I’ve never given a lot of thought, one way or another, to mustard. I can sort of take it or leave it. Usually I pass by it at picnics. And I’ve never thought much about where it comes from, or how it’s made. So when Jesus uses the example of a mustard seed in today’s passage, it doesn’t mean a whole lot to me.
Jesus is teaching the disciples and he talking about creating the kingdom of God. And he compares it to a mustard seed. Now, I didn’t know much about mustard seeds, but it turns out that when you plant them they are only about 1-2mm big. That’s tiny. But the seeds, when they take hold in good ground, grow into these huge bushes that are almost more like tress. They can be 20 feet tall.
Jesus use the example of that mustard seed to talk about growing the kingdom of God. Even the smallest things become great over time.
That’s reassuring to me. Have you ever heard the phrase “faith as big as a mustard seed?” It’s sometimes taken to mean that even the tiniest bit of faith can yield great things. I think that’s true. We sometimes believe that the only way to be a good Christian, and to live a great spiritual life, is to have this solid,unshakeable, grand faith that never doubts.
But for most people, everyday is not like that. I’ve talked a lot about faith and doubt and how they’re not necessarily opposed before. I think that has something to do with this mustard seed. It is tiny, the way our faith feels sometimes, and yet it has all of the potential in it to grow into something great. Sometimes our faith feels tiny, and yet it too can grow, and yield great things. All it takes for that mustard seed to grow is little light, a little soil, a little rain. All it takes for us is the light of God, the soil of good community, and the waters of baptism.
I wish we in the church talked about the mustard seed a little more. It makes a for good story. It’s tenacious, it grabs hold and grows where it’s planted. It creates abundance where there was none. And what is most incredible is how unexpected it is.you look at that tiny seed and you think, “How can anything great come from this?”
It’s a lot like that first story that Kenny read today. Now, I don’t usually preach on mor that one text. It was drilled into our heads in seminary not to do that. But you can’t read these two texts that the lectionary gives us today without seeing some resemblance. The tiniest seed. And the smallest son.
Samuel is called by God to find a new king of Israel. And God tells Samuel that king will be one of the sons of Jesse. So Samuel goes to Jesse’s town and asks Jesse to bring his sons. And the first one comes. And he’s the oldest and probably this big, strapping guy. He probably looks like a young king. And Samuel says to himself, “Ah, this must be him.”
But God says, “no…that’s not him.”
So Jesse gets his other sons. Samuel sees the second and third and fourth born sons and each time he thinks he must have found the guy. But God says no. Finally he gets through all seven sons and realizes the king isn’t there. And he asks Jesse, “Are all or your sons here?”
And Jesse says no. There’s another. The youngest. But he’s out in the fields tending the sheep.
That youngest was smaller than his brothers. The runt of the litter. He probably had held down the bunch all his life while he watched his brothers play in every game. They got to do everything. So much so that when the prophet came to town looking for a new king, they didn’t even bother bringing him in from the fields. It was just David, very one thought. Why would the important visitor want to see him?
But David was the chosen son. He was the mustard seed that unexpectedly grew into something great. The runt of the litter, the mustard seed, becomes a tree of life that extend generations down the line to Jesus himself. And he becomes king.
I’ll bet everyone was astonished that day. The father. The brothers. The folks in town. But I’ll bet no one was near as shocked as David. I’ll bet that after a life of being told his place was out in the fields he couldn’t believe that now he belonged on a throne.
But that’s okay. Because God did believe it. And God use that youngest son, that mustard seed, in the most unexpected way.
That’s worth remembering in our own lives. How many times have we felt about as small and insignificant as a mustard seed? How many times have we felt powerless in the face of a big, overwhelming world? How many times have we found ourselves on again sending out in the fields, counted out and feeling like the last in line?
For most of us, when it comes to the spiritual life, our greatest problem is not that we are not enough. For most of us it’s that we do not see the potential that God has already placed inside of us. Like the tiny mustard seed. Like the youngest son. We may not look like much. But God thinks otherwise.
But that doesn’t mean it always happens. Because sometimes we become so tied up in the thoughts of what we cannot do, that we fail to ever do the things we can. We are so caught up in how small and insignificant we feel, that we don’t plant ourselves in the sun and grow towards the light. We don’t take in the things that nourish us. And we don’t put down roots. We get lost in how unlikely it is that a little seed like us might turn out to be something great.
Likewise, when a new opportunity comes to town we might stay out there in the fields with the sheep while everyone else we think is more qualified or more prepared goes running. We might be so caught up in our identity as the last in line that we may never even know what God has prepared for us.
Has that ever happened to you? Have you ever been so caught up in what you think you can’t do that you haven’t let God do the things that God can? Have you felt a tugging in your soul that only comes from God, and yet you’ve turned away for fear of failing?
We all have at some time. In our own lives, and even in our lives together. But how do we get beyond our fears and move forward?
The other day in deacons we were talking about a new idea for this church. We’ve kicked it around before but this time we were really trying to make it happen. We want to offer, once a month, a free meal for the community here at the church. Nothing major. Soup or chili with sandwiches and cookies, maybe.
There are a lot of reasons why. We want to introduce people to our church community. We want to provide a service for our neighbors who might be having trouble making ends meet right now. And, we want to provide fellowship for all of our community, no matter their economic situation. There are many reasons to do this, none of them bad.
But, be honest, how many of you are thinking that it sounds like a lot of work? How many are thinking already of the logistics. The cost of food. The coordination of volunteers. The right recipe for the chili. And where are we going to find enough tablecloths?
I get it. But I also know this. God blesses the mustard seed, and makes it grow. We’ve already seen that in our lives together. In the past two years, this church has grown by fifty percent. While other churches in communities like ours are shrinking and struggling to keep the doors open, we are going the other way. We have undertaken new programs and missions. We have gone through a flood and a merger and we have come out stronger. If we need any reassurance that God chooses the unexpected and makes it grow, look no further,
But that doesn’t mean we can rest. God is not growing us so that we can pay our bills and take care of ourselves. God is growing us for something. God is growing us for service. And we can do this. Whether it’s this new mission or something else entirely, we can do this.
And whether it’s something here in our life together, or something that only you are facing, you can do this too. The only trick is to not be so afraid, so overwhelmed, that you never claim God’s promise.
I’ll close with this. Today is, of course, Father’s Day. I was thinking of a story about my own dad. When I was about nine we were golfing. And we came to a hole that faced a group of houses. And as you teed off you hit right towards the houses. I became convinced that I was going to hit those houses with my first shot and break all the windows.
Now, they were 400 yards away. There was no way in the world I was going to hit those houses, but my dad couldn’t convince me of that. I said, “Dad im going to hit the house.”
He said, “no you’re not.”
I said, “It’s too close.”
He said, “Emily, hit the ball.”
I still didn’t want to, so finally he said this. “Swing away. Hit that ball as hard and as far as you can. And if you break the windows, I’ll pay for them.”
Scripture calls God our parent and at times calls God both a father and a mother. And there are times when I think of God like that. Because sometimes we are so afraid of whats never going to happen that we don’t even want to tee up. And I think of God as the father who just wants us to draw back, put our fears aside, and just give it our best shot. All of us David’s. All of us mustard seeds. God is calling us to the tee. It’s our shot. And we don’t have to be afraid. Because I’m pretty sure that so long as we take that shot, God will always pay for the broken windows. Amen.