again [Jesus] began to teach beside the sea. Such a very large crowd gathered around him that he got into a boat on the sea and sat there, while the whole crowd was beside the sea on the land. He began to teach them many things in parables, and in his teaching he said to them:
Jesus: “Listen! A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seed fell on the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Other seed fell on rocky ground, where it did not have much soil, and it sprang up quickly, since it had no depth of soil. And when the sun rose, it was scorched; and since it had no root, it withered away. Other seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it, and it yielded no grain. Other seed fell into good soil and brought forth grain, growing up and increasing and yielding thirty and sixty and a hundredfold.”
Narrator: And he said,
Jesus: “Let anyone with ears to hear listen!”
Narrator: When he was alone, those who were around him along with the twelve asked him about the parables. And he said to them,
Jesus: “To you has been given the secret of the kingdom of God, but for those outside, everything comes in parables; in order that ‘they may indeed look, but not perceive, and may indeed listen, but not understand; so that they may not turn again and be forgiven.’”
Narrator: And he said to them,
Jesus: “Do you not understand this parable? Then how will you understand all the parables? The sower sows the word. These are the ones on the path where the word is sown: when they hear, Satan immediately comes and takes away the word that is sown in them. And these are the ones sown on rocky ground: when they hear the word, they immediately receive it with joy. But they have no root, and endure only for a while; then, when trouble or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately they fall away. And others are those sown among the thorns: these are the ones who hear the word, but the cares of the world, and the lure of wealth, and the desire for other things come in and choke the word, and it yields nothing. And these are the ones sown on the good soil: they hear the word and accept it and bear fruit, thirty and sixty and a hundredfold.”
Narrator: He said to them,
Jesus: “Is a lamp brought in to be put under the bushel basket, or under the bed, and not on the lampstand? For there is nothing hidden, except to be disclosed; nor is anything secret, except to come to light. Let anyone with ears to hear listen!”
Narrator: And he said to them,
Jesus: “Pay attention to what you hear; the measure you give will be the measure you get, and still more will be given you. For to those who have, more will be given; and from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away.”
Narrator: He also said,
Jesus: “The kingdom of God is as if someone would scatter seed on the ground, and would sleep and rise night and day, and the seed would sprout and grow, he does not know how. The earth produces of itself, first the stalk, then the head, then the full grain in the head. But when the grain is ripe, at once he goes in with his sickle, because the harvest has come.”
Narrator: He also said,
Jesus: “With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable will we use for it? It is like a mustard seed, which, when sown upon the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth; yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes the greatest of all shrubs, and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade.”
Narrator: With many such parables he spoke the word to them, as they were able to hear it; he did not speak to them except in parables, but he explained everything in private to his disciples.

Sermon Starters

Resource: https://faithlead.luthersem.edu/decline/

What type of soil does the Church find itself in today? How bright is the Church light in our world? Do you believe the Church What steps could the Church take to improve the soil, so that it can grow? I believe the mustard seed offers an answer. When the seed is planted it grows in a manner to provide shelter for another. The church is at its best when planting trees. Whether it is legend or truth, the quote is good, “Many more legends about Luther and trees swirl around, one of the best known should be mentioned, the famous saying: “If I knew that tomorrow was the end of the world, I would plant an apple tree today!” is attributed to Luther. One must remember, that the first written evidence of this saying comes from 1944…

https://www.luther.de/en/baeume.html

Children’s Message

Supplies needed: small seeds, large plant, story bible

Invite the kids to come forward and show them a tiny seed (or several kinds of seeds – use the smallest ones that you can find). Ask them what is it? What makes it grow? (water, sun, dirt, God, etc) What do you think it will grow into? How do we know that it will grow into something else? (seen it happen before, trust, faith, because someone told us it would, etc)

Have a plant to show them something that started from a seed.

Today Jesus is telling us a story about a mustard seed – it is the tiniest seed that I know of. It is so small you almost can’t see it. But it grows reall,y really big – like a tree!
Read or tell the Parable of the Mustard Seed. One place you can find the story is in the Spark Story Bible p. 320-21

Let’s pray. Dear God, thank you for making seeds and plants and people and animals. Help us to grow and be more and more who you created us to be. Amen.

Intergenerational Ideas

Parable of the Mustard Seed – Growing the Kingdom of God

Summary: Jesus teaches that something really tiny like a mustard seed grows into a large tree. We can use what we have to help grow the Kingdom of God in our midst.
Welcome: As people arrive, greet them, have them put on name tags, and hand everyone a different random object. Ideas for objects: spoon, toothbrush, roll of tape, twig, pipe cleaner, block, piece of string, cap, etc. Let them mingle and wonder about what we are doing. Let them trade items but each person only gets one item.

Opening Activity: Ask everyone to make a circle in age order but no one can talk while doing it! If there are people with young children present, the adult and child may be a pair and use the age of one of them.
Once people have successfully made a circle, have them number off based on the number of tables you have set up.
Have people find others with their number and their table. It would be helpful to have numbers on the tables before the event begins.

Story: Today in worship we are hearing the parable of the mustard seed. (Tell or read the story from Mark 4:26-32 or Spark Story Bible p. 320-21)

Team Building Activity: In this story, we start with something very small and it grows into something very big. Each of you were given some kind of random object and you wondered what can I do with this? Now you are in groups and you have a collection of random objects. You have 5 minutes to work together to create something out of it. Come up with what it is and what it does. This can be serious or funny. We will then share this with the larger group.

Group Sharing: The purpose of this activity was to think about what do we do with what we have been given. Many times sharing what we have helps to make something bigger than any of us could have done individually. This is called generosity. Take a few minutes for discussion at your table:

Discussion Questions:
• What is the best gift you have ever been given? Why was it such a good gift?
• What is the best gift you have ever given to someone else?
• How does it feel when you give to others?
• Who taught you about giving?

Stories about Generosity: Have one or more people prepared to share a story about giving. If possible, have a youth and an adult each share a story. Examples I may use from my congregation:

• Our congregation gives micro grants to people for a project important to them. An 8-year-old who loves to play basketball applied for a micro grant and gave basketballs to kids who don’t have the money to buy basketballs.
• A 10-year-old girl applied for a micro grant to take a group of friends to serve at Feed My Starving Children. These friends had never been there before. With the grant they each purchased an item from the gift shop and told others about their experience.
• A man in the congregation was in business for many years. He always gave a fruit basket to his clients for Christmas. One client had not paid him and declared bankruptcy so there was little hope of receiving the money. After some soul searching, he decided that he would continue to give that client the Christmas gift.
• In a congregation I previously served, individuals were given money to help others. Here is a story about a 13-year-old who used his money to raise additional money to buy mosquito nets for the ELCA’s Malaria Project: https://www.presspubs.com/vadnais/news/teenager-takes-on-two-causes/article_d8fdaefb-0335-5c35-9e57-66689a952a92.html

Discussion Questions:
• Who taught you about giving? (if you didn’t get to that question earlier)
• What if someone gave you $100. The money could not be spent for yourself or your family. It is to be used to help others. What would you do with it? Brainstorm ideas
• Could you do something to make the money grow?
• Share ideas with the larger group

Closing Prayer

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