“A Mustard Seed Kingdom”                                                           June 17, 2012

I Samuel 15:34-16:13 and Mark 4:26-34                                     Stephens City UMC


Grace and peace to you from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.


I.                   Today our country is celebrating Father’s Day.

A.    Thanks dads and you certainly don’t have an easy job.

1.     Fathers can make a big difference in the life of a child or even later when that child becomes a young adult and sometimes that effect changes history.

2.     While they weren’t technically Father and Son one of the early church fathers, St. Ambrose, played a vital role in the life of the younger St. Augustine, and if there hadn’t had been an Ambrose there might not have been an Augustine.

3.     Augustine was important in his day and age because he lived during the collapse of the Roman Empire.

4.     Many and I do mean many, people, thought that the end of the Roman Empire meant the end of the world.

5.     People feared that chaos would reign and order would never be restored.

6.     Augustine wrote his famous book City of God to help people realize that there are earthly kingdoms and earthly kingdoms come and go, but there is a heavenly kingdom and that heavenly kingdom is eternal.

7.     The people of the world settled down after hearing what Augustine wrote and in essence the world began to breathe and live again.

8.     But Augustine was only around to write what he did because Ambrose looked at him and saw a young man that God could use and Ambrose and God would not give up on Augustine.

B.     One would think that Ambrose was influenced by the account of Samuel and David that we heard in our Old Testament lesson for today.

1.     The prophet Samuel had been told by God to go to the house of Jesse in Bethlehem in order for God to reveal who was to replace Saul as the next King of Israel.

2.     The first son who appeared looked perfect for the role, but God said, “No, not that one.”

3.     Other sons entered the room and each seemed to be exactly what anyone would want in a king, but God said no to each one.

4.     Finally, Samuel had to ask Jesse if he had any other sons.

5.     Samuel replied that there was one more.

6.     The one left was small and young and was out working as a shepherd.

7.     Samuel asked for him to be sent for and when little David walked into the room Samuel was informed by God that this was the one who would grow into a great man and a king.

8.     God looked not on the outside but on the inside and indeed, David did grow into a great man, king and religious leader.

C.     When Ambrose looked upon Augustine it was not difficult to see that this was a brilliant young man.

1.     However, Augustine was also a wild young man.

2.     Even though Augustine was in college in the late 400’s, like 16 centuries ago, he was as wild as any college student of our day and age.

3.     One would not have expected Augustine to achieve a life of holiness nor that from such a small seed there would grow a religious giant.

4.     But that is exactly what happened.

5.     For some reason God selects little shepherd boys and wild fraternity guys to grow into great religious leaders for the sake of the kingdom.

6.     God the Father looks not on the outside, but on the inside.

D.    Ambrose, who was Augustine’s spiritual father, was aware that from seemingly small things, God brings the greatest of things.

1.     Ambrose knew his Bible and was intrigued that God Almighty would have His only begotten Son to be born in a manger and grow up with an earthly father who was a carpenter in a small village called Nazareth.

2.     Ambrose pulled together the nativity story with the mustard seed story and wrote “The Lord himself is the grain of mustard seed…He chose to be crushed; he chose to be planted in the earth as a seed. For it was in a garden that Christ was taken prisoner, and likewise buried; he sprung up in a garden, where he also rose from the dead…Plant the Lord Jesus. He is a seed when a man takes hold of him; he is a tree when he rises again…”

3.     In Ambrose’s understanding Jesus himself was no bigger than a mustard seed, but because of his love for humanity and commitment to the will of God he made himself a sacrifice from which grew the ever-expanding and unending Kingdom of God.

4.     From the tiniest of seed came an entire universe of consequences and more good than people could ever dream of.

5.     In a sense you could say that Jesus’ passion which carried him to the cross and his trust that God would raise him from the dead was his Father’s Day gift to the one he truly loved.

6.     So often we talk about what Jesus’ going to the cross and rising again has done for us and what it means to us; think about what Jesus did meant to God His Father.

II.                 On this Father’s Day what can you do for God your heavenly Father?

A.    Obviously you are not going to top Jesus and this isn’t a competition but what can you do for God this Father’s Day?

1.     Here’s a story that might help and I may have told it before but if so it’s a good one worth telling again.

B.     The story comes from Elmer Bendiner’s book, The Fall of the Fortress, and describes a bombing run over the German city of Kassel during World War II.

1.     Bendiner’s plane took off from their base in England and he writes, “Our B-17 was barraged by flak from Nazi anti-aircraft guns. That was not unusual, but on this particular occasion our gas tanks were hit. Later, as I reflected on the miracle of a twenty-millimeter shell piercing the fuel tank without touching off an explosion, our pilot told me it was not that simple.”

2.     “On the morning following the raid, (the captain) had gone down to ask our crew chief for that shell as a souvenir of unbelievable luck. The crew chief said that not one shell but eleven had been found in the gas tank – eleven unexploded shells where only one was sufficient to blast us out of the sky. It was as if the sea had parted for us. Even after thirty-five years, so awesome an event leaves me shaken, especially after I heard the rest of the story.”

3.     “Our Captain was told that the shells had been sent to the armorers to be defused. The armorers told him that intelligence had picked them up. They could not say why at the time, but eventually we were told.”

4.     “Apparently when the armorers opened each of those shells, they found no explosive charge. They were clean as a whistle and just as harmless. Empty? Not all of them.”

5.     It turned out that the shells were manufactured in Czechoslovakia which was occupied by the Nazis and the Nazis had forced Czech citizens to work in a munitions factory.

6.     Of course, the Czechs wanted the Allies to win and did not want to build munitions would be used against their potential liberators.

7.     That was why when the armorers examined the empty shells they found one with “a carefully rolled piece of paper. On it was a scrawl in Czech ….Translated the note read, ‘This is all we can do for you now.’”

C.     Ah, but what they did was a lot.

1.     It started as a mustard seed.

2.     Granted it was eleven empty shells but that meant everything to the crew of that B-17 because it gave them life.

D.    A voice told a prophet long ago to keep looking for the one God had chosen to be the leader of Israel.

1.     He obeyed and kept looking for he trusted when God said that God did not look on the outside but on the inside.

2.     A voice told Ambrose not to give up on Augustine and he obeyed and Augustine wrote a book in one of the darkest times as far as the world was concerned and the light of hope shone forth.

3.     A voice told some Czech munitions workers not to put explosives in shells and they obeyed and a flight crew was spared from death so that they could continue to liberate others from tyranny and eventually return home to their own families.

E.     The heavenly Father to whom that voice belonged still speaks and He still has fun with mustard seeds.

1.     Perhaps there is a mustard seed gift you can give to God this Father’s Day?