Stories About God's Kingdom
Opening Question: Have you ever told a story to scare someone or make them laugh? How did they react?
Someday, I, the Lord, will cut a tender twig from the top
of a cedar tree,
then plant it on the peak of Israel's tallest mountain,
where it will grow strong branches and produce large fruit.
All kinds of birds will find shelter under the tree,
and they will rest in the shade of its branches.
Every tree in the forest will know that I, the Lord,
can bring down tall trees and help short ones grow.
I dry up green trees and make dry ones green.
I, the Lord, have spoken, and I will keep my word.
Contemporary English Version
Lindsey walked along Elm Street, two blocks from where she lived. Since she was bored, she meandered and pulled leaves off the trees that lined the street. After a moment, she stopped and felt the tree sap that had built up on her fingertips. The sap acted like glue; when she pressed her fingertips together, she had to work harder to pull them apart. She looked at the liquid brown color of the sap and the way it discolored her fingertips.
"What are you doing?" a voice called out to Lindsey. She looked up to see her older brother, Doug.
"Playing with this stuff that came from the trees," Lindsey answered.
"Let me see," Doug said. He turned Lindsey hand palm up to view her fingertips. "That's tree sap. It flows through the tree, like blood."
"Eeyuu." Lindsey shivered. "Blood."
"It shows the tree is alive," Doug said. "If this were a fruit tree, the sap would feed the fruit so it would be good to eat. The sap also helps the tree to grow, so birds can make nests in their branches."
On their way home, Lindsey asked Doug more about trees, the saplings and the dead ones she saw in the neighbor's yards. She was also amazed that her dumb brother who went off to college came back so smart. He blamed it on the botany class he took.
We take trees for granted, but the provide so much to us: shade on a hot day, fruit to eat, a place for birds to make their nests. The world would be a much poorer place without trees. God used the image of a twig to make a larger promise to the Jewish people. He would appoint a new king and make his kingdom hard to attack, like a taking a twig and planting it on a high mountain. The people would be safe under his rule, like birds that make their nests under the shadow of the tree that grew up on the mountain. The people would do good things, like the good fruit the tree bore. The king God appointed was Jesus. Under his rule, we are safe and can do good things for others.
Let us pass those good things onto others.
Bridging Question: What stories could you tell about God?
Gospel: Mark 4:26-34
Jesus told the crowd:
The Kingdom of God is like this story. One day a farmer spread seeds on the ground. Over time, the farmer slept at night and got up to work during the day. But the seed he sowed sprouted and grew tall in a way he didn't understand. The earth produces plants in its own way. First, there is a blade of grain, then an ear of grain appears and, finally, the crop produces a full head of gran. When the grain is ripe, the farmer sends out workers to cut down the crops because the harvest is ready."
What is the Kingdom of God like? What image can help describe it? Think of a wild mustard seed. When it is planted in the ground, it is one of the smallest seeds that exists on the earth. Yet, the wild mustard plant grows into a bush so large that birds can build their nests on its branches.
Jesus taught the people with such parables. This was the best way they could understand God's word. When he was along with his followers, however, he did not use parables. Instead, he explained everything to them.
"Daddy, Daddy, tell me a story!" Brandon didn't like bed time, but he loved the stories his father told, especially the ones where Brandon was the hero, even the ones that had a moral.
"Okay," his father said, as he tucked in Brandon. "Once there was a superhero..."
"Named Brandon!" the boy cut in. Any superhero in his father's stories had to be named "Brandon."
His father laughed, "Yes, yes, the superhero's name was Brandon."
"What was his special power, Daddy?"
"Besides flying and seeing through walls, and super strength?"
"He can spin super fast, Brandon."
"Like this?" Brandon tried to turn in his bed, but couldn't.
"Not now, Brandon," his father said. "And he didn't get dizzy. One day, Super Brandon flew into the city and saw a dog caught in the sewer through his super sight. The firemen and policemen were there trying to rescue the dog. They could hear him barking but couldn't get to him, but Super Brandon knew he could. He spun and spun and spun so fast into the ground that he was like a cork screw. The dirt flew this way and that. With his super earing, he could listen to the dog's yelps. He slowed down, then stopped and began to dig to the dog. Soon, he felt the dog's fur, so he dug more until he pulled the dog out and hide him under the super cape. Then, he spun backwards and corkscrewed out until he reached the policemen and firemen. Super Brandon handed the dog to the big fireman. 'Thank you, Super Brandon!' they all yelled. 'You're welcome' Super Brandon said as he flew away."
"I like Super Brandon. Can you tell me another story about him, Daddy?"
"Tomorrow night, little one," his father said, "But what is the moral of the story?"
Brandon thought hard. "Save dogs, Daddy?"
His father laughed. "It's more than that. Do good things for other people."
Like Brandon's father, Jesus told stories, but not about people; he told stories about God and his Kingdom. People had all kinds of ideas about God's Kingdom, what it was like, when it was going to come. Jesus told stories about the Kingdom to challenge the people think in new ways how God acts in their lives. God starts small like seeds in the ground, but, like a growing wheat stalk or mustard bush, his activity gets bigger and bigger. God doesn't start with a bang, but a whisper. Jesus challenged the people to open their eyes and ears, their minds and hearts, to look for the little ways God works. Once you see that, you'll see the big ways he acts in our lives.
Final Question: How can you see the little things God does for us?