This is in outline form, which is how I write most of my sermons. I hope it isn't too distracting.
(Jesus) said therefore, “What is the kingdom of God like? And to what should I compare it? It is like a mustard seed that someone took and sowed in the garden; it grew and became a tree, and the birds of the air made nests in its branches.”
· Jesus gives a short parable comparing the kingdom of God to a mustard seed that becomes a tree, providing a home for the birds of the air
§ Take a moment – I’m going to use reign of God rather than kingdom of God for the word basileia
· First, it removes the patriarchy
· Second, a kingdom is a place. A reign is not only a period of time, but it is a sphere of influence
o Reign goes beyond space/time, but includes attitudes, decorum and values
o One of the shortest of Jesus’ parables
o Which fits in speaking about a small seed
§ Matthew’s telling of this parable includes Jesus saying the mustard seed is one of the smallest seeds
o Which fits, because this is can be read as a parable of hope – from small things great things come
§ It’s the Cinderella story –version of the Rocky saga
§ An underdog that no one gives a chance turns out to be a world beater
§ Hope of the Church – the followers of Christ
· Original hearers of the Gospel, huddled together, afraid of being persecuted – would have heard this as hope, as that this little movement would overcome all obstacles and become this giant tree
o And so to us as well, this parable can speak of hope & perseverance – that we can overcome the obstacles in our lives and achieve great things
· Except it means none of that
o Why would Jesus describe the kingdom of God, the reign of God, as starting small and overcoming?
§ Kingdom of God will come not because it is a plucky underdog, but because God is God & God said so
§ Besides, look at the story
· Mustard isn’t a tree. It can be generously called a bush or shrub, growing to maybe 10 feet, but more like 4 feet. If it didn’t produce a useful spice, it would be called a weed
o Steals water & nutrients & chokes other plants
· Why would someone “sow” a weed in a garden?
· For you with gardens, really want birds around?
· Modern re-telling: The kingdom of God is like crab grass that somebody introduced to your lawn. It took over and the Asian beetles feasted on it.
· The kingdom/reign of God is subversive
o Jesus tells this parable in response to being scolded for healing a woman on the Sabbath
§ Jesus tells the dominant cultures – the Romans & the Temple leaders – the reign of God, the overthrow of your power will come, and you can’t stop it
§ It will subvert your norms and your power
§ It comes whether you want it or not
· You can try to stop it or slow it down, but you’ll fail
§ It comes whether you help or not
§ It will bring undesirables with it
· In the reign of God – the hungry WILL be fed, the poor and the sick WILL be taken care of
§ It demands attention, annoyingly so
· It speaks of values that run contrary to what is understood self-interest
o It calls for refugees & immigrants to be welcomed & taken care of in a time when anyone different looking is demonized
o It calls for taking care of the least, the last, the lost, the little ones and those who are alone, when the concern is over those who produce
o It reminds that the first shall be last, and the last will be first; that the high and mighty will be stuck down, and it says that to those in power
o It is a declaration of an invasion against those who are apathetic or content with what they have
§ Think of the battles against an aggressive weed or invasive species
· Kudzu, Asian Carp, Zebra mussels, Gypsy moth, Emerald Ash borer, Asian beetles
§ It is a new order to the world, one that is the reign of God, not with will of humanity
o It says resist to a world that says conform.
§ The parable of the mustard seed isn’t a message of hope to those feeling
· It is a declaration of revolution
· The reign of God is coming – which side will you be on?