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Supersize Me

3August2012

One of the unquestioned values of our culture is that bigger is better, and size is the measure of success. Even among pastors, the conversation pretty quickly gets around to “what is the average worship attendance at your church?” The answer, of course, defines personal significance and pecking order. Even at the local coffee shop, the sizes start at talla (Spanish for stature or status) and work their way up to grande. Yet God delights to reveal himself in what is seemingly small, insignificant, and unlikely.

“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…” – Mark 4:26-27

The kingdom of God begins with a tiny seed, Jesus said. So the Lord chose as his representatives, a small group of desert nomads, who eventually became the tiny nation of Israel. And from that tiny nation came a tiny baby, born in a manger, and raised by working class parents in the backwater town of Nazareth (can anything good come from there?) There was even a hint of scandal about his mother’s pregnancy, and talk of illegitimacy. In Israel, in Mary and Joseph, in Jesus Christ, God delighted to reveal Himself in what was seemingly small, insignificant, and unlikely.

By contrast, we humans value what is large. We not only like to have big things, but we also like to feel big. And by “big,” I mean important. In the grocery store the other day, I noticed a number of people talking on cell phones, and I wondered, “Did they really need to make that call? Or did they simply want to be seen making a call? Were they really so indispensable that they couldn’t be out of communication for even twenty minutes? Would their company or  family or whatever suddenly grind to a halt if they couldn’t be reached?”

With a phone or a Blue Tooth growing out of our ears, you and I suddenly become somebody. We’re necessary. Or so we think. But the price we pay for indispensability is anxiety and stress. It’s hard to bear the weight of the world – or even your little corner of the world 24/7. The person who can’t let go, turn off, and tune out, is either a slave or a slave driver. Which makes me wonder: how did St. Paul evangelize the whole Mediterranean world, sometimes from prison, without a cell phone? How did Martin Luther manage a Reformation of the Church without the help of Facebook, Google, and Twitter?

“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…”  “While I drink my little glass of Wittenberg beer,” Luther quipped, “the gospel is running its full course.” That’s how a free man talks. But given our frantic pace, I’m afraid the church is in danger of losing that kind of confidence. Too many pastors and congregations run from one gimmick to the next, one slogan to the next, one activity or program to the next. But why? “To extend the kingdom,” were told Yet in all our busyness and self-importance, we forget that the kingdom of God comes without our effort. The seed, when scattered, produces fruit automatically.

When they had crucified Jesus and buried his body in the ground, like a seed, everyone thought that was it. Even His disciples. It was, for all intents and purposes, over. But three days later, when He took his first Easter breath, there came a harvest of new life and new possibilities. 2000 years later, that single life continues to bear fruit in you and me. No one knows exactly how it works. It just does. When the  Crucified and Risen Christ is planted in the hearts of garden variety sinners like you and me, healing and repentance begin to take root. Sins are forgiven. What was dead lives. Transformation happens.

Your anxiety and measuring and comparing won’t add a thing to what Jesus does. Neither will my worry and busyness. They just take the joy out of being part of it. They just keep us from trusting God’s grace, which is free and undeserved. As a church planter, I’m called to scatter seed. So are you. But the results are out of our hands. And all our striving won’t make God love us one bit more or less than He does right now. In a frantic, upside-down, bigger is better world, that’s good news. And such a kingdom is exactly what we need.

JAM@CCD

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