The Mustard Seed

2nd Sunday after Trinity

Mark 4,26-34

In England the NCC Mass booklet has Christ’s words that his kingdom is like a mustard seed, the least of the shrubs that becomes a tree and a home for many varieties of birds. We do not understand this image in the sense of Ernst Schumacher writing in 1973 that “Small is beautiful” of itself. He was writing about the abuse of resources in the world of politics and economics. But we remember Jesus is speaking about the crucial concept of “the Kingdom of God”.

Reading the parables we put ourselves in the situation of the first disciples, listening to the Lord explaining how his mission inevitably starts in a small and vulnerable way before it can grow. Jesus regularly used parables in his teaching; sometimes they are obscure riddles or proverbs but other times his analogies are clear and challenging taken from the natural world and daily life. The parable of the mustard seed is one of these, teaching the disciples that their mission inevitably starts in a small way and is vulnerable but growth is driven by God. Jesus uses parables as his teaching method introducing them with the formula, “the kingdom of heaven is like”; so that there is a deliberate emphasis that the first duty is to focus on the Godly way of thinking and living rather than the political.

Phillip Medhurst, FAL, via Wikimedia Commons

We must remember that the parables were collected by the evangelists to help the post Pentecost Church facing a new situation. Growth had already taken place in the years after Pentecost and in some cases was spreading like wildfire, but with new obstacles in the way. The tiny seed of Christian life started to grow and become the safe resting place for a great diversity of people of many languages and cultures.

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