We are now into the season of the church calendar called ordinary time or more descriptively Kingdomtime. This is the season for planting and growing seeds of kingdom life. In the Revised Common lectionary the gospel reading for Sunday’s sermon yesterday was mark 4:26 – 34 in which the parable of the growing seed is juxtaposed with the parable of the mustard seed.
He also said, “This is what the kingdom of God is like. A man scatters seed on the ground. 27Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how. 28All by itself the soil produces grain—first the stalk, then the head, then the full kernel in the head. 29As soon as the grain is ripe, he puts the sickle to it, because the harvest has come.”
30Again he said, “What shall we say the kingdom of God is like, or what parable shall we use to describe it? 31It is like a mustard seed, which is the smallest seed you plant in the ground. 32Yet when planted, it grows and becomes the largest of all garden plants, with such big branches that the birds of the air can perch in its shade.” 33With many similar parables Jesus spoke the word to them, as much as they could understand. 34He did not say anything to them without using a parable. But when he was alone with his own disciples, he explained everything.
I had never really considered these two parables together before but as our rector John Leech shared it all came together for me. Mustard is a very common plant around the Mediterranean and would have been very familiar to the people to whom Jesus was preaching. Bountiful Garden’s catalogue describes agricultural mustard as
“an excellent cover crop often used in orchards and vineyards. It suppresses weeds, nematodes, and soil diseases, cycles nutrients, increases tilth. Also a high protein forage. Sow broadcast any time during the growing season.
Wow what a plant! It may look humble and uninteresting, it may be common and uninteresting but it is both extremely important and encourages and supports the life of the garden in many different ways.
As John Leech explained this is so like the kingdom of God. When we broadcast seeds of the kingdom around us, it is like planting mustard seeds. Life begins in secret, hidden deep in the ground where no one can see it. The seed begins to grow in unexpected ways and sometimes in unexpected places but eventually it becomes a plant that provides shelter for others to hide under and be nurtured. Kingdom seeds provide a place for the peaceable kingdom of God to flourish and produce fruit.
All of us are simple disciples carrying mustard seeds of the kingdom within us. Our job is to broadcast them around us and wait for God to grow them. Isn’t it encouraging to know that: “Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how. All by itself the soil produces grain.”
The seeds of God’s kingdom that we plant every day through loving acts, compassionate care and sharing generosity are seeds of great things to come. They are the seeds that can transform the world not because they will give rise to exotic rare plants but because they will give rise to plants that can provide both shelter and nourishment to others. And they transform the world not because there is anything special about us or even about the seeds themselves but because God grows them into kingdom plants.
I don’t know about you but that is extremely encouraging for me. All I need to do is to spread the seeds that God plants within me and wait for God to give them growth. Then we can watch in anticipation for the unexpected growth that comes from them – not just producing fruit but also providing shelter for other creatures of God to find shelter under.