by Rev. Frank Schaefer
He put before them another parable: "The kingdom of heaven is
like a mustard seed that someone took and sowed in his field;
it 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." Matthew 13:31-33
Those of you who don't know what a mustard seed looks like, it is one
of the tiniest seeds you'll ever see. In fact, you can hardly see it
with your naked eye. And yet, it grows into a big tree; actually, it's
technically a shrub, but it looks like a tree, it's as large as a
tree. And many birds will be able to make their nest in it's canopy.
Many preachers through the ages have focused on this amazing contrast,
of tiny beginnings that can lead to big results. And in that sense,
the mustard seed is a perfect simile to the kingdom of God. Sometimes
we see very small beginnings that yield amazing results.
As Madeleine Boucher says, "Most likely the meaning of the similitude
lies in the contrast between the smallness of the mustard seed and the
greatness of the full-grown shrub, so large that the birds can find
shelter in it. . . . This similitude, then, is clearly about the
contrast between the small beginnings and the final greatness of God's
Now, we see very small beginnings in our own faith community. And God
wants us to have faith that this humble new church start will grow
into something big; something that will change and improve the life of
people around us, a ministry that will provide shelter and a spiritual
home for people in this community.
I want to read another Scripture passage to you where Jesus talks
about a mustard seed: "Truly, I tell you, ff you have faith as small
as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, move from here to
there and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you" (Mt
17:20). Now, that's a big statement, isn't it?
If you have just a little faith, you can move mountains. That tiny
little faith can move mountains, it can actually move mountains. Well,
I don't know about actual mountains, by I definitely believe that our
faith can move metaphorical mountains. Your faith can move mountains
in your life, in your community. How encouraging is that?
There is a saying in the world "seeing is believing" and a lot of
people live by that mantra. People are saying: unless you can show me,
I'm not going to believe it.
The truth is that today you often have to believe first before you can
see. That's true even of the Scientific community. You have to first
believe theories before you can understand what's going on in quantum
physics and other physics processes.
When it comes to spiritual matters, believing is definitely seeing.
And I think that's one aspect of what Jesus is talking about with his
metaphor of the mustard seed. As we believe, we start to see and hear
and understand the larger picture that God is providing for us.
As most of you know, I am originally from Germany,. I came over with
my wife about 25 years ago. And we travel back every other year and we
always bring goodies back from Germany when we visit.
So, a few years back, I decided to bring German coffee to our weekly
bible study at church. I grabbed this beautifully decorated tin from
Eduscho Kaffee and told everybody about the good tasting German
coffee. I passed around the tin and shared some facts about German
coffee roasting. We tasted the coffee and all agreed "this German
coffee was as good as advertised."
Only that it wasn't really German coffee; my wife filled me in after I
came home. Unbeknownst to me, the German coffee was already all gone
and my wife had filled the Eduscho tin with Folgers.
But because I believed that this was German coffee, I could taste it,
and the people could taste it. Every single one of them could taste
the German coffee; nobody thought it was Folgers. They all thought it
was genuine German coffee and it tasted really special.
Sometimes believing is tasting, sometimes believing is seeing.
And I think that's what Jesus wants us to understand. He is calling us
to be visionaries, He wants us to believe. Even if our faith is tiny,
he wants us to invest this tiny faith we have and start seeing things
through God's eyes.
Proverbs 29:18 says: "Where there is no vision from God, the people
run wild, but those who adhere to God's instruction know genuine
Having faith includes having a vision; having true faith is being able
to see something, to be so convinced of something that you can see it,
smell it, taste it even if it is not yet reality. Such faith, such
vision creates energy, it creates enthusiasm that can propel you to
your goal. Such faith can make you endure enormous hardships, it can
help you through rough spots and accomplish amazing things.
Are we ready to invest our seed of faith? Are we ready to find out
what it is that God would have us do in this community, in this
church? Let's be encouraged to live by the mantra: believing is
seeing, let's take it to the extreme and together we will see how our
invested faith will grow into something huge. Amen.