13 Jun Merv’s Musings – Mustard Seed
Pentecost 3B Mustard seed
This week Susan and I took our turn at being teacher for two of our grandchildren. My appreciation for our school teachers and parents forced into home schooling has increased dramatically.
Our Gospel reading for this week speaks of the sowing of seeds. I know that my young grandchildren are a fertile soil awaiting seeds to grow. However, my math skills with the new Math lessons have been highlighted this week as inadequate at best. I’m beginning to realize the soil in my life has pretty well dried up and cracks are beginning to show. So I am not sure how many seeds were sown into fertile soil this week. Good thing we are close to the end of the school year.
The lockdown and closure of schools has forced all the members of the family to become more involved in the education of our kids. I don’t know what we would have done during this pandemic if not for the technology given to us. Of course not all that the internet offers us sows good seeds but when used properly, what a Godsend!
I watched my grandson interact with other classmates during his team meeting via the computer. It became clearer and clearer to me that seeds planted in the minds and hearts of our kids need to also come from outside forces and not just the family Bubble. Reflecting on the development of our kids and grandkids, I observed that the old adage, “it takes a whole village to raise a child”, becomes more and more evident.
In more normal times, as our kids mature, we see many hands outside the home begin to scatter seeds in the child’s mind and heart. The playground, the school, books, TV, computers all contribute to their learning. As the years advance, the experiences of life — the joys, temptations, tasks, trials, sorrows — all bring influences. And what grows is seen in the character of the man or the woman — these influences can be seen in the growth of seeds sown by a thousand hands beginning that day they are first brought home from the hospital.
Each of us can understand the importance of what we plant could someday bring forth a great harvest. Hopefully, what is planted is the noble things that fall from our hands as we travel along life’s path. The good things we do; the words of truth that we speak; the faithful examples we show. All the influences of our life that are Christlike are living seeds which we sow in the lives of others. Our prayer is that these good seeds, will not fall onto the ground and perish but that these good seeds will germinate and grow, and yield a harvest! These seeds may be small, as small as a mustard seed, but what potential!
In our text today, – Jesus tells a parable using the mustard seed. A seemingly insignificant little seed telling us something about His kingdom. If you were to look at a mustard seed you would think that not much could become of it. It is not something that exudes expectation. This is a kingdom principle! In God’s kingdom, people, situations, and circumstances are not limited to how they appear in the natural.
We see God using Gideon and 300 men to fight an overwhelming enemy of Midianites
OR Moses a man who fears speaking in public because he stutters, yet leads a nation through the wilderness for 40 years towards the Promised Land.
OR Jesus feeding 5000 with 2 fish and 5 loaves of bread
These circumstances and situations seemed small and destined for insignificance but they all had one common factor, God was involved!
Several years ago, I was dropping my grandson Jacob off at his pre-school. As I was walking by his room I said to him: “You have a tree growing in your room.” The teacher heard my comment and said: “ ten years earlier a student had brought an orange to school and insisted that they plant the seed… that was the result.”
From that little seed an orange tree in Winnipeg. Who would have thought? There is a wonderful line from the Oh God movie with George Burns: “You never know; a seed here, a seed there, something will catch hold and grow.”
This is the message of the Gospel passage for this Sunday. Jesus has been talking about the Kingdom of God. The time when God’s reign will be manifest upon the earth and people will live in conformity to God’s will. It was apparent that it wasn’t happening then. It would be even more difficult at the conclusion of Jesus’ ministry for his disciples to believe that the Kingdom of God had come any closer to being a reality. They would be a small, discouraged group of fugitives without a leader. Now was the time to provide them with a message that would give them hope in times of discouragement and sustain them in the face of future persecution.
The first thing these words of Jesus do is to remind us that we are called to do something, however small we might think it to be. Jesus spoke of the potential that seed was to become as it is scattered. If the Kingdom of God is to become a reality, we who are aware of God’s grace have seeds to sow.
This little gardener, ten years ago, had the belief that an orange seed would grow. It is like the seeds of the kingdom. The seeds of the kingdom maybe little, but we are called to scatter them. The seeds may be little acts of kindness which take root and bear fruit.
The second thing these words of Jesus do is to remind us that while we are called to do something, we are not called to do everything. We scatter the seed, but the growth is up to God.
Susan loves orchids. Every once in a while, she buys one and puts it near our front window. Ever since our granddaughter Cara was small, she has been fascinated by the flower. Problem is she just cannot resist touching or picking the flower before the plant comes to full bloom. For years all we had were these sticks sitting in our living room. Waiting for a regrowth.
I guess like all of us, the hardest part is the waiting. At the first sign of sprouting, she had to pluck them. Naturally, that was the end of those plants. As scatterers of seeds, we have some responsibilities, but the maturing process has its own timetable, and we are not in charge.
People grow and mature at different rates. Thomas Edison’s teacher said he could never amount to anything and advised his mother to take him out of school. Winston Churchill was admitted to school in the lowest level classes and never moved out of the lowest group in all the years he attended school. Albert Einstein seemed so slow and dull that his parents feared that he was mentally deficient. One observer has said, “Great minds and high talent, in most cases, cannot be hurried and like healthy plants, grow slowly.”
This happens in God’s Kingdom. We scatter the seed, but we are not ultimately responsible for its growth. We cannot make things happen. The process by which the kingdom of this world becomes the Kingdom of God proceeds very slowly, and at times even frustrates us. But, at the same time, if we have faithfully scattered the seed, we are not to blame for its failure to appear in its fullness. We are being cautioned, in these words of Jesus, to be patient.
A third thing these words of Jesus do is to call us to hope. We are ignorant of the process, but the word of Jesus is that growth is taking place. “The Kingdom of God is like a mustard seed,” he said, “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….” The seed is becoming a bush. God’s Kingdom is growing in its own way, from seemingly inconsequential beginnings to something Great.
Whatever God’s Kingdom may one day become, it starts out as the smallest of things. The great advances of mankind have often started without any trumpets sounding or anybody being aware that anything exceptional was taking place.
On the one hundredth anniversary of Abraham Lincoln’s birth, John McCutcheon drew a famous cartoon. He showed two Kentucky backwoodsmen standing at the edge of a forest in the winter. One asks the other, “Anything new?” The other man replies, “Nothing much. Oh, there’s a new baby over at Tom Lincoln’s. But you know, nothing significant ever happens around here.”
Centuries before that someone might have asked in Bethlehem, “Anything new?” And the answer might have been, “No, nothing new. Oh, they say a woman named Mary had a baby in a stable last night. But nothing significant ever happens around here.” And when that child grew up and began His ministry Jesus taught about little things: a cup of cold water, a person with one talent, a widow’s offering, a lost coin, kindness done for “one of the least of these”. So many of the greatest happenings begin in just such a way. They are no more than the planting of a mustard seed. Yet, in God’s good time, the seed becomes a plant and puts forth its branches for the benefit and growth of the Kingdom of God!
Rev. Merv Lanctot
Faith grows in the soil of hope