Wednesday, June 10, 2009

God's Mustard Seed Challenge

I haven't finished (or started) my Sunday sermon, yet. But I've been thinking about the whole mustard seed thing that Jesus talks about in the gospel for this weekend.

“With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable will we use for it? It is like a mustard seed, which, when sown upon the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth; yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes the greatest of all shrubs, and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade.”

Lutherans should LOVE this image. Mainly because it has Luther's Theology of the Cross painted all over it. The smallest becoming the biggest...shrub (Not tree. Not bush. Shrub). God's upside down, subversive, kingdom sprouting unseen until it quietly provides sustenance and shelter to those who need it.

I'm thinking of this passage in light of our up-coming National Convention and some of the issues being raised. Yes, homosexuality and same-sex blessings will be debated, again. And it needs to be.

But we also have a motion regarding Israel and Palestine. And I'm sure other motions calling (demanding?) the government to intervene in some social crisis or another.

And while I do believe that government plays a role in solving social problems, I also wonder if our mustard seed theology gets ignored when we Christians ask the government to solve these problems, as if government is where the REAL power is.

And yes, in democratic Canada, the government is US. The people. The government (supposedly) represents those in their ridings. But I don't think we see it that way. The way most media talk about government is as a game of zero-sum power. Where the grand gestures of history begin. Where the chief aim is to land a good portfolio and work to keep it, whether or not you think isotopes are sexy.

But I think Jesus' mustard seed message tells us that REAL power happens AWAY from the spotlight. Mustard seed power happens imperceptibly. When nobody's looking. We don't know it's there until a magpie lands on its branch and eats its lunch. Mustard seed power doesn't attract attention to itself. It only serves, whether someone is looking or not. That's its only job.

Jesus seems to be saying that mustard seed power is REAL power. I wonder what that means for the Church and how we make decisions, how we decide to act (or not act) in the world. We say we believe in a theology of the cross, but we act as if we believe in a theology of glory, affirming power in human institutions and forgetting the mustard seed kingdom.

I've been around politics and politicians long enough to know that once we get in the political game we play by THEIR rules; the competing interests, the compromises, the deal-making. I'm not sure that this is what God has in mind for us. I'm not saying it's NOT. I'm just saying I'm not sure.

Maybe Jesus is asking us to bear witness to s different reality. A mustard seed reality. The reality of servanthood over self-interest, of humility over arrogant pride, of doing God's work whether or not anyone's watching.

Perhaps that's God's mustard seed challenge for us as Church.

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