Wednesday, August 2, 2017
Mark 4:30-34

 In the name of Jesus.  AMEN.

Three thoughts on this parable of the mustard seed.

[1]  First …

Decades ago, I began telling a joke during confirmation class.  I can’t remember the joke (blessedly).  But I do remember that as I started in, my pastor stopped me.

My pastor could tell immediately that the joke I was beginning to tell was one that derived its humor from demeaning others.  When she stopped me I was stunned. Humor was a big part of my family and I couldn’t understand why anyone wouldn’t want to hear this, or any other, joke.

“Please stop,” she said.  “I don’t want to hear that joke.”

I learned in that moment that there are other sides to humor.

My pastor’s words were seeds that grew into the knowledge that humor can either be used to unite, and comfort, and bring joy; or, humor can be used to divide, demean, and bring sorrow.

My confirmation pastor left my congregation shortly after my confirmation and I’ve lost touch with her. I’ve never told her this story. She doesn’t know that those small seeds sown long ago, have grown into a lifelong lesson about humor.

The parable of the mustard seed is not a parable about humor.  It is, as Jesus said, about the kingdom of God. The kingdom of God can be compared to a mustard seed, said Jesus – the smallest of seeds that grows into the greatest of shrubs.

My confirmation pastor didn’t put on a big lecture about humor. She didn’t spend the rest of the night berating me for my poor choice in jokes. Instead, she offered simple and firm instruction:  small seeds that the Holy Spirit transformed into a lifelong shrub guiding me my whole life.

This is the work of the kingdom of God.  A God who entered the world as a fetus in a womb … a God who announced victory over death through the death of Jesus on a cross …  a God who is revealed in powerful transformations.

[2] A second thought …

Did you notice the relationship between the mustard seed and the birds? The mustard seed, transformed into the shrub allows birds to nest in its shade.

This relationship teaches us an important lesson about the kingdom of God.  The kingdom’s work is not about transforming losers into winners, failures into achievers, or the forgotten into the famous.

Rather, the power of God in Christ Jesus turns sinners into saints, turns those who had lived for themselves into those who live for others.

The purpose of the growth of the seed wasn’t so that it could win any competition or brag about how big and large it had become. Rather, its growth was for the birds!  It grew not for itself, but for others!

This week at Trinity, the joyous background that echoed through the windows and down the halls, came from the joyous voices of 70 kids being kids … campers in our Elm Park Ministries Day Camp.

We don’t put on this camp, among the largest camps in the New England Synod, and the last urban day camp offered by Camp Calumet … so that we can pat ourselves on the back and feel good about ourselves.

Rather, we host this camp so that kids, nearly half of whom are refugee children, can experience the shade of hospitality, fellowship, and fun.  We do this camp trusting that these two weeks out of the summer can be a blessing for the 70 children and their families throughout the entire year.

We host for their sake, believing that providing a safe, happy place for children to laugh, learn, and be loved, is a mustard seed blessing that grows into the largest of shrubs in their lives …

[3] My final thought …

Nowhere does the parable mention that the mustard seed needs any help growing.  Its journey from the smallest of seeds to the largest of shrubs is one that it does all by itself.

I believe the practical lesson for us is this: don’t try to be a shrub.  Instead, be a seed!

Usually, when we try to be great shrubs of blessing, we are really just trying to make ourselves look good.  We really aren’t living for others, we are just secretly living for ourselves. We get ourselves in trouble when we try to be great.

So, don’t try to be a great shrub.  Instead, be a seed.  The smallest of seeds at that.

In faith, in humility, and repentance be a seed planted in the mercy of God revealed in Christ.  As a seed, plant yourself in faith, believing in God’s awesome and incredible power to transform, to resurrect, to renew, to replenish, to transform.   The parable of the mustard seed teaches us to watch out for small seeds!  Alive in Christ, they are alive in the possibility of great transformation!

Yes, the Good News tonight, is that the kingdom of God can be compared to the mustard seed …

the small moment that nourishes for a lifetime …

the friendship, kindness, and service that provides the shade of blessing for others …

the awesome power of God transforming the sinner into the saint, and the dead into the living.

Thanks be to God!
AMEN.

+NDP