Summary: Sometimes we feel like we’re outnumbered by people who don’t believe in Jesus. There are times when we’re the only ones who want to do the right thing. But Jesus tells us that his kingdom may look small but in fact it will grow to be like a mighty tree th

A Combined Children’s talk and sermon

How big do you think God’s Kingdom is? As big as the Simpson desert or Kakadu? As big as this whole land of Australia?

Jesus said the kingdom of heaven was like a mustard seed. Now I can’t show you a mustard seed but I did bring some other seeds with me.

They’re very small aren’t they? But you know, these tiny little seeds would grow into very big trees if I were to plant them. How big a tree do you think might grow from these seeds? They’re very small aren’t they? Maybe they’d only be medium sized shrubs. Well let me show you. Oh, but first let’s hear what Jesus actually said to his disciples about the kingdom being like a mustard seed. [Bible Reading]

Well let’s think about what Jesus meant by that parable. First though let me show you what would happen if I planted some of these seeds in a pot. Not these exact ones. We haven’t got time for that. But I actually prepared some earlier. There are two types of seed here. One is the seed of a Golden Ash. They’re the ones in the seed pod that looks a bit like a dried up snow pea. Look how small they are.

And the other one that looks a bit like a mouse dropping (I did check that it wasn’t!) it’s the seed of a Silky Oak or a Grevillea Robusta. Well, here’s the ones I prepared earlier.

Which do you think is the one that grew from the tiny little Golden Ash seed? It’s actually the tall one. It’s getting big already after just a year isn’t it? And the other feathery ones are the Silky Oak seedlings. It doesn’t look like they’ll grow to be as big as the Ash tree does it? But sometimes appearances are deceiving. That was what Jesus was telling his disciples. He knew that sometimes they’d feel like they were outnumbered by people who didn’t believe in Jesus. He knew that there’d be times when they were the only ones who’d want to do the right thing. You might even find that sometimes yourself. I’m sure your parents will find it’s like that sometimes as well. You’ll be in the playground or on a sports field or with a group of your friends and someone will suggest you do something that you just know is wrong. And you’ll be the only one who thinks it. And it’ll be very hard to say no. When that sort of situation arises we have to make a choice, don’t we? Do we do the right thing and trust God to look after us even if we’re outnumbered or do we just give in and go with the crowd.

Today I imagine the adults will be discussing the future of our building project and some people will be wondering whether it’s worth paying all that money for a new building when we’re such a small church. Of course we’re much bigger than Jesus’ Church was when he told this parable. He only had a congregation of 12 or so. But we’re still fairly small. So some people will be wondering, is there a future for us? Is it worth spending millions of dollars raising a building that’ll seat 3 or 4 times this number of people?

Well what does Jesus say his kingdom is like? He says it’s like a tiny seed that starts very small but can grow into a huge tree. You see this parable was told for adults as well as children.

We might worry that we’re only small, but if we help it along God’s kingdom will grow; this Church will grow. As long as we continue to provide healthy soil we can expect to see our church grow and bear fruit. Now I think we do a reasonable job of providing healthy soil here, but we can do better. We can put more energy into nurturing one another’s faith. We can be more committed to joining together to encourage one another, whether it’s in small groups or in Church on a Sunday. We can work harder at getting to know one another so we can encourage and be encouraged. And we can do more in terms of bringing people to Jesus.

Did you hear what Jesus said about the mustard seed? He said even though it’s tiny it grows to be the greatest of shrubs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches. One of the tasks God has given to the Church is to be a place of shelter, a haven where people can feel safe, supported, protected; where they can come for rest. Now one of the dangers in an activist Church like ours is that sometimes people who feel they need a rest don’t think they can take one without leaving. So we need to walk a thin line.

It’s important that we have lots of entry points for people to come into the kingdom. That’s why we run all those activities we’ve just seen photos of: men’s and women’s groups, Pancakes in Wattle Park, Family Fun Days, Playgroup, kids’ clubs, Youth Group, Alpha, etc. The more opportunities people have to discover the life of God in the Church the more likely they are to want to partake of that life. But something I’m discovering is that we also need to give people the space to pull back for a while, to not come to things, to sit in the pew and take it in rather than giving it out. If you’re resonating with that but feel you can’t say no, then let me give you permission here and now to say no. To take your name off the rosters. To find someone else to do whatever you were doing.

Having said that though, I’m not saying that it’s OK to stop coming to Church each week. One of the points of this parable is that the tree is the place where the birds of the air find a place to build their nests. This isn’t a café where you go and have some time out when you need a rest. This is the place where you take up residence. It’s a place where you invest your time and energy for the long term.

Have you ever seen birds building nests? I’ve seen them in our front yard and they’re very persistent about it. If the nest gets knocked over, which it does, if they try to build it on our verandah, they just come back and try again. So too, the Church is a place where it’s worth investing your life, worth persevering at making friends, because this is the place where God provides shelter for us.

And God’s kingdom in the second parable is a place where God provides nourishment beyond all our imagining. The picture in that parable is of a woman taking a small amount of yeast and mixing it into a huge amount of flour. The three measures is probably about 30 kg of flour. Can you imagine mixing up 30 kg of flour and then hoping that a little bit of yeast will make it rise? But that’s the nature of yeast: it multiplies; it grows until it gets all the way through the flour. And as it does that it provides a huge amount of food for people to eat.

And that leads me to my final point. Not only does the seed grow into a large tree, but when it’s full grown, what happens? It flowers and then it drops seeds all over the place.

Let me show you what my seedlings will look like in 5 or ten years time. Here’s the Golden Ash that the little seeds came from. It’s huge isn’t it. It’s probably 10 or 12 metres tall.

But look how big these little Silky Oak seedlings would grow, if I let them.

There’s the Silky Oak in my backyard. It’s 15 or 20 metres tall. It dwarfs the Golden Ash. These tiny little seeds can grow into something huge. In fact if I didn’t go around my garden pulling out these seedlings I’d have a Silky Oak forest in my backyard and a Golden Ash forest in the front!

So here’s something we need to remember about God’s kingdom. It’s not just that it grows and grows but as it grows it sends out seeds so new plants will grow. This is something that we should all be doing. Some of you guys do that already by inviting your friends to come to Tom’s Crew or sTOMp or to Sunday Club. Some of your parents do it by inviting friends to things we run here or by telling them how good it is to be part of God’s Church. Some of them have done it by bringing friends to the Alpha course. But we could probably be doing it far more, couldn’t we?

Next time you think about how small our church is; next time you find yourself in the minority, surrounded by people who don’t care what God thinks, remember that God has planted a church that will grow, simply because it’s God’s Church - and remember that you’re part of it.

So be encouraged. God’s kingdom continues to grow year after year as he brings new people to it to build their nests and to find nurture and protection here.

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