June 13, 2021
It has been a long fifteen months. Very little has looked the way we would have hoped for and if we are honest with ourselves, we are not going to return to normal as we knew it. Practices and routines are going to look different in the future. Priorities have changed and now we must truly be willing to let go and let God guide us into the future.
I am not so good at the letting go part of it. There has been a huge learning curve over the past fifteen months, and I have been reluctant to let go of those things I knew I could control. Even when someone asked me, “What can I do to help?” I did not know what to say because at the moment at did not know what I needed. I have been forced to use technology and media in different ways than were in my game plan this past year. While this has taken up a lot of my time, I also know it is a valuable tool for the future of our congregation and the church as a whole. In the past fifteen months, we have learned new and exciting ways to be the church as we continue to celebrate God’s word together.
Before the pandemic struck last Lent, we were in the midst of a journey with LEAD to listen to our community and its needs. There are still plenty of needs in the community, yet they have shifted and we must find new ways to meet those needs. In just fifteen months, we are in a new time and place. Yet, we must not forget God has been with us in every step along the way in these past months. Seeds have been planted and there is new growth for us to look for. Among those seeds are many visions. When each of us have our own vision and fail to let others in to help and discern then we have chaos. I have been guilty of this. A vision is only as good as the community that gathers around it to work for a common cause.
Jesus teaches the disciples and the others gathered in parables. Parables can be frustrating. Parables can seem ridiculous. Parables can lead to us throwing our arms up in the air and walking away because we have no idea what Jesus is trying to say. In the passage from Mark, Jesus lays out his vision for the Kingdom of God. Jesus uses different parables to communicate the point he is trying to make. Today’s parables are agricultural and would have been quite familiar to those he was teaching. For somebody growing up in a big city today, it most likely would be lost on them.
First Jesus starts with the parable about someone who scattered seed on the ground. This is the kingdom of God, Jesus says. The kingdom of God is like these seeds which sprout, grow a stalk, then a head and the full grain. These seeds could have easily been trees, something we may not harvest to eat, yet can provide other resources. Think of the glorious oak tree which comes from the little acorn. God works wonders in those little seeds. Bearing much fruit and bringing strength and growth to something which at one time was small. God works in our lives much the same way. There is a mystery in our faith. We are invited to place trust in the Lord to lead us on the right path. To grow strong and be strengthened in the mystery of God. God invites us into the mystery.
In the second parable, Jesus must really get their heads turning. Of those gathered that farmed the land, they have got to be thinking Jesus does not understand agriculture. The mustard plant could be invasive. The mustard plant was not wanted in the fields because it could spread rapidly and overtake other crops. The mustard seeds could be seen as those in society others have shunned. Each era of time has created their own outcasts. In Jesus’ time it would have been the gentiles, lepers, tax collectors, and many others.
We have made outcasts of those who we do not think fit into societal norms. We separate people based on race, financial well-being, anyone within the LGBTQ spectrum. And you know what Jesus is trying to say? The kingdom of God welcomes them all! There is no difference in the eyes of God. Everyone is created in the image of God to be loved as they are as God created them. This little mustard seed which can grown into a large shrub and invade fields can also be a shelter for other parts of God’s kingdom. These outcasts are made great! God does not cast out anyone. Humans are the ones who cast out, thinking they know better than God.
Too often we worry about what our neighbor is doing and do not stop to think about how our own actions may affect others. This is when we get stuck in our own vision instead of the greater vision of God which is far greater than we can ever imagine. Jesus teaches through parables to get people to think. We can be sure the people Jesus taught this parable to will not be able to get the image of the mustard seed out of their heads. It was a radical image.
Jesus invites us to let go of our control and accept his radicalness. It can be difficult to accept his radicalness because we think we need to do everything on our own. Jesus is present and is expecting us to ask for help and shows up in those around us when we least expect it. Are you looking for those that are growing and are you being open to growth yourself? Are you open to welcoming in those mustard seeds that have been cast out by others? Are you open to planting some mustard seeds to see what may take root and provide shelter and gain strength? In all of this, Jesus invited us to let go.
Letting go is a difficult task. When you have the vision laid out in front of you there can be reluctance in handing a project off to someone else. Jesus reveals to us in his parables that we do not have to do it on our own. The scattered seeds grow on their own with little effort on our part. Out of the earth, God’s very creation, the plant grows from seed to stalk, then head and full grain. The mystery of God flourishes in the seed and grows to provide an abundant harvest. As the mustard seed becomes a great shrub, Jesus turns an invasive plant into a refuge for the birds of the air. Jesus gives hope to the outcasts and instills a sense of trust for all. May you place your trust in God as you begin to let go of the struggles and challenges weighing you down. May you let go and let God.