Ah, the mustard seed! We have come to the reading about the mustard seed, a unique seed in its simplicity, perfection, and size. As one of the smallest seeds people regularly work with, the mustard seed has become a natural example of how something very small can grow to be extremely big. The mustard plant can get quite large; in fact, in time it will grow to resemble a tree. The mustard seed, though small, also has the ability to multiply over and over, so that the seed by itself can produce an uncountable number of offspring.
Jesus uses this well-known imagery as a basis for a few teachings in the Gospels. Specifically, this week we look at two of these parables: the growing seed and the mustard seed plant. Both of these teachings use this imagery to talk about the power of God. While God may seem small and remote, the reality is the opposite.
Take the first parable this week, the growing seed. This may not seem relevant, since we know the scientific process of how a seed turns into a plant. But even with all our knowledge, most professional and amateur horticulturalists still maintain an awe as they watch the process of a seed growing into a plant and then to seed again. Even with all the knowledge of how this happens, we can still marvel at this process and be thankful to God for the bounty. Moreover, we can recognize that God needs us to sow the seeds, care for the plants, but when the harvest comes, God will provide.
The second parable is like the first. Here the mustard seed is planted and grows and grows. The seed itself is forgotten about as the plant grows and eventually becomes a home for birds to nest and reproduce themselves. This means that the seed is no longer just about propagating itself, but now has a dual role of growing and being a catalyst for growth in another species.
As you can see, there are a lot of implications for the church. All congregations start small, with a vision or seed. Those who join nurture the seed, care for it, and help it along its path. If we are faithful, it grows, and at times, it will produce its own offspring. But the church is also not only about itself, because it has a role to help be a catalyst for the community's growth and health. While the church may not benefit from this role, and at times, it may even cause some damage, because of who we are, our home is expected to be a home for all who need it.
Personally, these parables have a lot to say about our faith as well. Many people struggle with faith. Let’s face it—from the beginning, logical and reasoned arguments have been made which discount faith. Often we are stuck in places where our faith feels small and seemingly remote. But if we find that seed and nurture it, we can watch it grow and develop. We can get to the point where our faith has matured enough that we share it with others, and that becomes the start of faith in their lives.
So this week, think about that mustard seed of faith in your life, or in our congregation. Where is it? Are you nurturing it? Does it need replanting?
Rev. Dr. Bryan James Franzen