I loved the picture of Ava’s pizza dough that she sent in to illustrate John’s sermon on Jesus’ parables in
Matthew 13 last Sunday. And I hear the pizza was pretty good too!
But I must confess that I – along with most of you – voted the mustard seed parable my favorite! (For those who missed it – the results were: mustard seed (21 votes), yeast (6 votes), hidden treasure (5 votes), pearl merchant (5 votes), fishing net (2 votes). That fishing net was really on the nose! Couldn’t resist!)
I love that idea that something very, very, very small becomes something very, very very big! (Spoiler! The writer of Matthew uses storyteller’s license to say the mustard is the smallest of the seeds. It’s not actually. The smallest seeds in the world apparently come from tropical orchids and weigh just 10 billionths of an ounce!) What Jesus is saying, however, is that the kingdom of God, growing through our lives and by our prayers, may not seem very large or very impactful, but that smallness can be deceiving. One day, what looked small will be seen to have had a significant place in our world; to have created a shelter for the birds of the air, a haven in which they can rest.
This little parable also packs a big political punch. (If you’ll excuse me getting political!) Because this image of a tree – towering on high, touching the sky, overshadowing all over living things, appears several times in the Old Testament. And mostly, describing Babylon in Daniel 4, or Egypt and Assyria in Ezekiel 31, it is negative. It indicates how magnificence – munificence even – can be used to dominate, to smother and to oppress.
But here in Matthew, Jesus does not speak of a mighty tree, but of a bush; a bush that many considered a weed. (Mustard seed grew apparently without anyone being silly enough to plant it! I think Jesus’ audience would have been laughing as he told this story!) And once it flowered and shed its seed, it was almost impossible to get rid of. (I have a few things like that in my garden.) It is this bush, however lowly and maligned, that becomes, according to Jesus, what those great trees failed to become; a place of shelter for the birds of the air; a place of welcome, of care, of communion for all the peoples of the world.
This Sunday we are looking at Matthew 14 and the feeding of the five thousand, a story in which Jesus takes the principles he has spoken about in this parable, and illustrates them for his disciples. A little becomes a lot, but like the mustard seed story, there are lessons to be learned along the way.
We will also sharing our own communion meal – not of bread and fish – but of bread and juice or wine. So please remember to have the elements ready on Sunday morning if you are gathering with us on Zoom. (Those with surnames from A to H who are gathering at the church this Sunday will also be sharing communion while adhering to our Covid Safe Plan.)
As the chant from the Iona Community goes, “Through our lives and by our prayers, your kingdom come.”
Amen and amen to that.