Scripture Mark 4:26-34 Jan Savory
As Jesus said at the start of his ministry: “The time is fulfilled, and the Kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.” `The word translated repent, Metanoia, really means changing your mind about someone or something. Change your mind about the Kingdom. The Kingdom of God isn’t what you expect. Jesus’ Kingdom parables are designed to change our minds about God’s rule. A parable is a story which is intended to interrupt what you thought you knew, not just teach you something. The Kingdom of God isn’t what you expect.
The mustard plant is a weed
Let’s start with the Mustard seed. That parable really got me thinking this week – the one about the mustard seed, a weed, an unwanted plant. Left untended, it takes over anywhere its seed falls. I’ve been noticing this spring that garlic mustard has taken over the little park next to my condo building, where I love to walk. It is an invasive species in Southern Ontario and it’s crowding out other plants, along fence lines, roadsides and trail sides, as well as in urban gardens and the forest understory. Like the mustard plant in first century Israel, it’s a weed. No farmer wanted it around. God’s kingdom is a weed?
Starts small, grows big
How can Jesus liken the Kingdom of God to a mustard seed? an invasive weed? Jesus gives a couple of clues: It’s something small that grows big. The small seed that grows to a large bush. The Kingdom starts as something small, a Rabbi and his 12 followers, but becomes a huge international movement. But is that all? What about that small act that has a huge impact in another’s life? The friendly word or gesture that encourages someone we hardly know; help offered in difficult circumstances, a friend who sticks by you when others seem to fall away.
And it is useful
And when it grows, the mustard bush offers shade and protection to nesting birds. It’s something unwanted that provides benefit. Who or what do we not want? What are our prejudices? How comfortable are we with the homeless? The mentally ill? Prison inmates? The physically and mentally challenged? It always distresses me when I read about some parents not wanting their children to share classes with special needs students. I know of so many examples where these special needs children have taught joy, acceptance and patience, just by their love and example. Of such, I am convinced, are the Kingdom of God.
Something small that grows much bigger and provides unexpected benefits. But there is more. Think about weeds in your garden. They take over and are hard to ignore or get rid of. Like the dandelions in your lawn. Even if you succeed in eliminating them, the seeds will eventually find their way back to your lawn. The Kingdom, says Jesus, is like the Mustard seed – that is invasive, unwanted, and that people try to get rid of?
You cannot fence in the Kingdom of God
That’s the point; We cannot tame it. It gets everywhere. However uncomfortable it makes you, God’s Kingdom is here, it’s there, yes it’s everywhere, and it’s for everybody. That’s an uncomfortable truth for any of us who like to think we are special. But that’s the Kingdom of Heaven; it’s inclusive; and that’s Good News, that’s Gospel!
The Kingdom of God isn’t what you expect
Small grows exponentially; the unwanted is useful; God’s kingdom is for everyone, everywhere, God’s rule cannot be wiped out. And, according to the first parable, it grows while we sleep. The farmer plants the seed, but he cannot force the seed to germinate and grow. It will grow while he sleeps. We are not in control. Personally, I don’t like not being in control. That shatters my sense of competency. It breaks my pride. But when we have done our part, we have to rely on God for the rest. Once we have sown the seed, we wait. That’s hard for impatient ones like me, who are used to doing it all and hopefully getting results. It’s a partnership. Whatever it is, making disciples, feeding the hungry, breaking our bad habits … we do our part, but have to rely on God for the rest.
As we come out of the pandemic, and thankfully there are signs of reopening, we need to ask ourselves: What seeds are we planting? The covid winter is coming to an end with more people being vaccinated. Spring is here. What can we plant? What needs in our localities can we serve, individually or together? And what will St George’s look like when we get back together again. During the pandemic, we are gathering a congregation geographically dispersed from Lowville, people who can never or rarely join us in person. How do we serve them? What is God doing in our midst and how can we partner in this Kingdom work? These are questions that we will be exploring as a congregation in the next few months. Start thinking outside the box and join in the discussions.
The Kingdom of God isn’t what you expect
For indeed, the Kingdom of God isn’t what we expect. We must be prepared to change our minds; prepared to be surprised what God can do and is doing. So, get with the program and join God’s work of co-creating this Kingdom. Sow those little seeds and while we sleep, wake and get on with life, God will germinate them. Good News indeed.