Saturday – July 26, 2014; Matthew 13:31–32
31He put before them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that someone took and sowed in his field; 32it is the smallest of all the seeds, but when it has grown it is the greatest of shrubs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches.”
I have been thinking a lot about the parable of the Mustard Seed this week – seeing as I am preaching on this Gospel on Sunday, when I am filling-in for my pastor.
After reading and re-reading the parable and thinking about what I would say for the sermon, I have come to believe that Jesus was talking more about the Mustard Tree than the seed, when he compared it to the Kingdom of Heaven.
Jesus tells us that the Mustard Tree grows to be large enough to give a place for all the birds of the air to make their nests…and this I would assume would be all types of birds no matter what color their feathers, what songs they sung, or how they raised their young! This, I think, is a better description of the Kingdom of Heaven: a place big enough for all of God’s children to find a home and to flourish, no matter who they are or where they are from…no matter what our politics are or how we live our lives…or how we raise our kids (single or partnered) we are all bound together as part of God’s family tree!
In our local library, there is a carving of a family tree, made back in 1878 for a family reunion celebration. This tree was carefully carved and stained, with each branch representing a family member: lighter branches for women, and darker for the men; with branches ending in a point indicating those who had died and the open-ended branches for those people who were still alive at the time the carving was finished. Looking at this family tree, I was impressed at the detail and wondered at the lives lived by each ‘branch’ and even more, how each branch is vital to the tree!!!
This can be compared to the branches of the Mustard Tree and the birds that live there – as while they and nesting they are also eating the fruit of the tree and then scattering that seed wherever they go! This too is like God’s family tree, where we (as children of God) are the branches, called to spread the good news of God’s love wherever we go, by living our faith out loud on a daily basis; for when we do this, we are making the Kingdom of Heaven a reality right here in our world today!!!
And today our world needs the light of God’s love: from Israel and Gaza, to Syria, and Ukraine, to those suffering from Ebola in Africa to those mourning senseless death around the world…to closer to home where people struggle with broken families and broken relationships…and with addiction, violence, and feelings of despair and emptiness…and just plain feelings of frustration with life! The light of God’s love is needed everywhere!
In order for this light to shine, we all need to look beyond our differences and remember that in Christ, we are all a part of this kingdom and all called to work together to nourish and support God’s family tree…to help it grow brighter and stronger!
Of course as busy single parents (or even for those who are not so single) we do not really have time to evangelize to our neighbors, much less the world, and even if we did we may feel a bit awkward about preaching on the street corners and in the middle of the Wal-Mart parking lot (though it would embarrass our kids to no end)! The good news is that we can share the Kingdom of God very simply, right where we are, starting with our own branch of the tree!
We can sow the seeds of faith within our own family, sharing what we believe with our children and not being reluctant to tell them what our faith means to us, and all it has done for us in good times and in bad. We can show the love and compassion that Christ has shared with us to our children and our own family members as well as their friends, our friends, and strangers! By doing so we can be an example to our children!
It seems so simple – at least it is simple for me to say this…but it is not always easy to follow in Christ’s foot-steps, as there are times when we can forget to (or don’t want to) show compassion to others…even our children! For me this often comes out when I am driving and I get annoyed at another driver and make sure my horn works (and sometimes practice my hand gestures as well); there are other times when I get upset with the person who is making me wait in line at the check-out while they argue over $.10 or try to figure out how to use the card reader…and I forget that they too are children of God!
And of course I will sometimes get frustrated with my daughter, her mother, or another family member, and will almost revel in my anger…but at times like this, when I feel that my anger is justified that I have learned to stop and reach out for help. I will pray for calm, and sometimes ask another person for help to get beyond my frustration and remember how much I love these people who can really get under my skin…and then think of how much they love me to put up with my own annoying traits!
All in all, while we are called to follow Christ, we are forgiven for not following him perfectly…because that too is part of being a family: being forgiven for not being perfect and for just being human…forgiven because we are loved, just as we forgive our loved ones, and they forgive us…as we are all part of God’s family tree, and where this tree grows, the Kingdom of Heaven draws near.
Let us Pray
God, thank you for making us part of your family tree as you have made us your children through the sacrifice of Christ. Please help us help our family tree to grow by sharing the seeds of faith wherever we go, and in whatever we do…especially with our children. Thank you for forgiving us when we fall short of the gifts you have given us as we seek to live our lives the best we can…and work together to make the Kingdom of Heaven a reality here in our world.