Date: Third Sunday after Pentecost ~ June 13, 2021
Texts: Ezekiel 17:22-24; Psalm 1; 2 Corinthians 5:1-10; Mark 4:26-34
Context: The season of Ordinal/Ordinary Time focuses us on the ongoing work of God the Holy Spirit in the world, the Church, and our individual lives. The readings today collectively point us towards the miraculous and counter-intuitive nature of this work. Our God delights in confounding our expectations and turning our prioritizations on their head, doing what we deem impossible by means we would consider ludicrous. Ultimately this is to our blessing and benefit. Hope is always available to us even when circumstances seem least hospitable to it. Our God’s power and activity is literally unlimited, for which He alone is to be praised and honored.
Ezekiel 17:22-24 – God called his people in Jerusalem and Judea to trust in him. He has called them to faithful trust in his provision and protection for many years now, and they have repeatedly ignored him. Their rebellion has led God to discipline them through the Babylonians, who laid siege to Jerusalem, took the leading families of the city back to Babylon as hostage, and installed a puppet king. Now this puppet king has reneged on his promised duties to Babylon, seeking support from Egypt. But God reveals that not only is this plan known, it will fail. It will not free Jerusalem from Babylon, and it will result in the puppet king Zedekiah’s death. But what God’s rebellious people sought to accomplish of their own power and wisdom God will accomplish by his power and wisdom, and in his timing. Their unfaithfulness will be supplanted by his faithfulness. All of this is to the benefit of God’s people, to be sure, but it is also ultimately for the glory of God, that all might recognize him as the one, true God.
Psalm 1 – The beginning of the Biblical song book sets the tone for all the psalms to follow. God’s Word is the one true and reliable source of life. There are only two ways through life, one in accord with God’s Word or against it. The myriad options, religions, philosophies of the world all can be distilled down to one of these two options. God’s Word results in blessing – God’s favor and protection. The one who lives according to God’s Word is blessed. It is a present as well as future reality which can be relied upon. Those who act against or without God’s Word are not blessed. They are not firmly established like a tree near water, they are insubstantial and transient like chaff, the light and useless husk of a head of grain. Regardless of what power or prestige they may possess at any given time, they are not established in the Lord’s favor and therefore won’t last. While we may not always be able to recognize it, God is always looking over his creation and creatures. Evil will be punished, and trust in God’s Word will lead life.
2 Corinthians 5:1-10 – Take a moment to read 2 Corinthians 4:16-28, as this provides the context for the opening verses of Chapter 5. Although Psalm 1 may make it sound like following the Word of God is the guarantee of a good life, this is not necessarily the case. Sin within us and around us and the work of Satan and his followers often ensures that God’s faithful are persecuted, mistreated, even killed. But this does not deter us from God’s Word, which points us to Christ in whom is our hope. Our hope is not grounded in only what is at the moment, in the pleasantries and pleasures of this pleasant life, in the good regard and esteem of those around us, and in good health and strength. These things are transient, imperfect as they are right now. What we look forward to is these things in their perfection, possible only after the return of our Lord. We do not lose heart in the struggles of this world because we actively and intentionally fix our eyes on what lies ahead, on what is coming, on what is revealed only partially now but will be revealed in fullness and power. Our confidence comes not in a successful life as the world defines it, but by knowing that our Lord is coming, and until He arrives we will likely experience trials and tribulations. And we conduct ourselves now in the knowledge and confidence of his return. We should not interpret verse 10 as meaning it is the sum of our good or bad deeds that determine God’s attitude towards us on judgment day. Rather, as Paul references in his first letter to the Corinthians (1 Corinthians 3:10-15) our good deeds will be revealed for what they are – whether we think they’re good or not, while our bad deeds are burned up and gone. Paul’s words should give us confidence in our struggles, rather than sowing doubt in our contemplations!
Mark 4:26-34 – Mark records a variety of Jesus’ teachings and parables regarding the kingdom of God and its nature. The parables in this section all focus on the power of the kingdom of God, power that resides not in what we contribute to it or do, but simply in that it is God’s kingdom and power, and He will accomplish what He wills. Our participation comes after his power works, whether that participation is by harvesting the ripe grain or taking shelter in the immenseness of the mustard tree. Clearly our participation is not the emphasis, and we are not the ones to receive glory for doing what is only obvious and natural, as God has instilled those things in us! God receives the glory for doing what appears impossible with the least likely of means, utilizing something as small and seemingly innocuous as a tiny seed or his Word and some water or a bit of bread and wine to accomplish incredible things like salvation. We should be assured that God’s kingdom is coming, just as surely as seed planted in the ground will sprout and grow. We should be assured that his kingdom comes not because of what we do but rather in spite of it. Not because of the strength of our faith but despite the smallness of our faith (Matthew 17:20). We respond in faith to what He is already doing. We respond in faith to the incoming of the kingdom of God in the Son of God, Jesus the Christ. It’s already here. Already growing. Already working. And we are already in it! We are privileged to be the first to point to the effects it has in this world here and now in our hearts and minds as we are transformed and sanctified day by day.