Below is a picture of a mustard seed in my hand – and then a mustard plant (it isn’t actually a tree):
I used these pictures when I was doing an assembly for Manor Court on the parable of the Mustard Seed which is part of our gospel reading today.
The children were amazed at how small the seed was and we then talked about small things that can grow into something much larger. The children came up with examples such as new-born babies that grow into adults, tiny pink new born pandas that grow into giant pandas, sunflower seeds that grow into giant sunflowers and tiny trickles of water that grow into rivers which then flow into the ocean. Really clever examples you will agree. I challenge you to come up with three examples of your own.
Mick and I have just spent a week staying on Dartmoor and we visited a couple of beautiful woods which were just lovely at this time of year. The green of the leaves is fresh and vibrant, such a wonderful expression of new life and hope. We saw some particularly magnificent oak trees that were over 200 years old. Trees that had started off as small seeds themselves and grown, over many, many years into the mature giants they are now. I was thinking about how impatient we so often are today, how we don’t want to wait, and I am struck by the many gardening programmes that are all about creating a new garden instantly.
However, many of us will know that the real joy of being a gardener is watching over years as our gardens grow and mature. It takes time, but watching plants and trees establishing themselves and growing into maturity is a great joy and very rewarding, if we are patient enough.
If we want things to grow into something worthwhile we have to be patient. So it is with our faith. Coming to faith does not give us an instant answer to anything, it is only over the years as we grow in faith that we mature and come to understand more of God and his longing for us to live out our faith and grow his kingdom.
We may consider that we have not done much to grow God’s kingdom, but sometimes it is the smallest thing, a kind word, a phone call, a letter, or sitting and listening that can plant a seed that will grow. We will not often know how that seed is going to grow, and we may not see it ourselves, but we have to trust that God does not waste anything.
We also know that for a garden to grow successfully we must nurture it, feed it, water it and also cut it back in order to encourage new growth.
So it is also with our faith. We need to nurture it, by reading scripture, worshipping and exploring our faith together, and, most importantly, praying. But we also do need at times to do some pruning. We need to question our assumptions and sometimes let go of old ways of thinking or being in order for God to work within us and help us to grow.
Sometimes the smallest change in our thinking or in the way we live can lead to an opening up and growing of our relationship with God and with one another. It doesn’t always take much, and out of small changes great opportunities can arise.
Let us, therefore, be mindful of all the small ways in which we have contributed to the building of God’s kingdom here on earth, and if we add all those small things up, they become something much greater, and we will not always know how God is using them for his loving purposes. This is how the kingdom grows, so Jesus tells us, and this is how our faith grows too.
So, start small, and you never know what may happen…..