Press the play button to listen to the recording or click on the Download link to download a .mp3 file to your computer.

Like many people, due to the bad weather earlier in the year, I’ve been a bit late planting seeds this year. But I thought that I had nothing to lose and everything might just be a little late in growing. Anyway, I planted them in the garden, watered them and hoped. Much to my surprise most of them are now germinating, in fact some are 3 inches high. It always amazes me that you can stick a tiny seed in some soil, water it, hope for some sunshine and it grows. It’s like magic! We can’t actually see the germination – but, one minute nothing is there and the next there is a green shoot – and we know that in time there will be a crop.

My experience is nothing new it’s been going on for thousands and thousands of years. It’s something that almost everyone has seen in some way so it’s a wonderful example for Jesus to use in his parables that we heard this morning.

Jesus was forever telling stories during his ministry. As he travelled around telling his stories people flocked to hear him. He was obviously a great storyteller and could keep people engaged, it seems, for hours on end. But was he just entertaining them? No - he was teaching them about how to live, what God wanted of them, what God was doing for them. The stories that Jesus told were everyday events that the hearers would have been very familiar with. But, the Gospels don’t call the tales that Jesus told just stories; instead they use the special word: ‘Parables’ - ‘earthly stories with a heavenly meaning.’

In a dictionary you’ll find that the word is linked to the word parabola, which in turn is linked to the word parallel. It’s something to do with tossing something beyond or throwing it beside another object. Jesus’ parables are tales that carry our thinking beyond the literal meaning of the words to a parallel but deeper and symbolic level. This might sound a little complicated but it’s far from it.

Let us look at the parable of the mustard seed told by Jesus in today’s Gospel reading and think through what it might mean to us here in 2018. Jesus was talking to a group of disciples who were impatient with the slow results of their work. Even though they were new at what they were doing, still they wanted action, and they wanted it immediately! Jesus' parable is a reminder that God's kingdom was not in their hands. It was in God's control. The seed germinates and grows silently in the dark, damp soil. Although they might not be able to see anything, something is happening, and that tiny mustard seed will eventually grow up to become a huge plant. And so, the growth of God's rule on earth follows that pattern. Jesus' disciples eventually came to some realizations which could help us.

First, all genuine progress is slow. This is true for civilization as a whole and for our individual lives in particular. You are the person you have been becoming all your life. You did not arrive at this time and this place instantly. Neither your virtues nor your vices were formed overnight.

In Jesus' time, some of his disciples were impatient. One group in his day was called the Zealots. They were impatient with God so they tried to force his hand and make him usher in the Kingdom according to their schedule. Some scholars think that Judas Iscariot may have been a Zealot and he died disappointed that his idea of the kingdom of God never came into being.

When we find ourselves disappointed, we have to remember that some things cannot be changed. For example, time cannot be pushed. A slow but certain rhythm is built into the universe, and we cannot change it. What we have to do is to learn to live within the constraints of change and progress. This is not a call for complacency or apathy. It is instead a biblically realistic call to realize that some things simply take time. The seed initially grows quietly and unnoticed.

Next, we need to remember that God is in control and works at his own pace. Paul said in Philippians 1:6: "And so I am sure that God, who began this good work in you, will carry it on until it is finished on the Day of Christ Jesus." This is true on both a personal and global level.

The parables about the seeds, especially the mustard seed, proclaim that even mighty forces come from small beginnings. God's kingdom, his Lordship, is spreading and cannot be stopped. Even when things look dark, when there’s little sign of new life, when it can seem that the forces of evil and chaos are winning, we must remember that the seed of the Kingdom is growing.

In London during the Second World War a church was decorated to celebrate harvest. Unfortunately, the blitz began, and the building was destroyed before the celebration could begin. Some of the sheaves of corn used to decorate the church were scattered by the bombs. During the next spring, a small patch of corn began to grow through the rubble of the church. Just imagine the hope that this gave - Life will not be stifled.

We hear the gospel in these parables. God is alive and active. His kingdom is growing like a seed germinating in the soil. From tiny origins come great results. We may aid the sowing and the reaping, like I did with my seeds ensuring that they had good soil and water, but the sunlight and the seed is up to God.

So the message from this mornings parable is - Don't give up, encourage the seeds which God has planted and God knows what the results may be!

Questions:

  1. What seeds of the Kingdom do you think that God might have planted in your community?
  2. What part could you play in tending and encouraging those seeds?
  3. How could you encourage others to see the first green shoots of germination within your church or community?