This morning the reading from the Gospel of Mark tells us the story of two parables. The parable of the growing seed and the parable of the mustard seed. These two parables build on the previous parable of the sower.
Now when we are given a choice of readings to inform the words of wisdom I try and avoid one where it has one parable far less two, because as I have admitted previously I often struggle with understanding the message. However as I read the passage I felt comfortable in the familiarity of the story which I have heard preached on many occasions.
Also, it never fails to amaze me that when reading passages from the bible the message can come alive through memories and associations with life experiences. It is these experiences which influence how we grow into the person we are today.
The first parable associated with planting and growing awakened such happy memories of my late father. He had a very physical job as a monumental mason working with Aberdeen granite. He could so easily have chosen a less physical hobby but he loved gardening, especially growing flowers and his favourite flowers were cornflowers. You would have thought he would have had a preference to lilies and roses as that was my mother’s name, my name and my grandmother’s maiden name was Rose. In those days everything was planted from seed not the plants we now buy from the garden centres. I remember vividly the excitement when we saw the small green shoots breaking through the soil and growing into flowers.
When not in the garden my Father would take me to the botanical gardens in Old Aberdeen to further my knowledge about plants and it was these simple childhood experiences that has given me the love of gardening. The joy of seeing established plants flowering every year are like old friends visiting to say hello and seedlings breaking through the soil saying here I am embracing new life.
We may not be able to force the seeds to grow but have to accept the words in the passage from Mark’s Gospel, which says,
“Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows though he does not know how.”
This translates into the message that the sower does not cause the growth but that the growth happens by the word of God. Just as the seed begins to grow the word of God starts to grow and deepen within each and every one of us.
Without a seed nothing grows and to grow spiritually the Word of God must be planted in us and it needs to be planted in good soil so that we can become sowers of the good news.
We must trust in the Lord that our sowing of seeds will result in a fruitful harvest but at the same time accept that the miracle of growth may not be in our time but in God’s time.
We may never know how our seeds, which we scatter throughout our Christian journey, grows and flowers in the lives of the people we meet and in the outcomes of the actions we take. This uncertainty should never prevent us from trying to plant the seed of hope and love of Jesus Christ, nor the fear of failure.
The important message for Christians, is that we must always be ready and willing to be part of God’s harvest and not use excuses for not being open to the many opportunities in our everyday lives.
It can be the simplest of acts and in the simplest of situations where we can share the power of God’s word with those we meet whether strangers or friends. Always recognising the needs of others and endeavouring to give them the support they need.
Ann, in her reflections last week, mirrored the actions we can take and the reassurance that we can make a difference. We can scatter seeds of kindness, love, listening and just being there for someone in need of a friendly face.
The second parable about the mustard seed reminded me of the production of the musical, A Grain of Mustard Seed written by Roger Jones. Some of you may remember many years ago that members of the congregation and the junior church presented this musical to the congregation. The story brought alive the message of this passage as it tells the story of Robert Raikes, who promoted the idea of Sunday Schools to provide education for working children. The numbers grew to over a million children by 1831.
It shows what ordinary men and women can do when they open themselves to the power and claims of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
The two parables demonstrate the important first stage of sowing seeds but not to be focused on the size of the seeds, but how they grow and what they grow into.
The parable of the mustard seed is to show us that here we have such a tiny seed and that it can grow into a tree or a bush. We tend to associate it with the small herb with flowers turning into seed pods.
The Kingdom of God started small with Jesus and the disciples but the message grew and spread across the world to unlimited numbers of followers believing in the word of God. The growth of the Kingdom of God grew from small beginnings to worldwide size.
I have to admit that now when I see a jar of mustard I will take confidence in the message of the parable that whatever small things I do for others, they have the potential for that person to make changes in their spiritual life and to know the Lord.
In the lockdown we have experienced wonderful examples of a small idea growing beyond anyone’s expectations, not just locally but around the world.
The greatest example for me was the example of the late Captain Sir Tom Moore who set out to walk round his garden as a thank you to the NHS heroes. One hundred laps later and he had raised an incredible £38.9 million pounds for the NHS Covid -19 appeal. This is truly a modern day living example of the parable of the mustard seed. A small act which became worldwide news and raised an overwhelming amount of money to be spent on so many good causes.
I would like to share with you my story about my rhododendron bush.
When we first moved into our house forty eight years ago we planted the bush near the gate so that visitors would be greeted by what we thought would be this lovely bush laden with bright pink flowers. Sadly over the years it looked sadder and sadder but we kept hoping that it would improve. We tried everything with no success. It was apparent we would have to make a decision and take the risk of moving it. We did move it to the back garden and it is now this beautiful thriving bush which is laden with flowers every year.
The morale of the story is that we didn’t know why the bush wasn’t growing and initially we were not brave enough to take the risk of moving it, even if we admitted that probably the soil and conditions were not compatible for a healthy bush. Moving the bush was not a particularly difficult task and yet the outcome was so rewarding. Sometimes we are like this in life and not prepared to take on the challenge to change our direction in our Christian journey. There are times in our lives when the conditions in our lives are not receptive to receive the word of God and yet when the seed falls on good ground we are amazed at the wonderful fruitful life that the Lord has bestowed on us.
We should never be despondent that we perceive our actions as insignificant and not important. Instead we should and can be assured that in the Kingdom of God our small actions can grow and be worthwhile and have positive effects on our neighbours at home and throughout the world. We should never doubt the power of God working in our lives.
I would like to end with a few lines from a song,
Faith as small as a mustard seed
Will move mountains by the power of God
Believe what Jesus said was true
Believe He meant it just for you
Wait and see what God will do.