“Lakeside Thoughts from Jesus”
Pastor Jim Kniseley presented this sermon at Resurrection on Sunday, June 12, 2005. The text is Mark 4:4-9, The Parable of the Sower. Pastor Jim takes the opportunity to share some thoughts in preparation for his sabbatical. This is also the 30th anniversary of his ordination.
Dear Friends in Christ,
Satch Bridenbaugh often sends good stories to me by e-mail. This is one he sent a couple of years ago:
If I sold my house and my car, had a big garage sale, and gave all my
money to the church, would that get me into heaven?” I asked the children during my children’s sermon.
“NO!” the children all answered.
“If I cleaned the church every day, mowed the yard, and kept everything neat and tidy, would that get me into heaven?”
Once more they all answered, “NO!”
“Well, then, if I was kind to animals and gave candy to all the children and loved my wife, would that get me into heaven” I asked them again.
Once more they all answered, “NO!”
“Well,” I continued, thinking they were a good bit more theologically sophisticated than I have given them credit for, “then how can I get into heaven?”
A five-year-old boy shouted out, “YOU GOTTA BE DEAD!”
Well, next Sunday I will be in a church where all the founders have been dead for many years. For the first Sunday of my sabbatical, I have been invited to help lead worship at Trappe, Pennsylvania. Augustus Lutheran Church is celebrating their 275th anniversary. Next Sunday they do something they now do every summer. They move from their modern sanctuary to the old sanctuary next door that was constructed in 1743. This church was served by Pastor Henry Melchior Muhlenberg, the “father of the Lutheran Church in American” because of his great influence on the starting of churches and bringing these churches together in the first synod structures.
Today as we highlight the gift of music here at Resurrection, I read with appreciation that it was in 1751 that Augustus Church dedicated their pipe organ, one of the first such instruments used in an American Church.
After reading the lessons next week, I have been invited to bring greetings to the members of that 275-year-old congregation from Resurrection, one of the youngest Lutheran congregations at the age of 16 years.
Just for today we have selected our own Bible readings and not used those assigned. I chose Psalm 98 because it highlights music as a way of praising the Lord. This psalm has been read in worship services for the past 2500 years.
I chose the gospel reading from Mark 4 because it shows Jesus doing something that is near and dear to my heart – he is teaching. As I look back over the 30 years of ordained ministry that I have been granted, I believe that my most satisfying times in ministry have often been in teaching the faith.
My sermons usually are in a teaching style. I was invited to teach in the Religion Department at Bethany Lutheran College in Kansas, I remember, because the head of the department sat in church and listened to my sermons and said to me, “you are a teacher.” In California I had the privilege of being the supervisor and teacher for 5 interns who were assigned to me by our Lutheran Seminaries. Of all the classes and folks I’ve had the good fortune to teach, I must say that my greatest joys have come from the children that I have taught in Vacation Bible Schools over the years. You just know and feel that teaching children the good news of Jesus is planting seeds that will be able to grow and grow during their lives.
Back to today’s gospel reading. Will you please pick up your bulletin and turn to this reading. Get something to write with also. I want you to circle two words in verse 1: lake and boat. That should be a major hint to you where I will be this summer. I figure I can hold my fishing road in one hand and in the other hold onto one of the books that make up the 3-volume diary of Henry Melchior Muhlenberg. I have to figure out now how to listen to the German lessons that I’ve ordered on CD-ROM.
Let’s keep going with this passage. This is a parable and Jesus often taught in parables. In Vacation Bible School we tell kids that a parable is “an earthly story with a heavenly meaning.” Here Jesus is talking about planting seeds like a farmer does, but he is really talking about sharing the good news of Jesus with people.
This planting of God’s word takes place by us as baptized Christians everyday, it is the charge given to us pastors, it is the whole reason for starting churches.
I’ve already read enough about Henry Melchior Muhlenberg to know that he took as his motto “Ecclesia Plantanda,” which means “The Church Must Be Planted.” So God used him in the 18th century in this country to be a great influence in starting lots and lots of Lutheran Churches.
Then Jesus goes on to talk about the challenges that face farmers and church planters and all that seek to spread the gospel. Please circle some more words: verse 2, circle path. Jesus is observing that some of the seed might be sown but it never has a chance to grow because Satan and the world have gotten there first and snatched away those seeds.
In verse 5, circle rocky ground. Jesus observes here that sometimes the word is received joyously but the one receiving it does so like a flash in the pan. Instead of giving it time to grow and flourish in them, they want to instantly feel all the promises of the faith, to have their life be only comfortable, and when that does not happen according to their impatient time line, they fall away.
In verse 7, circle thorns. Jesus observes that some seed lands in places where
things like worries of this life, the desire for money and things, and so forth get in the way so much that God’s word is choked and cannot grow.
Finally, in verse 8, circle good soil. Jesus says this is when people hear the word, accept it, and produce evidence in their lives that they know Jesus and the power of his saving love.
In case you want to study this parable more and see if my teaching is sound, I suggest you write a note to yourself to read the rest of the 4th chapter of Mark where Jesus answers the questions of his disciples when they ask, “what does this parable mean?”
Thirty years ago this past week I was ordained as a pastor in Glendale, California, in my home congregation. Even though I had been looking forward to that time for years, I was scared. 600 folks were in attendance, most of them coming to see the “little Jimmy” that they had seen grow up in that church. A busload of folks showed up from the congregation where I had interned. I sat in a chair in the middle of the aisle while the bishop gave a sermon that was directed mostly at me. I had the laying on of hands from all those pastors who showed up. When it came time for consecrating the Holy Communion, I did so for the first time. In that great church the altar was still a high altar against the wall and we consecrated the elements facing the wall and “God.” I remember, much like Martin Luther said he felt, how I prayed that I would not mess up the words and especially not spill the wine.
I am not so scared these 30 years later. I am most thankful to God for his call to me to serve in his church as a pastor. I hope that I can go on sowing seeds in his kingdom.
Thanks be to God!