Sunday, June 13 2021
The Parable of the Mustard Seed
He also said, “With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable will we use for it? It is like a mustard seed, which, when sown upon the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth; yet 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” (Mark 4:30-32).
Parables are a powerful tool used by Jesus to communicate the coming of God’s reign and the coming of the Kingdom. They are compelling stories of everyday people that often surprise us. Who would expect the Prodigal Son to be met with open arms by his father after wasting his inheritance? What a surprise that the man that is robbed and beaten does not receive help from the priest, but from the hated Samaritan? Who would expect the greatest shrub to come from a tiny seed? Parables have the ability to change the way we see the world and therefore are able to transform us into seeing from the divine perspective instead of through our normal cultural lenses. God’s reign spreads from a spark to a wild fire when we hear, accept, and grow in God’s love. Even a seed as small as the mustard seed will flourish when it is sown in the ground. I see the mustard seed as the love of God that is sown in our hearts. For God so loved the world that he gave his only son that everyone that believes may have eternal life. Jesus love is sown into all of our hearts and each of us can, have, and will do amazing things. From small beginnings come great things through the power of God. Today’s Gospel demonstrates God’s mystery and power in commonplace events and activities.
In last week’s sermon, I used Mark’s question of “who is Jesus? “It is somewhat ironic that the disciples heard the parables in the Gospel of Mark and then showed us what not to do by their actions. It is important to see the literary context of this Gospel. The rhetorical effect of asking these questions is that the reader must look for their own answer. To heighten this rhetorical effect, Mark portrays the disciples as totally unaware of who Jesus is. The audience now shares the enlightened viewpoint of Jesus with the narrator. We therefore need to approach the passage within the context of this irony and Mark’s overall purpose in this Gospel. We cannot just look at the passage from a historical perspective. Mark isn’t just trying to tell us a story. Mark challenges us to answer the question, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?” Peter denies Jesus three times before hiding in the upper room during the crucifixion. When Mary comes and tells the disciples that “he is risen,” they don’t believe a word of it (until they meet Jesus themselves in Galilee). This is one of the great lessons in the Gospel of Mark. Sometimes a mustard plant might look like a weed, but when we nurture it and take care of the plant it can grow to be a twelve foot shrub.
We too can have our doubts at certain points in our lives. Many churches act like the disciples and do exactly the opposite of what God asks them to do. Most of us get off the path at various times in our lives. This is why the Word of God is vital and daily prayer is so important. God loves us unconditionally and offers us the way, the truth, and the life through the Gospels and through the parables of Jesus Christ. They ring true yesterday, today, and always because they were uttered by God to keep us on the path. When we let scriptures wash over us and when we enter into the unexpected story of the parable, God is able to do amazing things through us. I am thankful for the sinners and saints that have preceded us in the past 276 years at St. John’s. May the Holy Spirit guide us this day and always to God’s path.
In Christ’s love,