Sunday, June 17, 2018
The mustard seed becomes a great shrub that shelters the birds, recalling ancient images of the tree of life. We’d expect a cedar or a sequoia, but Jesus finds the power of God better imaged in a tiny, no-account seed. It’s not the way we expect divine activity to look. Yet the tree of life is here, in the cross around which we gather, the tree into which we are grafted through baptism, the true vine that nourishes us with its fruit in the cup we share. It may not appear all that impressive, but while nobody’s looking it grows with a power beyond our understanding.
First Reading: Ezekiel 17:22-24
Tree imagery is used in a messianic prophecy to tell how the Lord will choose someone from Judah’s royal family (the cedar tree) to reign over all creation. This tree will be planted on Mount Zion, the location of the holy temple.
22Thus says the Lord God:
I myself will take a sprig
from the lofty top of a cedar;
I will set it out.
I will break off a tender one
from the topmost of its young twigs;
I myself will plant it
on a high and lofty mountain.
23On the mountain height of Israel
I will plant it,
in order that it may produce boughs and bear fruit,
and become a noble cedar.
Under it every kind of bird will live;
in the shade of its branches will nest
winged creatures of every kind.
24All the trees of the field shall know
that I am the Lord.
I bring low the high tree,
I make high the low tree;
I dry up the green tree
and make the dry tree flourish.
I the Lord have spoken;
I will accomplish it.
Psalm: Psalm 92:1-4, 12-15
The righteous shall spread abroad like a cedar of Lebanon. (Ps. 92:12)
1It is a good thing to give thanks | to the Lord,
to sing praise to your name, | O Most High;
2to herald your love | in the morning
and your faithful- | ness at night;
3on the psaltery, and | on the lyre,
and to the melody | of the harp.
4For you have made me glad by your | acts, O Lord;
and I shout for joy because of the works | of your hands. R
12The righteous shall flourish | like a palm tree,
and shall spread abroad like a ce- | dar of Lebanon.
13Those who are planted in the house | of the Lord
shall flourish in the courts | of our God;
14they shall still bear fruit | in old age;
they shall be | green and succulent;
15that they may show how up- | right the Lord is,
my rock, in whom there is | no injustice. R
Second Reading: 2 Corinthians 5:6-10 [11-13] 14-17
Paul encourages believers to live by faith and not by sight. We do not consider Jesus from a human perspective but through the eyes of faith, believing he died for all and was raised. All who are in Christ are now in God’s new creation.
6So we are always confident; even though we know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord—7for we walk by faith, not by sight. 8Yes, we do have confidence, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord. 9So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him. 10For all of us must appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each may receive recompense for what has been done in the body, whether good or evil.
[11Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we try to persuade others; but we ourselves are well known to God, and I hope that we are also well known to your consciences. 12We are not commending ourselves to you again, but giving you an opportunity to boast about us, so that you may be able to answer those who boast in outward appearance and not in the heart. 13For if we are beside ourselves, it is for God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you. ] 14For the love of Christ urges us on, because we are convinced that one has died for all; therefore all have died. 15And he died for all, so that those who live might live no longer for themselves, but for him who died and was raised for them.
16From now on, therefore, we regard no one from a human point of view; even though we once knew Christ from a human point of view, we know him no longer in that way. 17So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!
Gospel: Mark 4:26-34
Jesus frequently uses parables to teach ordinary people as they are able to hear and understand. Images of sowing and growing show the vitality of God’s kingdom.
26[Jesus] said, “The kingdom of God is as if someone would scatter seed on the ground,27and would sleep and rise night and day, and the seed would sprout and grow, he does not know how. 28The earth produces of itself, first the stalk, then the head, then the full grain in the head. 29But when the grain is ripe, at once he goes in with his sickle, because the harvest has come.”
30He also said, “With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable will we use for it? 31It is like a mustard seed, which, when sown upon the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth; 32yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes the greatest of all shrubs, and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade.”
33With many such parables he spoke the word to them, as they were able to hear it; 34he did not speak to them except in parables, but he explained everything in private to his disciples.
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