Spoken to the bones
Last Sunday, my sister-in-law and I crept into the back of the sanctuary — late, but just in time to hear the message. And it felt like it was spoken straight to the bones of me.
God’s kingdom is like a mustard seed, Jesus says.
And I kept thinking about it all day.
It is tiny and enormous at the same time. It is easily dismissed and yet it contains the mystery of potential. It is unruly, untamable, the way seeds can be. It is easily lost if not kept safe and attended to, if not watered properly, if not planted in the right place.
Haphazard planting and faithful resting
And yet, we hear that the farmer plants the seed almost haphazardly. He scatters it, then goes to sleep. He just waits to see what might happen.
And life happens. While he is sleeping, life happens.
When I wrote about Pentecost a few weeks ago, I wrote about the complexity of soil, how humans cannot even manufacture soil as deep and rich as the soil our earth makes naturally.
Perhaps the farmer in this parable knew that truth already. He knew that he could not make the seeds grow; only God could do that. And so, resting in the mystery of God’s fullness, he rested instead of toiling.
It makes sense, really. Mustard plants grow wild across many continents of the world. They do not need much cultivation. Like so many plants, we need them more than they need us.
And through his scattered, haphazard planting and his faithful resting, the farmer creates something beautiful, something divine.
And just as the tiny seeds grew without the labor of humans — but perhaps only their cooperation and faith — the shrubs those seeds grow into will provide hospitality without human labor as well.
Their shade will shelter, their branches will welcome, their sturdy places will hold nests and food. They will become a gathering place for the tiny forms of life, a source of nourishment.
When I think about the mustard-seed-ness of the kingdom, I think about how I want to be a participant in that kind of creation. I want to scatter the seeds of potential into the soil of my relationships, my neighborhood, my life. Then I want to rest faithfully while God grows them.
And later, when those tiny seeds of potential have become leaves and branches and flowers, I want to be there to welcome the newcomers who arrive, needing the provision of whatever has grown up among us. Who knows what they will look like, or from where they will come? But the sweet-smelling, earthy, haphazard shrub-home of our kingdom will be waiting for them.