Jesus also said, “With what can we compare the kingdom of God,
or what parable will we use for it?
It is like a mustard seed, which,
when sown upon the ground,
is the smallest of all the seeds on earth;
yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes the greatest of all shrubs,
and puts forth large branches,
so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade.”
I don’t know about you but I love making big plans. I love to dream big, to cast a wide net and imagine that anything is possible. Sometimes this serves me well, it helps me to think outside the box and to set high standards and reach for what seems impossible. But there are also moments in which we get so caught up in the dream that we forget to make small steps in the right direction. Or we become overwhelmed with the magnitude of an enormous goal and give up before even getting started.
Sometimes we do this with our personal lives. We set new goals for changing relationships or personal behaviors. I tell myself every year on my birthday that I’m going to start going to the gym every day. I hate going to the gym. I never do it. This is a silly goal, it’s too big. I should set a goal of walking the dog three times a week, that would be a bit more manageable!
We do this in communities as well. We dream big and make big plans but we must not’t forget the small steps to getting there. Kingdom work is hard word, it’s overwhelming work. When I imagine what Jesus means when he talks about God’s kingdom coming near or coming to fruition here on earth I imagine an end to war and violence. I imagine an end to hunger and homelessness. I imagine a place where each person know their own worth and belonging. I imagine a world in which we’ve learned to love not just one another but the earth itself. That we nurture, care for and create life rather than destroy it. These are big dreams that many of us share. And then we’re faced with the news of violence and death in our own city and across the world. We’re faced with the news of depleting resources across the globe. We’re faced with words, sounds, images and experiences of anger, fear and hatred.
In the face of all of this we can become overwhelmed. I think to myself, “Jesus, you’re mustard seed kingdom needs to grow bigger and faster!” But it doesn’t. Jesus points out to his disciples and to us, God’s work in the world comes in the shape and size of the mustard seed. It comes in the tiniest of glances. A look of love that replaces fear or mistrust. It comes in the tiniest of gestures. A gentle touch; a moment of our time, freely given without expectation or regret. It comes in the tiniest of bit knowledge, shared or used to make the space for peace, justice or understanding between strangers. It comes in the tiniest hint of compassion, the ability to love in the face of hate, to mend torn relationships and broken communities one conversation at a time. It’s slow incremental work. Work that pushes roots down first, deep into the ground. Work that builds networks of life and nutrients undetectable to the human eye. Work that pushes towards the light one day, one year, one lifetime at a time.
The kingdom of God is like a mustard seed. Tiny, stubborn, strong, pushing and pushing us towards God’s big dream for the world.
May you find your place in the kingdom work in this world,
May you take joy in the small pieces that are yours,
May God’s big dream for the world inspire and sustain you,
and may you sit in the shade of God’s big dream,
knowing that you belong even as it continues to grow.