Saturday, 13 June 2009

mustard seed Mark 4 31,

The kingdom of God is like a mustard seed........

Jesus has much to say about seeds. They are to be scattered freely, even wastefully, not held on to grimly; they are to be allowed to germinate in their own time; they do their work most effectively when they are hidden in the dark fertile soil rather than exposed to scrutiny. Though small, insignificant and apparently shrivelled and dead they carry within themselves latent energy that, in the right conditions, brings forth a miraculous harvest. They are quite capable of producing a harvest even when enemy forces attempt to displace them. They are also reliable and true to type: if wheat is sown wheat is reaped: if weeds are sown then only weeds grow.

With seed size does not matter: authenticity is more important. So the kingdom of God is not about making a big impression. The world has seen its empires come and go: they are lampooned in the prophecies of Daniel (4. 20ff) and Ezekiel (17. 24). They have dominated the world like cedars but the kingdom of God is not like that: its energy is concealed in the humble mustard seed of faith. It will displace the ostentatious mountains of empire and manipulative religion (Matthew 17. 20): and will cast the luxuriant mulberry with its blood-red fruit into the sea of oblivion. (Luke 17. 6)

The mustard seed, when planted, becomes a shrub capable of providing shelter even to birds, which, in the parable of the sower, are the enemies of the seed. But, of course, although the birds of the air swoop down and eat the seed, in turn they spread the seeds through their droppings. The kingdom of God provides shelter for all kinds of people and projects. There are times when some of these even seem hostile - devouring faith. But in the work of the kingdom even the enemies of good turn out to be the allies of the gospel: like the birds nesting alarmingly in the shadows of its branches and pecking away at the seeds even while the bush is still in flower, they become inadvertent spreaders of the seed, providing new growth points in unlikely locations.

In mission we are to be openhanded. Sometimes we feel embarrassed that the projects we can see with the eye of faith, look insignificant in seed and unspectacular in fulfilment. Like the mustard plant. Often the growth of the plants is slow and unspectacular. Sometimes even when they flourish they bring with them alarming side effects which disappoint us. But God sees more than we can imagine: he prizes that which we often disdain. The mustard plant in his eyes is more important than the cedar. He puts his trust in our minuscule faith. To fulfil his dream he hands his kingdom over to us like seed; not for us to cling to and keep within our tight fists, but for us to sow, in promising and unpromising locations.

Through faithfulness, integrity, openhandedness and patience the kingdom of heaven comes with simple grace and humble maturity, not to dominate or to overpower but to provide shelter and peace for all even its enemies. He has entrusted the kingdom to us. Dare we let him down?

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