This week we had some great coffee conversations--all are welcome to join us on Tuesdays at 1pm or Wednesdays at 10am for those quick times to have a toasty beverage, rest and read some scripture or say a prayer together--the best way to get reminded is to follow us on FB/insta/Twitter @ukirknashville. And we enjoyed another great dinner and worship service, as is our custom on Thursday nights. We sang some lovely songs. "It is well with my soul" is always a good line to sing when the semester gets tough in the dark and grey days of winter (even if you only know that one line of the song!) and we shared communion... and Lee talked to us about the parable of the mustard seed, as we've been studying the parables in Luke this semester, and talking particularly about the ways we misuse them. Here's a bit of what he shared:
"The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed. The kingdom of heaven is alike yeast – the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant – a fish…this is how Jesus talked … in parables - Jesus’ favorite way to confuse the hell out of people. However, we Americans have, as AJ Levine (one of my professors) calls it, “domesticated the parable” – We have made them into this picture perfect idea of what Jesus was saying. However, if we read the parables and they make us feel comfortable and all gooey inside then we haven’t read them right – we haven’t done the work.
The parable of the mustard seed is usually summed up in the manor: The kingdom of heaven grows from small seed to a huge thing … started small and grows and grows into a tree. I like that. It seems good for kids and seems easy to talk about without ruffling feathers, but we all know that Jesus loved to ruffle feathers. And Jesus lies to us here! For starters, mustard seeds are not the smallest – an orchid seed is smaller. And mustard seeds do not grow into trees. They grow into shrubs that may get 4ft high – so why is Jesus lying to all of us? Lets read it this way: The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that grows into a tree meaning the kingdom of heaven is like a something you cannot explain. This parable is elaborate – it's exaggerated on purpose. The kingdom is something that you thought you could predict the outcome of and you couldn’t. It is something that does not hold on to the label you put to it because it will transform into something that you didn’t think was possible…a mustard seed into a tree? Nah…
Jesus goes on to say the kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that someone took and placed in their field. “Someone” is an interesting choice of words for Jesus. Jesus does not get very specific about who does the sowing. They do not get a name nor do they get a marker of their individuality. Someone – it could be me, it could be you, it could be UKirk, it could be progressives, it could be conservatives…anyone! We often make ourselves too significant – we often elevate ourselves by the political parties we serve, or the agendas we wish to fulfill. This parable is not just about a kingdom that starts out small and ends up being big – that’s preschool stuff – this parable is also about getting out of our own ways so that the kingdom can truly grow, getting out of the way of our egos, our self-righteousness, out of our set in ways, out of our church, out of our inability to see whats happening around us. The parable of the mustard seed is about making ourselves smaller so that others may be held up – so that others can lead.
We do not have all the answers. And notice the imagery – seeds, sowing, yeast, bread making, birds, flour, wheat, fish, - these things are the most common things you can think about in the scripture. These parables are not made up with these significant, magical, or memorable things – the main characters of these parables are significant in their insignificance. They are everyday things - everyday creation is what makes these parables something else. Why everyday things? Because that is where the kingdom of heaven lies – that is where it dwells and that is where we have to do the work to see it. The kingdom is where we have to do the work to make it obvious and to make it noticeable – to make it unearth itself. The kingdom of heaven is not a lofty dream or far off goal or reward or acclaim. It is here and now and we have to go see it and we have to go see where it is … and not wait for it to come to us."