31He put before them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that someone took and sowed in his field; 32it 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 its branches.”
I brought a hammer, pliers and screwdriver for the children’s message on Sunday. For each I had asked, “What is this for?” and received the expected answers, “to pound nails,” to “turn bolts,” to turn screws.”
I then pulled from my bag a seedpod from a liquidambar tree. It’s a little smaller than a golf ball, with spikey tendrils that snag easily in fur to help disperse the seeds far and wide. They used to get so tangled in the feathers of my childhood cocker spaniel that I had to cut them free with scissors. Jeremy identified them as “those things in the playground my sister hates.” They hurt when you step on them.
I then pulled out a small redwood seed cone, and from the cone a small redwood seed. I told him it was from the redwood trees outside, but he asked “what trees?” so we ducked out the vestry door to look at the five majestic spires. If you only come into the sanctuary from the direction of the parking lot, you may not notice them. But there, beneath the towering redwoods, Jeremy gave the remark that is the heart and soul of the parable of the mustard seed: “It’s amazing something so big could come from something so small.”
There was nothing more to say, really, though I had planned to. We walked back inside and I took the Bible from the lectern (properly called an ambo, it serves as both lectern and pulpit) and asked whether the Bible was more like the tools or the seed. And he answered without any hesitation, “the seed.”
I forget, sometimes, how clearly children see.
The Word of God is not a tool we use to craft objects or people of our own design; it is a seed that grows into the object of God’s design.
From the seed of God’s word grows hope, compassion, justice, mercy, patience, truthfulness, integrity, joy. From the seed of God’s word grew St. Patrick’s courage and compassion to go back as a missionary to the people who had captured and held him captive as a slave. From the seed of God’s word grew the courage to sit at lunch counters and to stand before fire hoses. From the seed of God’s word has grown a multitude of orphanages, clinics and hospitals and wells to bring clean water in remote places. From the seed of God’s word come millions of simple acts of kindness. From the seed of God’s word hearts are healed and lives grow into the image of Christ.
Scripture can be used as a tool to build a house of slavery; but the seed of the word grows into a community of freed people.
And “It’s amazing something so big could come from something so small.”