Pastor Todd's sermon will tell of how Jesus unravels the mysteries of the kingdom of God, using parables about sowing seed, a powerful metaphor, symbolizing the transformative Word of God. The seed (Word of God) produces growth all on its own. In the end, we come to see that Jesus Himself is the Living Word of God and is the source of redemption and new life we all need.

Pr. Todd Mathison

God’s Test Plot

Kingdom, Power, & Glory
Mark 4:1-20
January 21, 2024
Pastor Todd's sermon will tell of how Jesus unravels the mysteries of the kingdom of God, using parables about sowing seed, a powerful metaphor, symbolizing the transformative Word of God. The seed (Word of God) produces growth all on its own. In the end, we come to see that Jesus Himself is the Living Word of God and is the source of redemption and new life we all need.

To get your attention right away, so I’m going to actually use some NFL football terms, given the weekend that it is, to explain some church dynamics. The end zone, it’s the back row. Yeah, I’ve been looking at you already, gave some of you a heads up. We’re watching. Draft choice, the decision to sit close to an air conditioning vent, or maybe a heating vent. Blocking. Talking endlessly to the pastor at the church door and keeping everyone else from exiting. You know who you are. I like this one. Illegal motion. Leaving before the benediction. Ah, the two minute warning. And this is a real thing. The pastor’s wife looking at her watch in full view of the pastor. It’s a real thing. An extra point, which you receive when you tell the preacher his sermon was really good. Now here, I want to, I ended on that last one specifically because what we’re going to look at today isn’t about earning points. No extra points. Because the reality of our salvation with God isn’t based on us trying to earn anything because we can’t. But the good news is God has done it all for us. Even giving us faith and causing it to grow. And that’s what we’re going to look at today. We’re going to look at a couple of, uh, three stories, parables they’re called in the Gospels, that Jesus told his hearers using an agricultural context. Okay, and that, that made sense to his hearers, and I think it does for many of us here today.

The answer to that first question asked when you’re greeting each other, did you grow up on a farm? Yes, I did, in South Dakota, but I moved when I was 10 years old, so I don’t have a lot of memories from that time, but one of my clearest is a Sunday afternoon ritual. We’d have Sunday dinner, which is, of course, the midday meal in South Dakota. And we would have Sunday dinner, and then afterwards, Dad would pile us into the car with some of his other farmer friends. And we’d drive around the fields doing what? Gotta look, watch the crops, see how they’re doing. Right? Yeah, yeah. Some of you have those same kind of memories. Here’s a common image up on the screen in the fields of the Great Plains. You recognize that? Now, I’m not a pioneer seed salesman, okay? I have no skin in the game, but you see these field test plots as you drive along, and what are they? They’re basically different kinds of seed in the same environment, same soil, and you’re going to see how they perform based on the seed, especially what kind of yield you get. So, Jesus tells many stories, used in an agricultural setting, that his hearers would understand. And I pray that we will, whether you grew up on a farm or not, that all of us would understand what God is talking to. And get this, here’s what, you know what the test plot is in Jesus stories? It’s his people, his hearers.

That means it’s you and me. We are God’s test plot. Or as Jim just read for us, you are God’s field. So if you have your Bibles or devices with you, I invite you to turn to Mark chapter 4. We’re going to read three different stories that Jesus tells about seed. So we’re going to start with verse 3. Jesus said, listen, a farmer went out to sow a seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky places where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants so that they did not bear grain. Still other seed fell on good soil, came up, grew, and produced a crop, some multiplying 30, some 60, some a hundred times. And then if you jump down to verse 26, two more. He also said, this is what the kingdom of God is like. A man scatters seed on the ground. Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how. All by itself, the soil produces grain, first the stalk, then the head, then the full kernel in the head. As soon as the grain is ripe, he puts the sickle to it, because the harvest has come. Again, he said, what shall we say the kingdom of God is like, or what parable shall we use to describe it? It is like a mustard seed, which is the smallest of all seeds on earth, yet when planted, it grows and becomes the largest of all garden plants, with such big branches that the birds can perch in its shade. The gospel of our Lord. Let’s pray. Living God, as we delve into your word, may your word delve into us. May it find open and receptive hearts that your word may take root and then grow and bear fruit to the glory of your name, Jesus, in which I pray, amen. Dear friends, grace to you and peace from God our Father and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen. Let me start by asking you kind of a question in an agricultural term. What is the yield rate of your spiritual life? Have you ever considered that? For all of you farmers listening, what is your favorite time of the growing season? I bet most of you, when you think about it, would say harvest. Isn’t harvest just the best?

So, yeah, I moved when I was ten from our South Dakota farm, but I got my farmer’s fix. For two years, I got to be part of a custom farm outfit in eastern Colorado. Our second year there, we had 10, 000 acres of winter wheat. And we also farmed another 10, 000 acres of pasture land that we busted out. We were these infamous sodbusters. And we created fields and planted 10, 000 more acres of wheat in the fall. 20, 000 acres, but harvest time. What a joy! And then we have other cutting crews come and join us. I mean, it was just the highlight, uh, of the whole growing season. You know, throw this, uh, picture up on the screen. We had four big combines with 30 foot headers. And man, and we had them lined up just like that. You could really cut some wheat. with those machines. And I got to drive a little bit of the combine, mostly I was in the semi tractor, hauling the seed from the field to the elevator. But harvest was just the epitome of joy in the growing season. But, none of it would have been available had it not been for the planting season. We could not bring in the sheaves, rejoicing. If there had not been a season of planting. First, sowing the seed. And then, letting it germinate. And then grow and see what kind of yield it produced. Jesus knew this. And back in his day with the agricultural dynamics of his time, he’s teaching his people, as we read, some seed that gets sown actually doesn’t grow at all. Some that does has different rates of yield. Here’s, listen to how Jesus explains that first parable of the seed and the soils. In verse 14 of Mark 4, Jesus said, The farmer sows the word. That’s what the seed is, the word. Some people are like seed along the path where the word is sown. As soon as they hear it, Satan comes and takes away the word that was sown in them.

Others, like seeds sown on rocky places, hear the word and at once receive it with joy, but since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away. Jesus continues, still others, like seeds sown among thorns, hear the word But the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth, and the desires for other things come in and choke the Word, making it unfruitful. Others, like seed sown on good soil, hear the Word, accept it, and produce a crop, some thirty, some sixty, some a hundred times what was sown. So I’ll ask again, what is the yield rate? I’d say Jesus directs us to assess the condition of our hearts. Here’s a question for you from the second parable, the parable of the mustard seed. What causes seed to grow? In Jesus second parable, describing the kingdom of God, Jesus points out something that Maybe it’s obvious, but it’s a powerful point nonetheless.

What causes the seed to grow? Is it the sower? The farmer? Is it the weather? Is it the field conditions? Even in the end, is it the soil? No. The power to grow is actually within the seed itself. While I was farming those couple years in eastern Colorado, I remember seeing at harvest time, little stalks of wheat kind of gathered together, grown up in an untilled corner of a ditch. We didn’t plant it there. How did that get there? Well, uh, here’s one way it got there. As we would bring seed into the field back during the sowing season, especially on those access roads between the road and the field, sometimes we’d hit a bump or sometimes maybe take a corner too tight, and we’d kind of lurch a bit, and a bit of seed would spill out over the box of the truck onto the ground. No tilling, no nothing, but at harvest time, there it is, fully grown and fully ripe. How did that seed grow? That wheat? It was the power was in the seed. Which leads me, as I think about this, it almost sounds counter to what Jesus said about the seed yielding 30, 60, or 100 percent. Isn’t it the condition of our hearts, Todd?

Jesus does teach to watch the condition of your heart. But it’s not you that causes the growth. Can you feel the liberation in this? Yes, you want to make sure you’re not filled with thorns or that you’ve got, you’re not shallow or hardened. But God is the one who causes the seed, his word, to grow in your heart. Which brings me to our third and final parable about seed, the mustard seed. Even if it’s the smallest of seeds, Jesus says it can grow into the largest of plants. In other words, here’s one way to think about this. Even if it seems like God’s kingdom in your life, or in the world, or even your faith itself may be small, don’t despair. The power of God in Jesus Christ is powerful enough to cause growth spiritually, for his kingdom to expand, and for your faith to grow, so that others, as they see and hear your testimony of who Jesus is, you are seeing God’s kingdom extended through your own life, where his kingdom can become a safe haven for all who believe in Jesus Christ.

So, when I think about applying the teachings of Jesus from these parables, here’s a few key points. And the first is this. Check the condition of your heart. Have you done that? Recently? The Bible says in 1 Corinthians, examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you? Unless, of course, you fail the test. And so, from our first parable, Let God’s Word sink deeply into your mind and heart. Let God’s Word take root in your life and do not let the worries of this life or the deceitfulness of wealth or desire for other things choke God’s Word in your life. This is where I think the second parable applying this is helpful because that’s really a word of law. If you think about it. But God calls us to assess the condition of our heart and then look to Him and ask Him to cause the growth in your own faith. So here’s a second application. Invest time in God’s Word, the Bible. Why did Jesus teach this parable about the seed growing on its own? Well, the seed represents the Word.

The gospel of Jesus Christ, the promises of God in the scriptures and given to us in Christ Jesus. And the parable of the growing seed encourages us to trust in the mysterious and yet powerful work of God in building his kingdom and building faith in us through his word. The key to growth is in the seed itself. And knowing that the seed is actually the gospel of Jesus Christ, the written word, here’s my question to you. How much time are you in the Bible? The Apostle John records Jesus teaching on bearing fruit and ties it in to remaining in his word. In John 15, Jesus said, if you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish and it’ll be done for you.

And why? This is to my Father’s glory that you bear much fruit showing yourselves to be my disciples. Kingdom, power, and glory. All in that verse. It sounds a lot like a harvest of 30, 60, or 100%. Here’s a recent example of someone making a major decision in their life, kind of based on this teaching, and kind of coupled with our intentional Christian grandparenting course here on Mondays. I received an email this past week and then I had a follow up call with a couple. Uh, they, they drive here to Victory. Their member’s here for, it’s like 50 minutes to an hour, one way. And their health is getting such that those drives are more difficult, but their hearts are breaking because they want to be here, they watch us online, it’s not the same. More importantly than them. They are bringing their grandchildren here, um, when they can. And, and then now since they, they can’t get here in time, their heart for their grandchildren’s spiritual condition is such that they have now looked and found a church near them more in the far southeast part of the valley.

And they were just calling me to say, we want to be a part of victory, but for the sake of our grandchildren, we’re going to make this change. We talked it through, and I blessed them, prayed for them. But get that. This couple was willing to make a church family change for the sake of the spiritual condition of their grandchildren. So that their grandchildren would be under the hearing and teaching of God’s Word. That, that blesses my heart. I’m going to miss them! We’re going to miss them being here, but I’m thrilled for what God is going to do in the lives of all of them, young and old alike. And I’ll finally close with this third application.

It’s from that third parable. Don’t be discouraged by small starts. Jesus parable about the mustard seed being the smallest yet can grow to the largest of garden plants. Shows that the smallest, tiniest of all seeds looks to have small beginnings, but it can have big impact. And, much like the mustard seed, God’s Word, when planted in your heart, the heart of your children and grandchildren, and others through you and your testimony, God’s Word Planted in people’s hearts and then nurtured and cultivated can grow into something extraordinary. Even if you don’t see it all the time. Keep looking to God and trusting and asking for Him to work. So that there might be shelter and sustenance, not just Then you He brings the power for your faith to grow when it rests and looks to Him. This is the good news that we all need. That Jesus died. That you need not. And rather than gives you new life now. And the promise of everlasting life to come. So may the word of God, God’s written word, the scriptures, and God’s living word, Jesus Christ himself, may the word of God abide in you, and you abide and remain in him.

And you will see spiritual growth in your own life, leading to a spiritual harvest for the kingdom and glory of God. Join me in prayer. Gracious God, by the Holy Spirit, help us assess the yield rate of our own spiritual lives, allowing your word to take root and flourish. Grant us the grace to invest time in the gospel of Jesus Christ, and may the word of the Lord abide in us, causing growth and contributing to a rich spiritual harvest for the kingdom and glory of your name, Jesus, in which I pray. Amen.

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The GriefShare Program is a 13-week series of videos that we watch each week of the meeting. Each weekly GriefShare group begins with a 30-minute video featuring respected experts on grief-related topics and helpful stories from people who have experienced loss. Their insights will help you manage your emotions, gain clarity, and find answers to your questions as you walk through the grief process. We welcome everyone who has a loss; whether it be a child or a parent or spouse.

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We meet every Monday from 12:30-2:30pm here at Victory.
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WOMEN’S MINISTRY

We meet throughout the year on the 2nd Tuesday of the month for Bible Study.

Summer Schedule (May-Sept): 2nd Tuesday of the month all groups meet together on campus at 9:30am

Winter Schedule (Oct-April): 2nd Tuesday of the month

Esperanza Bible Study – 9:30am

Mary Bible Study – 1:30pm (in home)


Women’s Ministry

PURPOSE STATEMENT

As a community of women created in the image of God, called to discipleship in Jesus Christ, and empowered by the Holy Spirit, we commit ourselves to grow in faith, affirm our gifts,  support one another in our callings, engage in ministry and action, and promote healing and wholeness in the church, the society, and the world.

We meet throughout the year on the 2nd Tuesday of the month for Bible Study:

Summer Schedule (May-Sept)

2nd Tuesday of the month all groups meet together on campus at 9:30 am.

Winter Schedule (Oct-April)

  • 2nd Tuesday of the month
  • Esperanza Bible Study - 9:30am
  • Naomi Bible Study - 2:00 pm
  • Mary Bible Study - 1:30 pm (in-home)
  • Women’s Ministry

    PURPOSE STATEMENT

    As a community of women created in the image of God, called to discipleship in Jesus Christ, and empowered by the Holy Spirit, we commit ourselves to grow in faith, affirm our gifts,  support one another in our callings, engage in ministry and action, and promote healing and wholeness in the church, the society, and the world.

    We meet throughout the year on the 2nd Tuesday of the month for Bible Study:

    Summer Schedule (May-Sept)

    2nd Tuesday of the month all groups meet together on campus at 9:30 am.

    Winter Schedule (Oct-April)

  • 2nd Tuesday of the month
  • Esperanza Bible Study - 9:30am
  • Naomi Bible Study - 2:00 pm
  • Mary Bible Study - 1:30 pm (in-home)
  • Stephen Ministry

    Stephen Ministry equips lay people to provide confidential one-to-one Christian care to individuals in our congregation and community who are experiencing a difficult time in life, such as grief, divorce, job loss, chronic or terminal illness, or relocation.

    Stephen Ministers are trained by their congregation’s Stephen Leaders using resources from Stephen Ministries St. Louis. The training they receive in the congregation equips them to provide high-quality care to people who are hurting.

    Care receivers are individuals in the congregation or community who are going through a crisis or life difficulty. Potential care receivers first meet with a pastor or Stephen Leader, who assesses their needs for care and matches them with a Stephen Minister.

    After being matched with a person experiencing a life crisis, the Stephen Minister meets with that person on a weekly basis for about an hour to listen, care, encourage, and provide emotional and spiritual support. The caring relationship lasts as long as the need for care exists.

    “Bear one another’s burdens, and in this way, you will fulfill the law of Christ.” (Galatians 6:2, NRSV)

    FAMILY PROMISE

    Four times a year we host families experiencing homelessness at Victory for a week at a time. Volunteers needed to set up rooms, preparing a meal, serve/clean-up dinner or stay as an overnight host.

    Upcoming Host Weeks: April 16-23, 2023 & November 112-19, 2023

    STEPHEN MINISTRY

    Stephen Ministers are lay congregation members trained to provide one-to-one care to those experiencing a difficult time in life. 

    GRIEFSHARE

    A grief recovery support group where you can find help and healing for the hurt of losing a loved one.

    13-week Program: Mondays, 12:30-2:30pm, February 13-May 8, 2023
    (No meeting April 10th)
    GriefShare.org

    LSS-SW

    Lutheran Social Services of the Southwest (LSS-SW)

    I-HELP PROGRAM: We provide a safe and secure place for women who are currently experiencing homelessness the 2nd & 4th Thursday of the month.

    FOOD PANTRY: Food boxes distributed Mondays & Wednesdays, 9:00-11:30am.
    Utility & rental assistance by appointment only 480-654-4539.

    Victory Quilters

    We meet the 3rd Tuesday and Wednesday of the month at 8:30am. Come when you can, stay as long as you can; everyone can cut, sew, pin and tie knots. You do not need to be a church or circle member to attend. Bring a friend! The quilts are donated to Navajo Lutheran Mission, Orchard: Africa and Lutheran Social Ministries. We typically break for the summer. Please check schedule.

    MUSIC MINISTRY

    Ensembles at Victory practice weekly during the high season to prepare for weekly worship and special events. In addition, many people share their talents individually. Click here for our concert line-up!

    NAVAJO LUTHERAN MISSION

    Serving the Navajo community of Rock Point, AZ, a remote, isolated village near the Four Corners. The Mission campus includes a K-2 private Christian school, clinic, cultural center, water project and food bank.  (nelm.org)

    FAIR TRADE

    Victory Women support Lutheran World Relief (lwr.org) by selling Fair Trade hand-made crafts, jewelry, coffee and tea that generates income for small-scale businesses in third world countries. 

    OPERATION CHRISTMAS CHILD

    A “shoebox ministry” of Samaritan’s Purse, delivering gift-filled shoeboxes to boys and girls around the world.

    ORCHARD: AFRICA

    To equip the church to respond to poverty & injustice, thereby caring for the vulnerable using four programs: Food & Agriculture, Care, Education and Ministry.  (orchardafrica.org)

    Stephen Ministry

    Stephen Ministry equips lay people to provide confidential one-to-one Christian care to individuals in our congregation and community who are experiencing a difficult time in life, such as grief, divorce, job loss, chronic or terminal illness, or relocation.

    Stephen Ministers are trained by their congregation’s Stephen Leaders using resources from Stephen Ministries St. Louis. The training they receive in the congregation equips them to provide high-quality care to people who are hurting.

    Care receivers are individuals in the congregation or community who are going through a crisis or life difficulty. Potential care receivers first meet with a pastor or Stephen Leader, who assesses their needs for care and matches them with a Stephen Minister.

    After being matched with a person experiencing a life crisis, the Stephen Minister meets with that person on a weekly basis for about an hour to listen, care, encourage, and provide emotional and spiritual support. The caring relationship lasts as long as the need for care exists.

    “Bear one another’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” (Galatians 6:2, NRSV)

    WOMEN’S MINISTRY

    Welcome to the vibrant women’s ministry at Victory Lutheran Church! As a community of women created in the image of God, called to discipleship in Jesus Christ, and empowered by the Holy Spirit, we are committed to growing in faith, affirming our gifts, and supporting one another in our callings. Our purpose is to engage in ministry and action, promoting healing and wholeness in the church, society, and the world. At Victory Lutheran Church, our women’s ministry provides a nurturing and empowering space for women of all ages to connect, grow, and serve together. Through uplifting worship, inspiring Bible studies, enriching events, and impactful service opportunities, we equip women to live out their God-given purpose and embrace their unique gifts. Join us as we journey together, fostering fellowship, spiritual growth, and making a lasting impact within our church, our families, and our wider community.

    PURPOSE STATEMENT

    As a community of women created in the image of God, called to discipleship in Jesus Christ,  and empowered by the Holy Spirit, we commit ourselves to grow in faith, affirm our gifts,  support one another in our callings, engage in ministry and action, and promote healing and wholeness in the church, the society, and the world.

    We meet throughout the year on the 2nd Tuesday of the month for Bible Study:

    Summer Schedule (May-Sept)

    2nd Tuesday of the month all groups meet together on campus at 9:30am.

    Winter Schedule (Oct-April)

    • 2nd Tuesday of the month
    • Esperanza Bible Study – 9:30am
    • Naomi Bible Study – 2:00pm
    • Mary Bible Study – 1:30pm (in home)