Bible Study

Bible Study: Pentecost 4 (B) – June 16, 2024

June 16, 2024

RCL: Ezekiel 17:22-24; Psalm 92:1-4, 11-14; 2 Corinthians 5:6-10, [11-13,] 14-17; Mark 4:26-34

Note: During the 2024 Season after Pentecost, Sermons That Work will use Track 2 readings for sermons and Bible studies. Please consult our archives for many additional Track 1 resources from prior years.

Ezekiel 17:22-24

That which is great is made small, that which is small will be exalted. This theme pops up over and over again in Scripture, woven into parable and narrative. In Ezekiel, we encounter it in rich and evocative imagery; a poetic vision by the prophet who is deep in exile. He sees a small twig, broken from a great tree, planted atop a mountain. The twig itself grows into a mighty cedar brimming with life, a safe home and respite for birds.

Parable-like in nature, this passage is orienting the reader not just toward God’s work in creation, but toward a specific figure: one who is considered small and humble, yet through God’s plan to make something new from the old, becomes the very resting place for life. All the other “trees” around this figure will look to it and know that the God of Israel, truly, is the God who exalts the lowly and creates and sustains life. What a gift and inspiration this image must have been for those in exile, for whom this passage was written: that with nothing but a transplanted twig, something great will grow. God will sustain not just life, but life abundant.

  • What are the “twigs” in your life out of which God has grown something great?

Psalm 92:1-4, 11-14

What happens when God’s people are gathered together in worship? The psalmist in today’s passage points us toward the answer: the flourishing of life itself. Through the psalm, we see references to praise in the morning and night, song with harps and lyres, and the house of God which give us an image of the faithful on the Sabbath, turned toward the power of God in their life. In this gathering together, God’s faithful acts are remembered and joy rises. Grounded deep in gratitude for God’s work on our behalf, we are imagined to be like trees: roots grow deep and multiply, fruits of God’s spirit ripen and are abundant, and this flourishing is visible for all to see. God’s gathered people are like a great forest, a haven for life.

  • When you gather with God’s people in worship, what takes root and grows for you?

2 Corinthians 5:6-10, [11-13,] 14-17

When we imagine appearing before the judgment seat of Christ, it’s hard not to let centuries of artistic renderings sway our thoughts. Images of a mighty Jesus with a pointed (often accusing) finger, people being swept left or right, others kneeling and weeping. It doesn’t exactly inspire confidence!

Yet Paul guides us toward exactly that: confidence. Paul builds an argument for our boldness, our confidence in approaching the throne of Jesus, as well as approaching others with the message of salvation. It is “the love of Christ” that urges us on, Paul says – a sacrificial, beautiful, life-giving love that leads a God to become like us, to give up everything so that we might have everything. Paul tells us that we are to see all others no longer “from a human point of view,” and the implication is that we are to look at others through Jesus’ eyes: eyes full of faith and life-creating love, eyes that can’t help but see beloved new beings. If this is how we are to look at others, how much more will Christ look at us in this way on Judgment Day? How much more will Jesus see us in our vulnerability and desire to continue to make us new?

This gives us a new framework for walking by faith, not by sight. It isn’t as if we have closed our eyes and are stumbling in the dark. Rather, it is as if we have put on a filter over our vision – a sort of Jesus-lens, if you will, that lets us see the world as Christ sees it. A vision full of faith in God’s good creation and the ever-inbreaking work of God in the world through our hands and feet (and sight!).

  • Take a moment to think about how Christ sees you. Is it full of love and faith? Or is it full of judgment?
  • What would it be like to put on “Jesus-lenses” and look at the world around you? How might your day change?

Mark 4:26-34

Gardening is strange work, isn’t it? On one hand, there is real effort on our part: watering and weeding and sowing and reaping. Yet in the vast majority of the work – the slow but steady miracle of plants unfolding, fruits growing, and petals unfurling – we can’t really do anything but watch in wonder.

Planting, growing, and harvesting all take a central place in Jesus’ parables, and for good reason. It’s a marriage of human initiative and the movements of natural forces, a dance between that which can be managed and that which is totally out of our control. It makes for fertile ground (pun intended!) for helping us understand what it means to be called by God to co-create, to plant seeds and watch something wonderful unfold, guided by God’s power.

As Jesus continues his mission, he is reminding his disciples and those who have been following him of this truth through these parables. There was a reason the disciples were attracted to Jesus: clearly, they knew that something wonder – a kind of new life – was coming with Jesus’ work and word. Yet they kept fumbling it. Metaphorically forgetting to water, neglecting to prune, letting weeds run wild. Despite this, people kept coming – folks were being healed, fed, loved, and called. Even in the imperfect work of the disciples, there was a bountiful harvest. Even with their tiny seeds of faith, great trees were sprouting. One wonders if Jesus told these parables as a way to comfort the disciples, to remind them that there is much that is, perhaps thankfully, out of their control: they can do what is given to them, but ultimately, God will give the growth.

  • What are the seeds of faith that God has been calling you to sow? What’s stopped you from doing so?

Amy Crawford has, for the last 20 years, worked at the intersection of ministry and psychology. She holds a Masters in Clinical and Counseling Psychology, with a concentration in adolescent psychology and pastoral counseling. Amy has worked as a trauma and spirituality therapist for youth and young adults; worked as Associate Pastor of Spiritual Care and Counseling at Liquid Church, a top-100 fastest growing church in the US, and is currently in the process of becoming ordained in The Episcopal Church and receiving a M.Div from General Theological Seminary. She also consults as an organizational psychologist and as a trauma/neurodiversity specialist to various organizations, including seminaries and para-church organizations. Amy, along with her husband, are parents to four daughters. In her (few) spare moments, she is a classically trained professional pianist who enjoys playing Bach, an avid native-plants gardener, and is passionate about liturgy and Benedictine spirituality.

Don’t forget to subscribe to the Sermons That Work podcast to hear this sermon and more on your favorite podcasting app! Recordings are released the Thursday before each liturgical date.

Receive Free Weekly Sermons That Work Resources!


Christopher Sikkema


Click here