2 Corinthians 5:6-10,[11-13],14-17We are always confident; even though we know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord-- for we walk by faith, not by sight. Yes, we do have confidence, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord. So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him. For all of us must appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each may receive recompense for what has been done in the body, whether good or evil.
[Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we try to persuade others; but we ourselves are well known to God, and I hope that we are also well known to your consciences. We are not commending ourselves to you again, but giving you an opportunity to boast about us, so that you may be able to answer those who boast in outward appearance and not in the heart. For if we are beside ourselves, it is for God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you.] For the love of Christ urges us on, because we are convinced that one has died for all; therefore all have died. And he died for all, so that those who live might live no longer for themselves, but for him who died and was raised for them. From now on, therefore, we regard no one from a human point of view; even though we once knew Christ from a human point of view, we know him no longer in that way. So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!
Mark 4:26-34Jesus said, "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. The earth produces of itself, first the stalk, then the head, then the full grain in the head. But when the grain is ripe, at once he goes in with his sickle, because the harvest has come."
He also said, "With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable will we use for it? It is like a 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."
With many such parables he spoke the word to them, as they were able to hear it; he did not speak to them except in parables, but he explained everything in private to his disciples.
The Sermon: The Mustard Seed Revisited
You can only write so many sermons on the mustard seed but I think I have at least one more in me. Jesus compares the kingdom of God to a mustard seed. A mustard seed starts out very small. Tiny, in fact. But if it is allowed to grow it takes over. Back in the first century mustard was such a prodigious and invasive plant that you had to get special permission from the powers that be to even plant it.
I have been pulling a lot of weeds this week. I have also used the chain saw and pruners and just about everything at my disposal to stop or at least slow down plants that are trying to take over our yard. I would imaging that back in the first and second centuries the Romans looked upon this new religion that some were calling Christianity and others The Way, as a weed and if they did not use all of the tools at their disposal it would take over.
Jesus referred to this new way of thinking and living as the Kingdom of Heaven. It did take over and Christianity became the dominant religion of the western world. Christianity is still the world's major religion and today, as it has for centuries, it lives alongside Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam and Judaism. Some social scientists refer to this time we live in as the post-Christian era. I am not sure why and I am not certain it is a bad thing.
It seems to me that the world has just gotten smaller and possibly louder. It is not uncommon for your neighbor to practice a religion different than you.
The key word for us is the word practice. We often refer to non-Christians as people who practice Buddhism or practice Islam. The point that I am finally getting to is that we need to be practicing Christians. Jesus spent a lot of energy preaching about people who simply went through the motions of their religion. They went to temple at the appropriate times. They recited all the right prayers. They made all the necessary sacrifices.
But, Jesus looked into their hearts and found them empty. None of us want to be like them. Going to church on Sunday is not enough. Reciting all the right prayers is not enough. Putting money in the offering plate is not enough.
Look deeply into your hearts and if what you see is someone who loves God and sees the hand of God in all that is a around you. If you truly do love and see God in everyone and everything then, even though you may be living in the post-Christian era, you my brothers and sisters are a practicing Christian.