What you see is what you get. It’s often used as a selling point … no hidden fees or strings attached. What you see is what you get! But no one really believes it … no one even wants to believe it! Why do you think so many other advertisers also use the words “But wait! There’s more!” Of course there is. You and I both know it, don’t we. We see it at work all the time. I know he seems a little awkward, but when you get to know him better you’ll see he’s a really great guy. I know it doesn’t look like much, but boy you should see it go! You mixed what and what in that recipe? I wouldn’t have believed it unless I had tasted it.
We all know that what you see is not always what you get. Sometimes it is way better. A book with a strange title, but a wonderful story. A kitchen gadget that exceeds your every expectation. An odd encounter that leads to a lifelong friendship. A little church that defies all the odds. What you see may be really nice, but just wait … there’s so much more.
On this occasion of our 20th Anniversary, it might be a struggle not to look around and wonder why there isn’t more. Oh sure, today is wonderful – so many guests and family and friends to celebrate with us – but what about next week, and the week after? Today we can’t help but think back to all those hopes and dreams of twenty years ago, and begin to tally up how many have come true and how many have not. Twenty years in and we might just be tempted to look around and say this is nice, but is it all there is.
It was the same question Jesus was addressing in the hearts of His disciples in our Gospel reading for today. Why aren’t there more being saved? What else should we do? What are we missing? Why doesn’t this look like it’s working? And Jesus’ answer? Just sow the seed.
We are not given to manipulate people into decisions, or sell them on an idea. The business world manipulates people. Medicine manipulates bodies. It is only natural, then, that people should think that the church manipulates souls – but it does NOT. We simply sow the seed and let it grow when and where God wills. And yet, God’s people are not always content to trust God – doing as He says and then waiting for the harvest to come. If only our church were larger or had more programs maybe we could attract more visitors. If only we changed what we do to be more like what people want, we wouldn’t lose so many. If only I could speak more fluently, maybe I could invite my neighbour to church. If only this … if only that …
We have a long record of coming up with what we think are better ideas that will work better and hasten the coming of the Kingdom of God. And so from time to time we busy ourselves with all sorts of popular fads and congregational programs or self-chosen errands and self-directed approaches to outreach ministries … as if Jesus weren’t calling enough men into His Ministry to actually bring about the Kingdom by itself. Indeed, churches have invented all the other ‘ministries’ because we simply don’t trust that the one Ministry Jesus commanded – sowing the seed – is sufficient to grow the Kingdom by itself.
And yet this is the very point of Jesus’ parable to us on the day of our anniversary celebrations. (26-29) And he said, “The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed upon the ground, and should sleep and rise night and day, and the seed should sprout and grow, he knows not how. The earth produces of itself, first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear. But when the grain is ripe, at once he puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come.”
Seeds don’t look like much, but within them is the power of life itself. The seed of God’s kingdom is the Word of God, and that seed has a mysterious and wonderful power to grow and grow and grow! The person who sows the seed has nothing to do with the power that gives it growth. Only God can create faith in the hearts of mankind. Neither the one who sows the seed nor the one in whom the seed has been planted is responsible for its growth. That power lies in the seed itself. It is the power of the Gospel for salvation!
Is it not also at the heart of the song we just sang? The sower sows; his reckless love Scatters abroad the goodly seed, Intent alone that all may have The wholesome loaves that all men need. Though some be snatched and some be scorched And some be choked and matted flat, The sower sows; his heart cries out, “Oh, what of that, and what of that?” Preach you the Word and plant it home And never faint; the Harvest Lord Who gave the sower seed to sow Will watch and tend His planted Word.1
Our task is clear, and on this measure we have cause to celebrate and reflect today. We cast the seed into our community – joyfully – with reckless fervor. For the Word grows where it is planted. The more you sow, the more it grows! We will not ever run out so don’t be shy about it. And don’t be discouraged by what you don’t see. God works through every Word of the Gospel we share. Who knows what God will accomplish through the seeds we plant today? We do … for that is the point of Jesus’ final parable today:
(30-32) And he said, “With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable shall we use for it? It is like a grain of mustard seed, which, when sown upon the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth; yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes the greatest of all shrubs, and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade.”
There is so much more to God’s kingdom than meets the eye. And although it may start off slowly, and although it may look to be less than we might hope for now … in the end it will be greater, and more glorious than anything you can imagine! Even the tiniest seed now, can produce a rich and eternal harvest! It may be in two years, twenty years, or two hundred years … it matters not. God’s kingdom is His work of grace in the hearts of His people. It is planted by His Word. It grows and is nourished in the Word. It finds its ultimate fulfillment in the Word. The power to save is in the Word. Let this be our comfort. Let this be our reason for looking forward to the next 20 years … that we might have more time to share this precious comfort, this gift of salvation in God’s Word! Just wait … there’s so much more!
O Spirit, who didst once restore Thy Church that it might be again The bringer of good news to men, Breathe on Thy cloven Church once more, That in these gray and latter days There may be those whose life is praise, Each life a high doxology To Father, Son, and unto Thee.2
1 Text (sts. 3,4,6): © 1971 The Franzmann Family Used by permission: LSB Hymn License .NET, number 100010248.
2 Text (st. 4) and Tune: © 1967 Augsburg Fortress Used by permission: LSB Hymn License .NET, number 100010248.