Saturday, 16 June 2012

Like a mustard seed

Mark 4: 26-34

I hope we all remember the parable of the mustard seed. The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed.  Very small, but amazing, growing into a bush so large that you might even think of it as a tree – big enough for birds to nest in the branches.

But in Mark’s gospel, from which we heard the parable, before the parable of the mustard seed Jesus tells a less well-known parable – the kingdom of heaven is as if someone would scatter seed on the ground. Any seed will do – because all seed is amazing. But it seems Jesus is talking about some kind of grain – maybe wheat. It grows, the sower doesn’t know how: stalk, head, full grain. Once the grain is ripe, the sower knows what to do – gather in the harvest.

Jesus helps us to think about the amazing potential of a seed. In even the tiniest seed, there is everything needed except water to begin growth – and then as long as the seed is in good rich soil, and the light conditions are right the seedling can grow into a mature plant, ready to set its own seed in the future. Ready to produce a rich harvest.

Jesus tells us that God's kingdom is like a seed – it grows in secret, by small amounts and yet everything needed for that growth is already there.

Previously I think I’ve always talked about this parable as one that teaches us something about how we build the kingdom – how we work to grow the church, but we rely on God’s strength and gracious love to make things actually happen.
But just for today let’s forget about the church and our work for the kingdom. What does the kingdom of God mean in each of our lives here today? What if the field in the parable is not the whole world, but your heart – then what does the parable tell us?

The seed – God’s kingdom, God’s rule, God’s love – grows in the field which is your heart. It may not start with a huge event – it may be very small at the start – so small you can barely notice it. God’s love has found a resting place in your heart. But then the miracle – the seed begins to grow. Don’t ask how, or when, or why – like the growth of the seed it is mysterious, beyond our control, a miracle. But once God’s love starts to grow there’s nothing we can do to stop it, or decrease it, or avoid it. We can help it along with the right ‘conditions’ – regular tending and nurturing of our knowledge of God’s love through prayer, worship, scripture. But God’s grace is really what produces what we see growing – and as that love grows, wonder after wonder unfolds until a harvest is produced. That harvest is the fruits of the Spirit – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. We recognise the harvest when we see it: and it tells us that the love of God has grown in the field of our lives from a tiny seed to a demonstrable outcome.

Jesus tells the parable because he wants us to be amazed at what God’s love can do and to be ready simply to allow the miracle of God’s love to grow in us.
And it is good that we are also sharing communion this morning. The amount we will actually eat and drink is tiny, little bigger than a mustard seed, but this is all we need to be fed.
It is not about taking a great plateful of food – good though it is to think about the feast God has in store for us in the future.

This is a symbolic gift of bread & wine. This is God's gift of Godself, this is where again we see God’s kingdom among us and where God opens heaven to us. We eat and drink and remember how Jesus came to earth – eating and drinking and sharing his wisdom, his love and his life with his friends.

The kingdom of God is present among us in this bread and wine, in each individual in this church, in every small seed and sign of God's activity and God’s love.
The kingdom of heaven is like a seed – which grows and produces a harvest in the fields of our hearts and our lives.
If we can be open to God’s love and observant of its harvest, we might see God do wonderful things in our lives, as God’s love grows in us.
May God work that miracle in each of us. Thanks be to God. Amen.

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