These notes are intended for distribution to members and friends of the Kirk of Kildaire Presbyterian Church family. While effort is made to give credit for work done by others, the notes may use material for which appropriate credit is not given. Also, the notes may differ from the actual sermon as it was delivered. Remember, sermons are meant to be preached and are therefore prepared with the emphasis on verbal presentation; the written accounts occasionally stray from proper grammar and punctuation.
Before the reading:
The parable of the Mustard seed is one of seven such stories in the 13th chapter of Matthew. They are all different, but they have this in common: they are all parables of the kingdom which Jesus came to proclaim.
Now, get the picture in your mind of the setting:Jesus is teaching, while sitting in a boat while the crowds are listening at the beach. It is the only place he can find to sit because so many have come to hear him, to learn from him, to touch him and to be touched by him, that there is no room for him in their midst. So he steps into a boat and speaks to them across the water, his figure swaying a little with each lift of the waves, (and as Barbara Brown Taylor says) “his words as full of life and as hard to hold as a handful of lake.
If the crowds have come for “helpful habits for daily living” that day, then they are disappointed; What they get instead are more like dreams or poems, in which images of God’s kingdom are passed before them—as familiar as the crops in their own fields and the loaves in their own kitchens- but with a strange new twist. Jesus seems to be saying that these ordinary things have something important to do with God’s purpose for them, that these things they handle every day of some sort are vessels of some sort, illustrations of some truth that seems clear to them one moment and hidden the next—like a seed flung to the four winds, like buried treasure, like a net let down to the depths of the seed… or like…. A mustard seed.
READ THE TEXT:
He put before them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that someone took and sowed in his field; it is the smallest of all the seeds, but when it has grown it is the greatest of shrubs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in it’s branches.”
I wonder how many of you have sown some mustard seeds lately. I never have. Oh, I’ve watched some seeds turn into beautiful vegetables at the Kirk Community Garden. It’s amazing how a little seed grows into something beautiful and good… like tomatoes and peppers and sunflowers.
But mustard seeds? Not so much.
As you know they are small… 1 mm in diameter. They don’t look as impressive as other seeds… they would not seem like they have much potential… but Jesus says, think about how they grow … they become one of the greatest shrubs you’ll ever see, offering shelter and shade for the birds… a home for their nests… a gift for the whole world.
The kingdom of heaven is like that, says Jesus.
As I thought about his parable and as I was reflecting upon this text in light of our stewardship season, I wondered if Jesus might have told the parable in this way today. Since you may not be familiar with planting a mustard seed, try this parable on for size…
“The kingdom of heaven is like a church member who pledges and tithes for the work of God at his or her church. Compared to the giving of wealthy donors to football and basketball teams… compared to the contributions made to the political candidates or Political Action Committees in an election season… it looks small. It doesn’t begin to compare. But, when those gifts are cultivated and when they are invested in the work of the Kingdom… and joined with the gifts of others—then something amazing happens… the church grows and the Lord touches the lives of more people than you ever imagine—providing safety and shelter and a home for the world… for those in need it most… “
That parable rewrite came to mind as I was listening to how much was being spent on campaigns and even athletic programs. Sometimes I cringe. I covet those gifts… I often think… man, if we could just get people to give to the church the way they give to their sports teams or favorite candidates, we’d wipe out the mortgage in no time and have more than enough to spend on benevolences… we’d have ministries that would grow beyond our wildest dreams… if people gave like that to charities, like they do to candidates and athletic department, the food banks would be full… If most churches could get their members to tithe like the Mormons or the Muslims, it’s hard to fathom how that might transform our lives and ministries in all of our churches. After all, how do you think they pay for all they do? It is not magic, it is math. It is through the old fashioned practice of tithing!
So, forgive me if I get a bit discouraged now and then when I dwell too much on such things. It is easy to wonder how you can do so much with so little. I wonder if the disciples felt that way when Jesus challenged them to share the gospel of the kingdom of heaven with the whole world.
After all, at first there were only 12 of them. And look at who and what Jesus had to work with… In the eyes of the world, they didn’t look like much. You wouldn’t blame them for wondering how they might make a difference in a world dominated by Rome and a culture hostile to their message. Going up against a religious establishment that resists them and the gospel and ends up crucifying their leader… How could they begin to make a difference given those odds?
So, Jesus tells this parable of the mustard seed… and I’m feeling better when I understand what he is saying. In fact, I’m encouraged.
And I realize, that the seed Jesus mentions in the parable is about you and me. He is talking about his followers. We are the mustard seed.
As we think about stewardship, I want you to think about that as well. For stewardship is about money… but it is about so much more… it is about the commitment of our whole lives to work for the kingdom to come on earth as it is in heaven. We are the seeds of that kingdom coming.
Our giving- what you will put on your pledge card, is only an outward sign of our inward commitment to Jesus and his kingdom or cause. It is an outward expression of what you hope God will do through you through the life of the church, we are the seeds God has sown throughout the world. We are the ones God has planted to help his kingdom grow. Each one of us is filled with great potential as we cultivate our God given potential.
That is what stewardship is really about you know, not simply sharing a percentage of our money, it is about something more than that. It is about thinking about who you are, who God has called you to be and how God has called you—yes you—to participate in the work of God’s kingdom as a disciple of Jesus Christ.
Of course, this includes giving to God through the church. I want you to hear me… I’m not asking you to give to the church as an institution that is no different from other organizations… No, I’m asking you to think bigger than that.
Perhaps you’ve noticed how we put it in the bulletin at the time of offering:
“One does not give to a church, but rather to God. We give through the church for the work of God’s kingdom”.
So, we are asking you to sow seeds so that God’s kingdom may grow… so that we may be faithful in the part of the garden called the Kirk where God has placed us to grow in mission and ministry.
I doubt that when Jesus told that story of the mustard seed, that even the disciples knew how much God’s kingdom would grow because of their faithfulness and commitment. Do you think they ever, in their wildest dreams imagined that their little movement would transform the whole world?
But they did. And it all started with just 12 odd disciples following a rabbi in an out of the way place in the middle of nowhere.
I think about them and I think about the Kirk as well. We started with a few folding chairs up in a real estate office—our activity building. I bet you didn’t look like much compared to those large churches around the triangle. But from there, you have grown… how many refugees have been helped… how many homeless have been housed… how many seminarians and ministers have you given birth to? … how many children and youth have you spiritually fed and educated?
This is no small thing… How many mouths have been fed… how many people have been counseled by ministers or cared for by Stephen ministers? How many people have found a shelter or home in a small group or Sunday school group or youth group? How many lives have been touched by the beautiful music we offer.
One of you shared with me that the first day of choir rehearsal this year was very important to you. You had just had a hard day and at the beginning of the first rehearsal, you warmed up singing, “Amazing Grace” … which is what you said you needed that moment, that day.
Oh, I could go on… but thanks to those of you who planted your selves and offered your pledges of time and money—things took root around here and like a tiny mustard seed, we have grown to provide shelter and nesting far beyond our dreams.
Which leaves me with one question? It is an important one. Are we done? I don’t think so… we’re only 33 years old! I hope not. We’ve only begun if you ask me! God isn’t finished with you, me or the Kirk yet. God still is sowing us.
Today you were given seed packets … I want you to take those home with you.
On those packets you see the stewardship theme for this year: Sowing Seeds: of faith, hope, love and joy. I want you to think about why God has planted you here to do just that… I’d like to ask you to think about how God has called you to participate in the work of God’s kingdom spreading faith, hope, love and joy at the Kirk and in the world for that matter. I ask you to consider this as we give thanks for those who came before us and as we look ahead to how we might share in the work of God’s kingdom in the years ahead.
Some years back the poet and novelist Maya Angelou was giving a commencement address in California. She began her remarks with a question for the students: “How did you get here today?”
She answered for them, “I’ll tell you how you got here. Lots of folks, way before you were born, and way before you came of age, paid for you to get here.”
Then she said, “I’ll tell you how I got here.” And she spoke of her forebears. She
told of African slaves shackled in chains, huddled together, who paid for her to get there. She told about a woman in her childhood church in Stamps, Arkansas, who took time to teach Maya some manners – some culture. She told of another woman in Stamps – a dignified, elderly literary woman who invited a young Maya Angelou to tea and introduced her to Charles Dickens and gave her a copy of A Tale of Two Cities.
“All of these people paid for me to get here today”, she said: “the slaves, Miss Culture Lady, and the old, literary woman who insisted she read Dickens.”
Then, Maya Angelou spoke words that carried within them the essence of biblical stewardship and faithful discipleship. She told the graduating class,
“Now you get out of here today! Get on out of here! And with your very life, pay for somebody else to get here.”
Years ago, centuries ago… Jesus invited people to be his disciples and to join him in sharing the good news of the Gospel… the kingdom of heaven with the world.
We are here today, here today with our faith, with our mission, here today with our building and our ministries thanks to the loving sacrifices and faithful discipleship of those who came before us.
Now, God has called us to plant our seeds for the work of the kingdom. Our sacrifices, our offerings of time, our gifts, our money are what God will use not only for us today… or next year… but think about it… what you invest today and next year will transform the lives of others for years to come.
May God bless us and encourage to be the seeds of faith, hope, love and joy…not only here and now, but for years to come… and not only for our sake, but for the sake of those in need and for the sake of a world who needs us to proclaim that the kingdom of God is near, very near. Amen.
 Introduction adapted rom Barbara Brown Taylor’s book, “The Seeds of Heaven” p. 24
 Illustration from Carla Pratt Keys, Ginter Park Presbyterian, Sermon: “Planting Seeds”