St. Philips Episcopal Church, Marysville, WA
Fourth Sunday After Pentecost
Readings - Episcopal Church
First reading 1 Samuel 15:34-16:13
Second reading 2 Cor 5:6-17
Gospel Mark 4:26-34
Jesus said, “The kingdom of God is as if someone would scatter seed on the ground, and would sleep and rise night and day, and the seed would sprout and grow, he does not know how. The earth produces of itself, first the stalk, then the head, then the full grain in the head. But when the grain is ripe, at once he goes in with his sickle, because the harvest has come.” He also said, “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.” With many such parables he spoke the word to them, as they were able to hear it; he did not speak to them except in parables, but he explained everything in private to his disciples.
Sermon - Fr. Dan Duval, OSF
When Rev. Rebecca asked me to preach this weekend, my quick response was “of course”. Then I started my research and found that I would be preaching on Father’s day about mustard seeds.” Hmmm, anyone want to talk about barbecues?
As the week has gone on and the news has entered my reality, I have heard people saying, “I can’t listen, read, see anymore of this.” And the world goes on.
Jesus lived in a time and place that was filled with hate and violence. His ministry was about bringing justice as the result of love to all people of society. Jesus used parable and metaphor to teach this seemingly impossible lesson. The greatest metaphor, or the one that took the most, is that God is our Father. As with all of the bible, that word was used in the context of what being a father meant in the time and place it was written. In that time, lineage was important and children took the names of their parents as last names. Yeshua bar Joseph is how Jesus would have been known. (Our Jewish friends with tell us there is no J or soft G sound in Hebrew so Jesus never heard himself called Jesus. Also in Hebrew Bar means son of and bot means daughter of)
As you carried the name of your family and possibly your tribe your actions reflected those whom you were related to and the group with which you belonged. Your behavior was a reflection not only on yourself but upon your family and wider circle.
With Jesus saying that God was Abba, he was saying that we reflected the Divine and carried the Divine with us as we carry our parentage; AND we are responsible for how we live that parentage in the world, the parentage of the Divine. We are responsible to our family, our group, our tribe, our world, in how we live out that Diviness . We are responsible to our brothers, sisters and other siblings of the world as we all come from the Divine and Universal parent. Our actions reflect on our mothers, fathers, aunts, uncles, cousins and neighbors. Our actions reflect on our common groups such as our church, our school, and even our BINGO group.
Then Yeshua tells us that the Kingdom of God, the Divine, Our Abba that we reflect and represent, is like a mustard seed. This kingdom he says starts out just as small as the tiniest of seeds and ends up taking over the whole hillside. In that part of the world, a seed has to be small enough to penetrate the packed earth and then strong enough to withstand drought and high heat in order to grow. This tiny seed not only grows in those conditions, and most others, but thrives and provides shade and protection from those harsh elements.
How do we take in those smallest of seeds that we are given and allow them to grow within the hardest parts of ourselves and multiply into our communities? Yeshua does not say we need to cultivate the kingdom of God, we only need to allow it to do its own thing within us and it will flourish. The Kingdom seed is within us and it will grow and our task is to live in such a way that we do not bring dishonor to those around us. By living for another, that Kingdom grows without needing to be nursed and nurtured. It is the easiest thing in the world.
But, somehow, we get in our own way. We believe it has to be more complicated than it really. is. We try to force the seed to be something else. We do not trust that seed within ourselves or others. We forget to live for each other and become frightened that we may not have enough. We fail to recognize that there is plenty for everyone and try to hoard extra for ourselves.
Part of the Franciscan charism or way of life is recognizing that we all come from that same Divine source and our hospitality is open for all, no questions asked. If I can get out of the way of that mustard seed and allow it to do its thing, I will be a presence and reminder of that same seed in everyone. Francis of Assisi is attributed with saying often, “preach the Gospel always, use words when necessary”. Francis understood that our actions meant more than words and it is by our actions that others are welcomed and healed.
Clare of Assisi, Francis’ lesser known companion spent her entire adult life, most likely starting around the age of 15 in a cloistered convent. Clare did not go out as Francis did and live among the poor or wash the sores of lepers. Clare remained within the walls of the San Damiano compound with abut 50 other nuns. San Damiano was a small church and the walled off area around it was perhaps about a half acre. Suffice it to say, Clare did not get out much and was not worldly. However, Clare became the quiet force behind the continuation of the Franciscans after Francis died. Clare believed with all of her being that treating those around you well mattered, not only to those in the small enclosure with her, but that the ripples of such living would be felt in the broader world.
Clare would spend a good part of her days praying in front of the San Domino Cross, which is depicted on the cross I wear with my habit. Clare gazed upon the suffering of Yeshua and found the suffering of the world. As she contemplated that deep pain and suffering, she did not turn her head as so many of us are wanting to do these past few days. Clare bravely looked into the pain she saw and allowed that mustard seed in her to grow into huge bushes of compassion. I am not sure where I read recently that the one possible reason for suffering may be that those who are not suffering at the moment can develop compassion. The more suffering we allow ourselves to encounter the deeper our compassion may develop and the greater love we then experience.
So, how do we listen to, read and watch the stories of families being torn apart, babies being taken from their mothers while breast feeding, a father dying by suicide after his three year old son is taken from him, and not turn away? How do we not feel helpless? How do we let our hearts break with theirs and know that by living as a representative of and one in the lineage of the Divine and being compassionate and loving toward the person sitting next to us here today, that our love will grow and spread as the mustard seed and our lineage “Bar Abba” will spread to those in pain and suffering to offer perhaps the slightest comfort.
So, today, on this day to remember and embrace our heritage and those from whom we originate, let us be mindful to live in such a way that our own Abbas would be proud to say, their goes my child.