|Pentecost 15, Year B||September 6, 2015||Proper 18, Year B||Isaiah 35:4-7a, Ps 146, James 2:1-17, Mark 7:24-37|
|Pentecost 12, Year B, Jonathan Myrick Daniels Commemoration||August 16, 2015||Pentecost 12, Proper 15||Proverbs 4:20-27, Psalm 85:7-13, Galatians 3:22-28, Luke 1:46-55|
|Pentecost 11, Year B||August 9, 2015||Proper 14, Year B||Ephesians 4:25-5:2|
|Pentecost 10, Year B||August 2, 2015||Proper 13, Year B||Ephesians 4:-16, John 6:24-35|
|Pentecost 8, Year B||July 19, 2015||Proper 11, Year B||Psalm 23, Mark 6:30-34, 53-56|
|Pentecost 7, Year B||July 12, 2015||Pentecost 7, Year B||Ephesians 1:3-14|
|Pentecost 6, Year B||July 5, 2015||Proper 9, Year B||Ezekiel 2:1-5, 2 Corinthians 13:3-10, Mark 6:1-13|
|Pentecost 5, Year B||June 28, 2015||Proper 8, Year B||Mark 5:21-43, Psalm 30|
|Pentecost 4, Year B||June 21, 2015||Fourth Sunday after Pentecost, Proper 7, Year B||2 Corinthians 6:1-13, Mark 4:35-41|
|➤Pentecost 3, Year B||June 14, 2015||The Third Sunday after Pentecost, Proper 6||2 Corinthians 5:6-10, 14-17; Mark 4:26-34|
|Pentecost 2, Year B||June 7, 2015||The Second Sunday after Pentecost, Proper 5||Genesis 3:8-15, Ps 130, 2 Corinthians 4:13-5:1, Mark 3:20-35|
|Pentecost 1, Year B -Trinity Sunday||May 31, 2015||Pentecost 1, Year B, Trinity Sunday||Isaiah 6:1-8,Psalm 29,Romans 8:12-17,John 3:1-17|
|Easter 7, Year B||May 17, 2015||Seventh Sunday of Easter, Year B||John 17:6-19|
|Easter 6, Rogation Sunday, Year B||May 10, 2015||Sixth Sunday of Easter, Rogation Sunday||Deuteronomy 11:10-15, Mark 4:26-32|
|Easter 4, Year B||April 26, 2015||Fourth Sunday of Easter, Year B||I John 3:16-24, John 10:11-18|
Pentecost 3, Year B
Sermon Date:June 14, 2015
Scripture: 2 Corinthians 5:6-10, 14-17; Mark 4:26-34
Liturgy Calendar: The Third Sunday after Pentecost, Proper 6
" The Mustard Tree"- Katy Jones
Jesus 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.”
The kingdom of God is like a mustard seed.
The day to day kingdom reality for those listening when Jesus told this parable was not the kingdom of God, but the kingdom of the Roman Empire.
By the time of Jesus, the Romans had conquered all of the countries that surrounded the Mediterranean Sea, and their empire continued to grow larger and larger, both economically and militarily.
Far from being a tiny seed, the Roman Empire was like a gigantic tree whose branches stretched out across the earth.
However, few in the audience that day would have thought of these branches of the Roman Empire as shelter in which the birds of the air could nest.
More than likely, many of those listening had been uprooted by the various military conquests of the empire, uprooted and carried off into some unfamiliar territory where they had no roots.
And probably most of the people in the crowd listening to Jesus struggled with quiet desperation day and night simply to have enough food to put on the table for their families.
They must have been puzzled to hear that the kingdom of God is like a mustard seed. After all, a mustard seed is so small that it could easily be lost, dropped, or never planted at all–
And even when planted, this seed would be incapable of producing a huge tree worthy of representing a powerful kingdom, but instead would grow into a shrub—a large shrub to be sure, but still–NOT a mighty tree whose shadow would be great enough to stunt the growth of any shrub that sprang up in its shadow.
So why would Jesus have compared the kingdom of God to a mustard seed?
Potential, sure—and we’ve all heard many sermons and stories about something strong and life giving coming out of some humble beginning.
But this time around, I find some additional reasons for Jesus’ choice of a mustard seed to represent the kingdom of heaven to be just as compelling as something small growing into something big.
So here goes. Here are two of the reasons that I find that a mustard seed representing the kingdom of heaven is good, encouraging and hopeful news.
And you’ll think of reasons in addition to these—because after all, parables help us walk through an open door into new insight which leads to another open door opening into new insight which leads to yet another open door….you get the idea.
So first of all, the parable of the mustard seed reminds me that if I’m too busy looking for God’s kingdom in the trappings of success, in what to the world looks mighty and powerful, then I very well might miss seeing God’s kingdom hidden in the proverbial mustard seeds that are easy to ignore or walk right past and never even see.
Here’s a story about what I mean.
Once I was in the District of Columbia Superior Court Building, a hulking cement building that covers an entire city block in Washington, DC. I was sitting in the middle of a lengthy basement hallway bathed in a murky yellow light in the last chair of a long row of cold plastic chairs permanently attached to (ironically) the mustard colored tile floor. Along this hallway were a series of closed doors, and periodically, unsmiling people wearing badges and carrying stacks of files or briefcases would go in or out of these doors. The hallway echoed with the sound of footsteps of harried, worried, and confused people seeking information that seemed hard to come by. At the end of the hall was the cell block which held prisoners who would either be released with no charges against them or go into the courtroom to hear the charges being brought against them before being taken to prison. US marshals, the enforcement arm of the federal court, handcuffs hanging from their belts, went up and down the hall, looking very busy and very official.
A man dressed in a brown shirt and tan pants with a desperate look in his eyes came racing down the hall. He ran to the door into the drug testing area, and found it closed. He swore loudly in a deep bass voice. “I ran all the way here from Union Station and I missed it.” A blasé young man, whose pants rode so low on his hips that his lime green underwear lit up the hallway, told the man from Union Station that the lab hadn’t opened yet. The man stopped swearing and threw himself into one of the plastic chairs to wait for the drug lab to open.
A young woman dressed in blue jeans and a hunter green shirt sat down next to me. She seemed to be waiting for something, so I decided to talk to her. She could ignore me, cuss me out, or we could strike up a conversation.
I’ll have to admit that I was surprised that she seemed willing to chat. Turns out that she was waiting for her boyfriend to get out of the cell block where he’d been held overnight.
“Why?” I asked. Because he had touched her. By that she meant he had hauled off and hit her. “He’s jealous,” she said. “He doesn’t even want me to be around my family.”
I told her to be careful. “Did you know that’s abuse?” I asked.
She seemed genuinely shocked. “It is?” she said. “Yes,” I said.
She told me about his family. “His father’s just like that. His father beats up on his mother. She just puts her head down and doesn’t say anything.”
I could see her thinking about it, trying to tell herself that somehow her boyfriend would be different, that their life together would be different. “But he’s only hit me twice,” she said again, almost to herself.
Then some official looking person called her down the hall, and I could see them talking.
And then she came back, and she said to me in a sort of surprised daze, “He’s not getting out after all. Because they found out when they did a search on him that he’s been in here for hitting someone before, so they’re going to charge him.”
I told her, “You’re a beautiful woman. Go find yourself someone who won’t beat up on you.” She hugged me and went running down the hall.
Nicole is the mustard seed that I might have missed that day if we hadn’t had a conversation. But every day I pray for her, and hope that she’ll be ok and as Genevieve would say, that she’ll go find herself a good man.
I’ll never know the end of Nicole’s story, but I hope that the good seeds in her life will sprout and grow into newness of life.
So this parable of the mustard seed reminds me to look for the possibilities of the kingdom of God in the unlikeliest places, especially in seemingly God forsaken places like that basement hallway in Washington, D.C.
And here’s the second thing that this parable has made me consider this time around.
I’m relieved that the kingdom of God is an insignificant seed that grows into a shrub instead of into a mighty tree.
Because I want to be part of the kingdom of God, and I know I’ll never be a mighty tree—I’m just an ordinary person—an ordinary shrub. But when God gives the growth, I can grow into a shrub with large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade.
So this parable is making me wonder.
I wonder what branches I’m going to put forth, and what birds of the air are going to come and make nests in the shade.
And I don’t know the answer to that, but I’m excited to ask the question and be open to the possibilities that God has in mind for me, because those possibilities, if they are truly from God, will be life giving for me and for those around me.
In his second letter to them, Paul told the Corinthians that we are always confident….for we walk by faith and not by sight…and we make it our aim to please God.
That’s what today’s parables about the kingdom of God are about for me this time around—having the faith to plant the seeds God gives me to plant, then having the confidence and the patience to leave the growth to God, and to make it my aim to please God every day in my sleeping and in my rising, as I wait for the kingdom of God to be fulfilled in my life; as I wait for everything old to pass away as God grows me into the new creation that God means for me to become.
And you, what do you wonder about as a result of this parable about the kingdom of God?
What do you imagine God has in mind for you?
And how will you aim to please God as you wait for God’s answers to your questions?