Ezekiel 17, 22-24 + Psalm 92 + 2 Corinthians 5, 6-10 + Mark 4, 26-34
There is something about this world that scorns and despises whatever is small. The rule of this world is that bigger is better. Having lived a good part of my life on top of Texas, I know this kind of thinking. “Everything is bigger in Texas. Maybe. Traffic jams are. Anyone who has ever tried to get through Dallas would nod with a smile. I am not sure where the root of this thinking lies, but having the biggest house or car, the tallest building or simply having the biggest muscles and power is an idea that weaves its way through our culture and society which lives by sight not by faith. Even building and having the biggest cruise ship is somehow thought to be special and indicate some prominence. Some of my confreres think that being pastor of the “biggest” parish makes one the best. Perhaps all of this springs from some lack of self-esteem or basic insecurity rooted in one’s childhood. Sometimes it might simply be a manifestation of sinfulness rooted in pride or greed. Whatever it is about, the parable we proclaim and reflect upon today flies in the face of thinking that bigger is better. This is living by sight.
The kingdom we are striving to build on earth at the command of Jesus is one that actually embraces and even seeks what is small. We must never forget that it all began in a little place, a tiny village, scorned by everyone called Nazareth; and then in an equally little place called, Bethlehem a tiny light began to shine in the darkness. A carpenter’s son who told stories of seeds, trees, and birds shunned the big, mighty, and powerful to move among those who were small in the eyes of the world: outcasts, powerless, sinners, tax collectors, prostitutes, and children. This parable speaks to what is small and tiny with a vision of hope that can confound the powerful and everything that is big.
The kingdom we are striving to build on earth at the command of Jesus understands humble beginnings, meagerness, and simplicity. It prospers in these conditions faithful to the one whose simplicity and humble beginnings first proclaimed this kingdom among us. That small band of powerless and insignificant people who heard that carpenter sprang to life with the little seed of faith he planted in their hearts. It was faith that moved them, not sight. What this world would judge to be unlikely, improbable, or even impossible can and has become something monumental. What grows from faith is a place of possibility and hope, a life of joy with the promise of peace.
With time, trust, and faith, this world can change because we have. Following in the footsteps of Christ, obedient to his Word and the Will of the Father, we are the mustard seed planted in this world. We are the ones who can shelter and protect what is small and weak. Those who need protection, shelter and shade, mercy and love must find in us what birds find in the branches of great trees. The Gospel we proclaim today is about us; about what we can become and what we called to be when we live by faith and not by sight.