|[Pickling spices, including mustard seeds. Photo purchased from kristinpeereboom.com photography]|
Anyone who gardens knows that planting it is a deliberate process that is done with little fanfare. When we are finished placing tiny seeds in the dark soil, we need to mark the place in some way because it does not appear much different than before we started. Jesus' emphasis in the parable is that the seed is small. But the fact that it is a seed deserves a bit more discussion. A plastic bead or a small grain of sand or salt in a field would not yield anything like the results of the mustard seed. The seed has an inherent power built into it. In this minuscule wrapping is a genetic structure that will unfold into a plant that can rival a tree in one growing season. Mustard bushes can exceed the height of professional basketball players!
The kingdom of God starts small but keeps growing, through God's unstoppable power. This growth is not about making a name for itself but for the flourishing of society. Just as wild birds perch in the mustard bush for the shade and seeds it affords, so wherever the kingdom of God appears people in proximity ought to reap its benefits and blessings in terms of care, respect and freedom.
This is true on the large scale as Jesus' band of first followers have multiplied over generations to touch each continent on our planet. But on the smaller scale of a particular time and place, the mustard seed principle is also evident in these ways and more:
- The hidden but deliberate prayers of faithful followers of Jesus Christ on both sides of the Iron Curtain eventually resulted in the dramatic fall of the Berlin Wall and various oppressive regimes. People regained their freedom.
- The pattern of everyday faithfulness as a parent, that often goes on behind closed doors, (generally speaking) yields a mature child ready to go out on his or her own. This person can take up a vocation for the benefit of society as a whole. In moments when early forms of maturity shine forth, I've been taken aback with the rhetorical, "Where did you come from?"
- The quiet, purposeful work of a linguist trying to put an oral language into writing bears fruit in a written language, giving honour to a unique culture and showing its people that God's Word does not have to remain foreign to them.