Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The Tree of Life and the Mustard Seed of Faith

Jesus asks his followers a question about the Kingdom of God. He knew that it was too big for them to hear "the real story" of what it would look like in heaven, so he brought it into a story that they could easily understand.

He told them this, “The Kingdom of God is like a mustard seed. It is the smallest of all the seeds that you plant in the ground. Yet, when it is planted, it grows and becomes the largest of all the trees in the garden, with such big branches that the birds of the air can perch in its shade” (Mark 4:30-32).

Jesus liked the mustard seed. He understood the potential of taking something that is almost invisible, that can so easily slip through one’s fingers, and watching it become something of great power.

Jesus also told his followers a bit later, “If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move.’ Nothing will be impossible for you” (Matt 17:20).

What is it about the mustard seed?

In both these illustrations, Jesus compares the minute seed with something giant: a mountain and the Kingdom of God. Both of these are beyond our ability to create, or even to imagine. How many times have you looked at Mount Rainier and wondered if you could ever see it all? Even from the airplane, it feels too big to absorb at once.

The Kingdom of God is something I like to dream about because Jesus says that we can partner with him to help bring it out of heaven and down to earth to experience now. That excites me. It feels like something that I would like to give my life to see happen. Ultimately, however, I am well aware that without Jesus, I could only build a kingdom that would quickly topple to the ground.

So, Jesus tells us two things about the mustard seed. One, it must be planted. We understand the process of planting. A seed has to go deep into the ground into the darkness to grow. A seed planted on hard, rocky, and thorny soil will only disappear, resulting in nothing (Mark 4).

Jesus told his followers about planting seeds, too, late in his ministry. In John 12:24, he says, “I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds (or a mustard tree!)

It is only in death that a seed brings forth life.

The second message about the seed is that if we have the very tiniest faith, but one that we are willing to let die in the ground for the Lord to raise up, we can do extraordinary things: like tell mountains to move, or see people healed, or violence quelled, or wars stopped or injustice eradicated.

It seems that our small mustard seed faith + God’s great power = Transformation.

And, transformed people will bring forth transformed marriages, families, communities, cities and kingdoms.

Where is Jesus pointing out the seed to you? Where is he asking you to pick it up and press it into the soil? Where is he calling you to let it die so that he can begin to bring life to it? Where is that small seed beginning to push through the soil? Where is the plant becoming strong enough to exercise some movement of mountains?

What mountains exist in your life? What seems absolutely immovable because you’ve been pushing on it for days or weeks or months?

Where is the Kingdom of God, God’s rule or reign on earth, just waiting to be brought forth as you partner with Jesus through your seed planting to bring it?

Take some time this week to reflect on these thoughts and questions. Allow your mind to adjust to Jesus’ economy of what’s needed to follow him with great faith: just the smallest seed in the world, but combined with his power, will bring the kingdom of God to earth.

After you have reflected, tell someone your thoughts. As you take the step, you are letting the seed die (to pride or fear) and letting Jesus begin to water it, and fertilize it and shine his light on it.

And, when that happens, get ready for the heavenly bulldozers are getting ready to come and move the mountain!

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