INSIGHTS: Third Sunday after Pentecost, Year B

Insights on the Lectionary
Third Sunday after Pentecost, Year B
June 17, 2012

All the trees of the fields shall know that I am the Lord.
I bring low the high tree, I make high the low tree;
I dry up the green tree and make the dry tree flourish.
I the Lord have spoken; I will accomplish it.
 Ezekiel 17:24

The above passage from Ezekiel reminds me of the Magnificat where the exultant Mary shouts that the Lord “has thrown the mighty from their seats and exalted the humble and the meek… and has filled the hungry with good things …the rich (God) has sent empty away!”

We must always expect the unexpected from our Most High God, who uses the most unlikely folk to work justice in the world.  As we read today’s passages, perhaps we will gain better understanding of who we need to be to do God’s work.[i]

In the reading from 1 Samuel (15:34-16:13), the prophet regrets that Saul was made king. Saul has been inadequate and has not followed the guidance of the Lord.  A change is definitely in order.[ii]  Samuel was sent by God to seek the new king from the sons of Jesse.  Seven fine men were brought before him, each with attributes that Samuel thought kingly.  Yet, the Lord did not pick them.  Samuel asked, have you no other sons?  So Jesse sends for the youngest, David, the skinny poet who watches the sheep.  He certainly didn’t look like a king, but “the Lord does not see as mortals see…the Lord sees the heart”.  As soon as young David arrived, the Lord said to Samuel “Rise and anoint him; this is the one!”   From that time on David was filled with the power of God’s Spirit.  I think that is a key factor.  God does choose the unlikely, but also provides grace sufficient to accomplish God’s purpose.

We need to learn to avoid judgment on outward appearances and worldly models alone. Think of times when you made choices based on the superficial.  Did you later learn that this judgment led you astray?  Many years ago when I worked in elder care, we had a family that admitted two relatives.  The family was not wealthy and their grammar lacked polish.  In fact, everything about them lacked polish.  And the staff (including me) feared they would be “a problem”.  However, these people knew how to love as God loves, even though we did not.  They volunteered their time.  They provided wonderful homemade food and a place on the lake for outings.  No, it wasn’t very posh, but it was homey.  Basically, they became “family” to residents and staff alike, and continued to do so long after their relatives were no longer with us.  I was humbled and learned a lot from the experience.  Can you think of other examples from your life or from history where the least likely were the instruments of God’s love and justice?

How do we make the transformation from one who judges as the world judges to one who looks on the heart?  There is an answer in 2 Corinthians 5:17 “So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!” According to this epistle we are compelled by Christ’s love to embrace all people in the name of Christ. We have been saved by Christ’s death and resurrection. Therefore our souls hunger to do justice for his namesake.[iii]

In the Gospel (Mark 4:26-34) Jesus explains the Realm of God through parables.  “The kingdom of God is like this.  A man scatters seed on the ground” and miraculously the seed sprouts and grows overnight.  “As soon as the crop is ripe, he starts reaping, because the harvest time has come.”   In other words, how the kingdom is achieved (the ripe harvest) is divine mystery but, whether it happens quickly or slowly, we must be ready and willing to reap what has been sown.  Christians have varying understandings of what the harvest is and how one prepares for the coming of the Kingdom.  I tend to believe that one doesn’t just passively wait upon the Lord.  And although it is important to bring souls to Christ it is equally important to work for justice and peace for all of creation. When we do so, it is easier to see that the Kingdom is at hand.

In verses 30 -32 Jesus says, “How shall we picture the Kingdom of God?”  He then says it is like a mustard seed.  The mustard seed is very tiny, almost insignificant.  Like the shepherd boy David, it seems an unlikely candidate for greatness of any kind.  It seems preposterous that it could grow large enough for birds to roost in its branches.  However mustard seeds do grow that large and David became a mighty King who served the Lord.

When the seed of truth is planted in the heart of the faithful it has mighty and unexpected results [iv].  God will accomplish what God has set out to do. The kingdom is at hand. As God’s faithful, a remarkable life of service and grace is offered to us.  Just look – – the signs are everywhere![v]

Dear Lord,
 transform us into the image and likeness of
Christ that we may faithfully serve others in his name. Amen[vi]


[i] Preaching God’s Transforming Justice Year B, p. 282

[ii] Keeping Holy Time  Year B, pp. 226-227

[iii] Daily Feast Year B, p. 343

[iv] Ibid # ii p. 229

[v] Ibid # iii p. 347

[vi] Upper Room Worship Book,  p. 47

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