Agnus Day

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Thursday, March 9

Mustard Seed Revolution

This is my sermon from our mid-week Lenten Soupper Service on March 8. Since we use the Narrative Lectionary, all of the Sunday lessons include a Lukan parable. So, I decided that we would use many of the rest of Luke's parables during Lent. 

This is in outline form, which is how I write most of my sermons. I hope it isn't too distracting.




Luke 13:18-19
      (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?

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