Worship preview for 6/17

The readings for the Fourth Sunday after Pentecost emphasize the joyful hope of renewal we have. We often think of the Kingdom of God as being far away and awaiting our arrival in heaven; yet the readings on this Sunday tell us that the Kingdom of God is in our midst right now. The work of the gospel is invisible, but real. It is hidden, but with results that can be seen—even if the power behind those visible results remains a mystery. That is true of the kingdom of God, the church. It is no less true of the kingdom of God hidden within the individual member of the church.

The Old Testament reading is a prophecy of the Messiah. God promises to use the Messiah build a new church that includes all nations and people groups. The Epistle reading reveals the hope and courage we have while serving God in this world. As his redeemed children, we make it our concern to please him, walking now by faith and looking forward to a beautiful new life. In the Gospel reading, Jesus tells two parables of the Kingdom. The first points out that God’s kingdom comes by his will, not ours. The second shows the extent of the kingdom of God—from humble beginnings to huge results.

The Gospel reading:

Mark 4:26-34

In these two parables about the mysterious extension of God’s kingly rule on earth, Jesus compares God’s Word to the seed sown by a farmer. In the first he teaches his impatient disciples to be patient, like farmers, and to let the seed of God’s Word sprout, grow and produce God’s harvest without human intervention. In the second he teaches them that the little mustard seed of God’s Word would eventually grow into a large shelter for many people in God’s garden. That shelter is the church which grows large from small beginnings.

The Old Testament reading:

Ezekiel 17:22-24

This is a prophecy of Jesus as the Christ, God’s anointed King. The kings of Israel were often compared with the cedars of Lebanon—the king of the trees that grew on Mt. Lebanon the king of the mountains—and the nations of the world were compared with various classes of birds. Earlier in this chapter God had told Ezekiel that he would use the king of Babylon to cut down the dynasty of David. Here God promises that he himself would take a twig from that tree and plant it on his holy mountain. There this new king would make God known to all the kings on earth, would produce good fruit and provide a place of shelter for all the nations.

The New Testament reading:

2 Corinthians 5:1-10

By faith Christians already now live heavenly lives on earth. But that is not something that we can see. We have a hidden identity. We are new creatures, part of God’s mysterious new creation. As such, our one aim is to please Jesus. So we no longer live for ourselves but for him. We also regard others as potential or actual new creatures. Our task is to serve Christ as his ambassadors by bringing the good news of his death and resurrection to the world around us, the good news that Jesus has taken on our sin as a sin offering for us to give us his righteousness, the good news by which sinners are reconciled to God and each other.