Mark 4:26-34

Do you have houseplants in your home?  I have several houseplants: one in the kitchen, three in the living room/dining room area, and four in the bedroom.  Years ago I mentioned to a friend that I had no luck with houseplants.  Now, my outdoor plants in the garden did fine, but indoors it was a different story. 

“Leave your houseplants alone,” my friend said.  “You’re outdoor plants require a lot of care.  You’ve got to make sure they get enough water, especially in the heat of summer.  You’ve got to pinch back the blooms and keep an eye out for bugs.  Outdoor plants need constant attention.  Indoor plants do not.  Leave ‘em alone.  Most importantly, don’t over-water.  We lose most of our indoor plants that way.  Don’t over-water.  Don’t be a plant helicopter parent.” 

“Oh,” I said, “I get it.  I’m over-watering.  Basically, I’m killing my indoor plants with kindness.  I’m being a plant helicopter parent.”

“Exactly,” he replied.

And he was right.  I eventually learned to resist the urge to water.  I did less watering and more watching.  I watched for signs.  When the plants began to droop they were sending me a message: “Hey!  Over here!  I’m thirsty.  Give me a drink!”

I stopped micro-managing my indoor plants, and they began to flourish.  They knew what they were doing.  And aside from occasional watering, they required very little help from me.

According to today’s gospel, the kingdom of God is like that.  The Kingdom of God cannot be micro-managed.  We have a part to play in the unfolding of the kingdom, and our part is important.   But our part is limited.  We cannot make the kingdom grow.  Ultimately, that’s up to God.  The kingdom remains a mystery.  We are not helicopter Christians.

In today’s gospel someone scattered seed on the ground.  That’s important.  Seed must be scattered.  Seed never scattered is seed wasted.  Someone must scatter. 

In today’s gospel someone scattered seed on the ground.  Then they left it alone.  Having done their part, they stepped back.  They left it is God’s hands.  Then they watched.  They watched the seed sprout and grow. 

How did growth happen?  Who knows?  Who can understand?  That’s a God thing, and it’s like this: “the earth produces of itself, first the stalk, then the head, then the full grain in the head.”

The earth produces of itself, not of us.  This is a mystery.  The kingdom of God remains a mystery.  We can and should explore it, ponder it, invite it, and watch it unfold around us.  But we will never figure it out.  We will never control it.  We will never make it happen.  The kingdom of God will not be micro-managed.  It doesn’t work that way. 

In today’s gospel someone scattered seed on the ground.  That’s important.  Seed must be scattered.  Seed never scattered is seed wasted.  Someone must scatter.

They scattered seed, then they left it alone.  They left it in God’s hands.  They stood back and watched it grow.  They watched carefully.

When it was ready, they immediately began to bring in the harvest.  That’s important.  When grain is ready, it must be harvested.  Grain not harvested is grain wasted.  Someone must harvest.

So, it’s God’s kingdom.  That’s why Jesus called it the kingdom of God.  It’s God’s kingdom, not yours.  God’s kingdom is in God’s hands, not yours.  You cannot micro-manage God.  Your agenda is not God’s agenda.

Nonetheless, you have been given a role in God’s kingdom.  It’s a limited yet vital role.  You scatter the seed. 

That means this: you offer what you have to give, as limited as it may seem.  You offer what you have to give, even if it’s the size of a tiny mustard seed.  Then you stand back and watch.  You watch God at work.  You observe the mystery as it unfolds.  You don’t try to control it, because The kingdom of God has a life of its own.  You don’t try to micro-manage it, because that would be a waste of time and energy.  Those who try to micromanage God burn out quickly.

There are no “i’s” to dot.  There are no “t’s” to cross.  You cannot get God’s ducks in a row. 

So, do your part.  Scatter the seed you’ve been give.  Give your best, even if your best seems minimal, even if your best seems ill-suited for the task at hand.

Anne Minton writes about this gospel in terms of extravagant hope.  “You can just go throw seeds around with reckless abandon” she says, “and God will create a lavish harvest.  All you have to do is something.  God can make anything out of something.  Just you wait and see…  As a society we usually measure success by size.  But big is not a kingdom value.  Often God works best with small and with weak and with sinful, because as the scriptures remind us: God’s power is made perfect in weakness.”  Anne Minton is right about this.

So do your part.  Scatter the seed.  Give God your best, and then watch.  Don’t over water.  Just watch.  Watch the mystery unfold.  Don’t be a helicopter Christian.  And when the time is right, bring in the harvest; take your place at the table in God’s kingdom; sit down and enjoy the feast. 

Amen.If you would like to respond to this sermon or receive future sermons by email, contact me at

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