I speak to you in the Name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
First of all, I want to tell you something that confronts every preacher. And that of course is the scripture! Every Sunday we have three readings and the Psalm, and the preacher has to decide what to preach on. Sometimes when I first look at appointed Scriptures, it goes like this: Old Testament – and I think “Oh, I can’t preach on that”; and then the Epistle, and again I think “Preaching on this is very difficult”. It is then that I turn to prayer for the first time, “Please Lord, let me like the Gospel reading so I can preach on it!”. Sometimes the Lord is gracious, sometimes not, but I preach nonetheless.
Well, today the opposite has happened! I read about God planting a tree in Ezekiel and I thought “This is good”. I read Paul’s letter to the Corinthians about “walking by faith” and I thought “This is good too”. And, well, you will have guessed it already, I also loved the Gospel about the mustard seed. So once again I have to turn to prayer, “Lord, what is your message for your people today?” Well, let’s go and find out.
The theme that runs though out is that of growth, amazing growth of faith that is beyond expectation, and the thought that we cannot rely on human outward appearances, but rather rely on God’s plan. Not our plan, but God’s plan. To digress a bit, I want to remind you of how King David was picked by God to become a leader in Israel. It is such a good example to not relying on human outward appearances.
We read in the book of Samuel; But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for the Lord does not see as mortals see; they look on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.” Here we see God in action as he picks David to be a leader of his people. Put simply, God does not see things the way we do. God acts with the heart in love, always.
Samuel has asked Jesse to present his sons, one of whom God has chosen. Jesse of course presents his oldest son first, because that is the customary way, the oldest son inherits. But no, God does not choose him. Jesse presents 6 other sons, so to speak, in descending order, and none of them are chosen. At this point, in desperation, Samuel asks Jesse an important question. He says; “Are all your sons here?”And Jesse has to send for his youngest son David who is in the field tending sheep. And Samuel hears from God; “Rise and anoint him; for this is the one.” David, the chosen one, was not the oldest, but the youngest, not the tallest, but the shortest, not the most experienced, but the least experienced. In Jesse’s eyes he was the least significant, even forgotten in the field with the sheep. But God does not look at outward appearances, God “looks on the heart.” David is chosen, and we learn something of how God works.
In our Epistle reading from 2 Corinthians we learn something of how Christ works. The Apostle Paul tells us that as Christians “we walk by faith, not by sight”.
Paul makes reference to what we heard in Samuel, that in Christ we do not put any weight on outward appearances, but act with our hearts. And he concludes; From now on, therefore, we regard no one from a human point of view; even though we once knew Christ from a human point of view, we know him no longer in that way. So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!” Wow! For me, this first informs us of how Christ works. He himself is a new creation. His work is this, to love God and to love God’s people. And his message is to repent, for the kingdom of God is near. Just as God acted in his heart, so does his Son. He acts in love.
And secondly, if this is how Christ works, are we, as Christians, not called to be like him? This passage tells us that we must not to react in life to outward appearances, but, to act as Jesus would, with our hearts, in love. How can we do this? Well think of your relationship with Jesus. How did he first touch you with his heart? How did he change your life? Did he not give you a new way to see the world and God’s people in it? For as Paul has already said; if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new! Many years ago God’s Holy Spirit blessed me with an understanding of what God’s mercy was really about. I came to realize that God’s mercy is infinite. And from that spiritual experience I came to know that I too must act with mercy. I had to stop worrying about what the world was thinking about me, that is worrying about my appearance, and start acting with mercy. It was a new vision, and I was a new creation. So are we all in Christ.
And so, at last we come to our Gospel lesson, the parable of the mustard seed. And as with all the parables, this one has several meanings. Literally we hear of one of the smallest seeds that becomes a tree offering a place for nesting and shade for birds. In other words, don’t let the appearance of such a small seed trick you, for the result is larger than you ever imagined.
Then we can see the seed as a symbol of our faith. No matter how small our faith, God will honour and grow it. In the Gospel of Matthew we read; “if you have faith the size of a* mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, “Move from here to there”, and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you”. You see, God is not there to measure the quantity of faith we have and judge us, but rather God is there to grow our faith. In the parable Jesus asks; “With what can we compare the kingdom of God…”. He wants everyone to know how vast the kingdom of God is. He mentions the mustard seed and its exponential growth. I would mention the growth of Christianity, the growth of the Kingdom of God. Jesus had 12 disciples with him, and now there are 2.4 billion Christians around the world today, or 31% of the world’s population. God has grown our faith. So let us keep on praying; “thy kingdom come, thy will be done”.
Finally I feel this parable is a call to action for us. How will you, with little or great faith, grow God’s kingdom in today’s world. What seeds will you plant? What action best suits you? Is it worship that strengthens you to proclaim God’s message? Is it God’s holy word that inspires you and that you want to share? Is it prayer that will allow you to advance God’s kingdom? Is it justice that calls you into action? Is compassion the way you will help others? As the scripture has taught us today, you are a new creation in the Lord, you have God’s vision and love within you. Go for it!
I end with a prayer from St. Augustine of Hippo. Let us pray.
God, our true life, to know you is life, to serve you is freedom, to praise you is the joy and happiness of the soul. I praise and bless and adore and thank and glorify you. I beg you to live with me, to reign in me, to make this heart of mine a holy temple, a fit habitation for your divine majesty.