Did you hear again the good news as Jesus’ parable reminded us of the generous graciousness of God’s kingdom?
Like seeds scattered in a field that mysteriously spring forth into new life and grow as a crop, so God’s kingdom grows. In spite of the farmer and so despite our efforts – the reign and rule of God increases.
Like a tiny hidden mustard seed in ground the kingdom will spring forth and grow strong like the mustard bush and so offer in its branches the shade and protection needed by the birds.
According to Jesus this is what the kingdom of God is like.
But what did it mean for the disciples as they heard Jesus words?
We need to jump in our time machine and be transported back into the first century so as to get a better understanding of what Jesus was on about.
Back in Jesus time there were huge limitations of what was available for people. Back then you couldn’t pop into Toowong or Indooroopilly or wherever else you shop and get all you need and more. It was a harsher world with a far more limited supply of things and a much different understanding of the world.
In a world of limited goods the idea that dropping a seemingly dead seed in the ground there was the possibility that God would create new life and abundance was a mystery. Travelling back into that time we hear that the farmer after sowing the seed would sleep and rise day and night – which was Jesus’ way of saying the farmer did nothing to contribute to the growth of the crop.
Yet despite the inactivity of the farmer the seeds sprout and grow and only when the crop needs harvesting is the farmer called upon to work – to bring the crop in.
What lessons about God’s kingdom are there for us as a congregation here?
It would be easy to discount the supposed mystery of the growth of seeds because of our scientific view of the world, to suffer the delusion that we are somehow far more in control.
But we need to step outside the limitations that we might be tempted to place on the parable and listen to its considering the grace and the mystery inherent in the kingdom of God.
The way the seeds of the kingdom grow cannot be attributed to anything but a generous God giving freely to bring the presence of that kingdom into our lives from something that was thought to be dead, just as the seeds were considered dead by the ancient people.
The kingdom of God which grows in our midst is not a place but is the very reign and rule of God – a rule based in justice and peace and in mercy.
As a congregation to understand this means to step beyond the idea that growing the kingdom has anything to do with the success or otherwise of our little congregation.
Whilst our little corner here may seem to be important to us and I believe is a place in which God’s reign is being witnessed to, “on earth as it is in heaven”, ultimately we are not here to build this congregation for its own ends – rather in and through us God’s kingdom is mysteriously present and growing all around us. We do not control it but as workers we are invited to share in the labour of the harvest – living kingdom lives now.
This mystery and hiddenness of the kingdom of God is further toyed with by Jesus as he presents to us the image of the tine mustard seed which sprouts in a great bush, offering protection and shade for the birds.
From a hidden and secret place buried in the earth new life springs forth which ultimately offers the birds, dare I say the nations of the earth, a place of security and mercy and peace!
This is the good news. Around us, in us, and even through us the reign and rule of God are becoming our reality because God is generously offering us this gift not simply for ourselves but for the whole world for whom Christ died.
As a congregation this is what witness to, this our call, God’s good news is that even when we cannot see it hidden deep in the earth the kingdom is sprouting forth with new life, just as Jesus sprang forth in new life from the tomb. This is not our doing, nor is it for our just deserts; it is a sign of God’s grace, of God’s loving steadfast nature and of the promise that in the fullness of God’s reign of justice and mercy, when the branches are strong, all peoples will find safety and security in the presence of that kingdom.
For us who have been given a glimpse of this vision and foretaste of the kingdom of God which has come near to us we are called to remember that the good news is to be good news for all the world. The end goal is not to keep our little congregation going but to celebrate, and to freely and generously share our experience of the goodness of that kingdom which grows in our midst and to the furtherest ends of the earth.