Worship Service, June 13, 2021 – From Seed to Salvation
Join Holy Trinity church members for worship on June 13, 2021 via YouTube and hear Pastor Erik’s message, “From Seed to Salvation.”
The message can be heard during HTLC Virtual Worship Service.
“FROM SEED TO SALVATION” MARK 4:26-34
There are not a lot of plants specifically mentioned in the Bible, but the mustard plant is probably one of the more famous plants in Scripture because Jesus specifically refers to it in several of the Gospels. This includes the Gospel of Mark that we heard from today. Jesus is talking to his followers and trying to describe to them that the kingdom of God is like a mustard seed. It can start out really small, but then grow into something big.
In California we live in a Mediterranean climate similar to that of Palestine where Jesus walked and lived. Because of this, many of us may be familiar with how fast a mustard seed can grow and how big it can get. You may have noticed in the spring at times, when you are driving up the coast, the hillsides seem to explode with the yellow of mustard plants. I remember especially noticing this in the spring of 2019. This was just after the Woolsey and Hillside fires of the previous November. Many of the hiking trails around Thousand Oaks had been devastated by the fires with plants burnt to the ground. Yet after some rains in January grass and flowers seemed to quickly arise out of nowhere. Some of the trails were covered with mustard plants that sprouted to great heights within weeks. This is a picture of me out on a hike in March 2019. I’m about 6’1 and yet you can see that the mustard plant towers a good foot and a half to two feet above me, so it is probably close to eight feet tall. Jesus wasn’t joking then, when he said that the tiny mustard seed could become a great shrub where even birds might land.
If this is what the kingdom of God is like, then what does that mean? Does it mean that it sometimes grows quickly? Does it mean that it can start out small and become something bigger? Michael Portillo once said that “You never quite know what you do in life that leaves a seed behind that later grows into an oak tree.” Is this what Jesus is getting at—that God’s rule on earth comes in little ways that can influence unexpected growth that is beyond anything we may have thought would happen?
One thing Jesus might be saying is that you never know what kind of impact even a small action might have on someone else. You never know what kind of difference it might make. Seeds have a way of mysteriously growing that we cannot always anticipate. Jesus says it is like a farmer who would scatter seed on the ground, and would sleep and rise night and day, and the seed would sprout and grow, though he does not know how. The earth produces of itself, slowly at first, and the harvest comes.
The actor Denzel Washington did not know what would come out of a scholarship that he gave years ago to an aspiring young student. Actress Phylicia Rashad is a friend of Denzel Washington and had come to him for help. She was mentoring several students at Howard University when she found out they had auditioned for and had been accepted into the British American Drama Academy’s Midsummer program. The students were excited to receive this honor and really wanted to attend, but they could not afford the tuition. They did not think they were going to be able to go. Rashad wanted to help, so she reached out to Denzel to see if he could sponsor some of the students.
The actor said he would help and one of the young men who he sponsored was named Chadwick Boseman. While at the academy, Boseman developed a passion for acting. He was able to grow in his craft and began getting parts. As he grew older, he began landing bigger and bigger roles. He played James Brown in the movie “Get On Up” as well as the legendary Jackie Robison, who was the first African American to play in major league baseball in the movie “42.” Chadwick then became an international star in the blockbuster superhero movie “Black Panther.” By this time Denzel had made the connection with Chadwick Boseman as one of the students whom he had helped years ago. Unfortunately, Boseman was struck with colon cancer and died in 2020, but before he passed away he and Denzel were able to work together on a movie called “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” that Denzel directed.
The scholarship that Denzel had provided for the young Boseman did not seem like that big of a deal at the time he gave it. It was not a lot of money relative to the net worth of the famous actor. He was just helping a friend who was helping some students. To the students, however, it was a big deal, and to Chadwick Boseman it helped launched a career that became huge. Boseman gratefully recounted the story during a speech honoring Denzel Washington when Washington was selected to receive the American Film Institute’s Lifetime Achievement Award in 2019.
“As fate would have it, I was one of the students that he paid for,” Boseman said. “Imagine receiving the letter that your tuition for that summer was paid for and that your benefactor was none other than someone whom you thought was one of the greatest actors on the planet.”
“There is no Black Panther without Denzel Washington,” Boseman said. “And not just because of me, but my whole cast — that generation – who stands on his shoulders.” Boseman added that he knew his story was not the only one of its kind and added that “an offering from a sage and a king is more than silver and gold. It is a seed of hope, a bud of faith.”
This week was graduation for many of the schools in our area. My oldest daughter graduated from Thousand Oaks High School and because things have improved in our county with the pandemic, we were able to go in person. At the ceremony, there were speeches from students and from the principal. As is often the case at graduations, these speeches contained thank you’s to teachers and parents who have supported the students in accomplishing their goals. There is an acknowledgement of the mentors that planted the seeds of knowledge in them. The speakers might also make reference to friends who have helped them along the way as well. The author John W. Schlatter tells of an encounter between friends that culminated just before a graduation day.
The story is about a young man named Mark was walking home from school one day when he noticed a boy up ahead of him who had suddenly tripped. As the boy fell, he dropped all of the books he was carrying, along with two sweaters, a baseball bat, a glove and a small tape recorder. Mark knelt down and helped the boy pick up the scattered objects. Since they were going the same way, he helped to carry part of the burden. As they walked, Mark discovered the boy’s name was Bill, that he loved video games, baseball and history, and that he was having lots of trouble with his other subjects and that he had just broken up with his girlfriend.
They arrived at Bill’s home first and Mark was invited in for a Coke and to watch some television. The afternoon passed pleasantly with a few laughs and some shared small talk, then Mark went home. They continued to see each other around school, had lunch together once or twice, then both graduated from middle school. They ended up in the same high school where they had brief contacts over the years.
Finally, the long-awaited senior year came and three weeks before graduation, Bill asked Mark if they could talk. Bill reminded him of the day years ago when they had first met. “Did you ever wonder why I was carrying so many things home that day?” asked Bill. “You see, I cleaned out my locker because I didn’t want to leave a mess for anyone else. I had stored away some of my mother’s sleeping pills and I was going home to end it all. But after we spent some time together talking and laughing, I realized that if I had ended my life, I would have missed that time and so many others that might follow. So you see, Mark, when you picked up those books that day, you did a lot more, you saved my life.”
A seed of hope planted can grow into a bud of faith that can blossom into a harvest of wholeness and maturity. Perhaps this is the truth Jesus is giving us with the mustard seed parable. A small act can make a big difference. A gesture of kindness can keep a person going. It can point them in a different direction. A seed of hope can grow into a flower of salvation.
We see this with Jesus and the cross. For Christians nowadays, the cross is a pivotal moment in history. It is the central point of God’s activity on earth. But at the time, it would have been insignificant even to most of those who witnessed it. Lots of criminals were killed on crosses and Jesus was just one more rebel put to death by the Roman Empire.
But like a seed that is buried in the ground, when Jesus is buried in the tomb, something happens. New growth occurs. A radical change transpires as he is resurrected from the dead. From the seed of the cross comes the promise of salvation and a movement that would spread across the world. This good news is to be shared, even if it is just in little ways, because big faith can grow even from small seeds. So remember as Robert Louis Stevenson once said, “Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap but by the seeds you plant.”
-Pastor Erik Goehner