Lectionary Reflection: Mark 4:26-34: Unstoppable

            What cannot be stopped?

            The Titanic was unsinkable.  We all know how well that worked out.

            Voyager, the satellite, the deep space probe is about to leave our solar system.  That’s a good run, but we all know an object in motion will only stay in motion if it is not acted upon by another object or some force.  I am sure voyager will one day meet its doom.

            How about death and taxes?  They are said to be unstoppable.

            Well, the first tea party, the one in 1773 (and the subsequent revolution) showed that taxes, at least without representation, could be stopped.

            As for death, we know by the resurrection of Jesus that death is not the final word after all.  The sun will die.  The solar system will go away.  The Galaxy will one day collapse in on itself, and the universe – the whole universe – will one day run out of energy and stop.  That is the theory, anyway.  Creation itself will end, but life will go on.  Life appears unstoppable, and the reason, the one characteristic that will carry life forward will be love: the love of God for us and our love for God in return. 

            Paul said in the end there will only be faith, hope and love.  But when faith is known and hope is realized, love alone will remain.  That is why the greatest of these is love.

            My father was an Arkansas boy, farm grown in those ancient days.  He escaped poverty with World War II and the G. I. Bill.  He went on to write and edit magazines in NYC which was certainly different.  The thing is, he never lost the fact that he was farm grown.

            He came to visit us not long before he died.  My younger boys had scraped a small garden out of the red clay that passes for dirt in my part of the universe.  They planted tomatoes and cucumbers and what-all, and my dad loved to get down in the dirt with my boys.  It was in his blood, and he praised my boys.  He praised all of my children and I was very proud.

            Please understand.  Dad was from a generation earlier – one where men did not readily show their emotions.  He got better at it when he got older and retired from his New York commute.  (No offense to my New Yorker friends.  As Mayor Lindsay said about his own city, “It’s a great place to visit but I wouldn’t want to live there”).  But for my dad, when he stepped away from the sophisticated city, he had a chance to get back to his roots.  He slowly opened up as he aged and began to show the love that was always inside him.  I was not surprised to see him reveling in the garden, and loving my children.

            I have three sons and a daughter myself who will badger me on this Father’s Day.  I love my daughter and sons, and I know I will love them into eternity.  They will never stop being my children.  But here I am now the one getting older.  Soon enough I will be like my dad, as old as the universe.  Soon, it will be my turn to not be around to show them my love –  or for them to see how much I love them.  Soon enough tomorrow will come. 

            But here, after life and the driving force of love, is the third unstoppable thing that I have only alluded to thus far:  Tomorrow.  Time will go on.  Soon enough tomorrow will come.

            So we have three things, then: life, love and tomorrow that are unstoppable, and to be honest, they appear to be the only truly unstoppable things in this universe.  But here, this morning, Jesus alludes to the thought that there may indeed be a fourth unstoppable thing.

            My father did not taste the produce from that little garden.  Neither he nor my sons could make it grow any faster.  In fact, they could only plant it and see what came up.  Oh, they could tend it, water it and pull the weeds, but it had to grow on its own and at its own pace.  So, Jesus said, is the Kingdom of God.  We might plant it and tend it, but we cannot make it grow, not faster or slower or better or anything.  God alone can do that until the harvest.

            Elsewhere, Jesus told the story about the man who planted a field of wheat.  An enemy came in the night and sewed weeds among the wheat.  When they both sprang up together, the man said let them grow and do not pull out the weeds lest you disturb the wheat.  We will separate them at the harvest. 

            Sometimes it feels like my little wheat of a life is surrounded by weeds.  But I trust.  I can’t make things grow.  I can only watch.  The harvest will come.

            Jesus said the Kingdom is like the mustard seed.  It may have been the smallest of all when planted.  One man, one cross, one grave, one stone rolled away.  But he says it will become the biggest (greatest) of all plants – big enough for the angels to find rest in the branches. 

            I don’t know how this small thing can become such a great thing anymore than I can know how a garden grows.  I only know that it does grow, and the Kingdom of God will grow to be greatest of all.

            To be clear, Jesus is telling us the kingdom will grow whether we tend it or fight against it, or ignore it, and it will become the greatest even if we do nothing at all.  We cannot help but get the message that no matter what we do, thy kingdom come.  Jesus is telling us, it is inevitable, whether we understand it or not.  Soon enough tomorrow will come.  Indeed, soon enough the harvest will come and that is why we pray, “Thy Kingdom come.”  It will.  Wait for it.  It is unstoppable.   

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