Yesterday, we thought a bit about the idea of sharing our first and second harvest with our neighbors. We compared the stories of the fish and the loaves with the idea of an ongoing harvest for our communities here in the Lehigh Valley and in Northeast Pennsylvania.
The day before, we reflected on the idea of God as a gardener, of nature as God’s garden of delight, and wondered how we might be changed by thinking of the world this way. What are we sewing? What ought we tend?
Prompted by both posts and by something I heard Dwight Friesen say, I’m thinking today about the parable of the mustard seed in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke. Jesus says that the Kingdom of God is like a mustard seed, tiny and insignificant when held in the hypothetical, quick-spreading, invasive, and big when its latent energy moves from potential to kinesis.
Mark and Matthew remember Jesus casting the tale in a field. A man sews a mustard seed in his own field, it grows larger than the herbs, the birds of the air rest and roost in its branches.
Luke has Jesus saying the Kingdom of God “is like a grain of mustard seed, which a man took, and put in his own garden. It grew, and became a large tree, and the birds of the sky lodged in its branches.” (Emphasis added.)
It’s interesting to me that the same chapter (19) from Leviticus to which we owe the concept of a “second harvest” also includes this prohibition: “do not plant your field with two kinds of seed.” Scholars have surmised that this extended to gardens also, at least in the case of the mustard seed, which was not commonly tended in the gardens of Palestine in the 1st Century (a tradition attested in later rabbinic literature). Whether in field or garden (both places where more useful crops would have been grown), the willful sewing of the mustard weed could only be done in clear violation of the Levitic ban on the mixing of seeds. Not only then is Jesus saying that the Kingdom of God is like something that starts small and grows wildly, but that the Kingdom of God is like something illegal. In the Kingdom of God, the small and seemingly insignificant things, even (or especially) the counter-intuitive things, are held forth as the best of what God has in mind for the world.
The Kingdom of God is like something illegal. I’m reminded of the Taize chant that insists “the Kingdom of God is justice and peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit.”
The Kingdom of God is like something illegal. Take heart, all who toil for justice and peace, all who serve God on the margins, all who live on the margins, all who are weary. You are not weak.
- Christopher Cocca, Urban Ministry Associate