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  • Writer's pictureKendall Ellis

God Works While We Sleep

This is a sermon preview for the second week of our “Downtime” series. 

Visit FBCM’s Church Center Channel to view video live stream (live) or audio version of sermon (published week after).

“Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how.” -Excerpt from Mark 4:26-34

In preparation for On the Case VBS, I’ve been reminded that there are many mysteries in life. Why do travelers seem to get lost in the Bermuda triangle? Is Bigfoot hiding out somewhere? And what’s up with Stonehenge?

Though we wonder about many things in our world, we also wonder about our faith. The scripture we are exploring this week tells us two of Jesus’ parables in which two mysteries occur. First, there’s the mystery in the story: how does the seed grow?

Then there’s the mystery of our faith: what is the Kingdom of God like?     

For my fellow ecology and biology minded folks out there, let’s be clear! The parable’s mystery is not a literal question about how seeds grow. The author of Mark is not suddenly overcome with questions about seed germination, plant root systems, or photosynthesis. Mark’s question about seeds growing is a little more abstract than the hard science.

In these parables, seeds are scattered–not sown–on the ground. The seeds are essentially thrown out with little to no care or attention. In one of the parables, the man who scatters them seems to watch the plants, but does nothing else to support them. In the second parable, it doesn’t even tell us how the seed was scattered–perhaps not by any person at all, but by nature’s own doing. In either case, seed has been planted with no support. No concern about the type or condition of the soil. No one to water it or prevent the weeds from choking it. No attention given to the seeds at all!

Cue the mystery: “The seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how.”

The Kingdom of God breaks into the world like the mystery of the surprise seed germinating. As it turns out, God is perfectly capable of doing what is required to make seeds grow into the best of crops, even without human help. Unlike the man, God does not sleep; he is ever present and ever working to sustain his creation according to his perfect and gracious will. 

Personally, I tend to be a “yes” woman. I’m a perpetual helper. If there’s a way to have a hand in something, I will drop what I’m doing to contribute to the well-being of the group. At first glance, it might seem like I have a “servant’s heart,” as the Christian-ese phrase goes. 

On my best days by God’s grace, maybe that’s true. But when my rhythm of life gets out of whack, it doesn’t take long for that “servants heart” to become twisted to the point that I’m only serving out of my own idolatry. All that “helping” begins to look more like someone who thinks nothing can happen without them. A culture of busyness and saviorism is born.

The parables in Mark 4 aren’t about Sabbath. They are about the Kingdom of God. But what we believe about God affects whether or not we take a Sabbath. 

If you believe that things won’t happen unless you do them, then you won’t Sabbath. You’ll run yourself ragged straight into the grave.

But if you–like the man in the parable–recognize the mystery of God’s work sprouting when you don’t know how or when to expect it, then you will rest. 

Let’s be people who enter God’s rest by recognizing God’s work. 

Reflection Questions

  1. What mystery of God’s provision or work have you witnessed in your own life?

  1. Are you someone who is at risk of skipping Sabbath because you’re trying to be responsible for more than what God has called you to do? Why or why not?

  1. How does being reminded of God’s constant working help you thing about sabbath?


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