Faith like a mustard seed
What are you excited about today? Are you excited about the opportunities that exist all around you? Are you excited about the variety of possibilities that the future holds for you? What gives your life energy and enthusiasm?
The unfortunate fact is that a great many people are not excited about much of anything. In fact, many people are living lives that are crippled by fear and despair. To be fair there is much that can seriously undermine your enthusiasm and dampen the joy of living.We have daily updates of how the Covid-19 virus is affecting the world, our economy and life in general. Our televisions and newspapers are full of it.
But even before Covid-19 how many were already feeling worried and in despair? Things happen in life, sometimes quite out of the blue, and turn everything upside down. This could be news of illness, redundancy or even a sudden end to the lease on the house you are living in. Then you go to church looking for people who have some excitement about life and God and the future only to find more of the same despair, worry and worn out, even lost.
If I believe that people are “no good”, I can find ample evidence for that. If I believe that nobody should be trusted, I can find lots of data to justify that position. I was concerned by the words of a friend this week when she said she feels she can’t trust anyone and isn’t sure she wants to go back to church. To be fair we have both been through a shocking revelation this week but I was saddened that someone who has basically lived her whole life in love and service of God in mission could be so low. I pray that she recovers from this and can see again the God of loving kindness and strength.
But if we allow all the bad and negative things in the world today to affect the way we live we create a prison for ourselves which will limit our enthusiasm, energy and joy of living out our God given potential.
Jesus lived His life with an outlook that was so different from many of the people he met. The strong foundation of his message was an invitation to view self, others and the world in the light of God’s love, power and justice.
One of the great characteristics of Jesus’ ministry was the way he could see passed what was on the surface to what was possible with people. He could see on to what people could become when they accepted to invitation to follow Christ: An ordinary fisherman became the rock on which the church would be built. A dishonest tax collector becomes a trusted friend and disciple. Outsiders are invited to be leaders. The unclean are restored to fellowship. The hopelessly ill are made well again. An angry Pharisee who is a persecutor of the church becomes the apostle to the gentiles.
People who heard and believed the good news of the gospel were freed from the prison of a negative outlook and given instead an outlook of possibility through the transforming power and love of God. Good things are possible not because of our own efforts, but because of the saving power of God.
When Jesus tells His listeners that the Kingdom of God is like a grain of mustard seed which is the smallest seed on earth but which becomes the greatest of all shrubs, He is inviting men and women to look at the world with new eyes.
In this very brief parable Jesus is saying, “This is the way God does things. God is like a sower who scatters seeds. The seeds may be tiny and invisible to the naked eye. Yet when the seed is planted, it grows into a shrub that provides shelter for the creatures of this world. The initial evidence may be minutely small, but the ultimate results are great.”
If we believe that this is how God does things, then what should we do? We should begin to look for the mustard seeds. We should look for the first signs of this kingdom with faith and optimism. We should not be too quick to dismiss the small and insignificant. We should not give up on ourselves, on others, on the church, or even on the world just because you see many signs of sin and brokenness. Rather, we should believe in God’s possibilities even if the evidence is as tiny as a mustard seed.
To believe this is to receive the gift of a new outlook on yourself. Your Faith may be no larger than a grain of mustard seed, but if you take it seriously and use it then you can move mountains. You can do great things for God if you are willing to offer yourself to the one who has planted in you the tiny seeds of love, generosity, mercy, justice and kindness.
When you became a member of the church through baptism, God recognized and blessed you. That sacrament should remind you that you are somebody. You are special. You are a child of God. To believe that you are a child of God will lead you to believe as Paul did when he wrote to the Philippian Christians and said, “I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and want. I can do all things in Him who strengthens me.” When Paul became a disciple of Jesus Christ, he lost his old vision and received the gift of a new outlook.
The parable of the mustard seed reminds us that God’s beginnings may be small, but His results are great. I was given a very real picture of this last week when I was cooking. Like many I have found myself experimenting with cooking during lockdown. Last week I saw Nadiya Hussain make Chicken Shawarma on Saturday kitchen, so I thought I would give it a go!! Part of the recipe is putting mustard seeds into oil – until they start popping- then fold them into Greek yogurt and raw broccoli to make a side dish. Well I got the shock of my life when the seeds started to pop as I didn’t realize they were going to do so with such energy!! They went everywhere and totally understood the two- metre rule! All I could do was stand and laugh at the mess because in this mess I saw what could happen if we had faith the size of a mustard seed. Not only had the faith but also allowed the God of creation nurture that seed into being. I could see the difference we could make, the ground we could cover, the people we could help come into the light and presence of God. It was amazing. Never before have I had to use the vacuum cleaner to clean up the cooker, worktops, in fact the whole kitchen. But it was worth it for such an inspirational picture.
The task of the church is to look for the signs of the kingdom which may be no larger than a mustard seed; to live and love with a new outlook; and to offer that outlook in the name of Christ to men and women caught up in the disappointment about life and imprisoned by negative thought.
Jesus Christ has called us to be His disciple. No matter what our situation or condition, He has something important for us to do. Believe that and it will change how we think and how we live in the world. Believe that and we will receive a new enthusiasm and excitement about life. Believe that and we and the world will be different.
To God be the glory. Amen
Revd Janice Brown