Summary: Mustard seed and the kingdom with practical examples
I’ll begin by saying that our second reading is a very complicated passage indeed. Indeed, it’s so complicated and obscure that I’ve decided to say nothing about this morning, and concentrate on our gospel reading, because it would be too long and involved to try and make sense of it now. So, you’ve no need to worry about your lunch this week, or your party after this service. I won’t be going on too long.
One of my colleagues, though is known for long sermons. During one of his sermons, he noticed a man get up and leave the church. The man returned just before the end of the service. Afterwards my colleague asked the man where he had gone.
"I went to get a haircut," he said..
"But," said my colleague, "why didn’t you do that before the service?"
"Because," the man said, "I didn’t need one then."
Earlier on I said that God sows seeds, and they can grow in ways that we don’t expect. In the Gospel reading we heard about the little mustard seeds that grew into huge trees. Jesus said that God’s kingdom was like that: little things can have an effect much bigger than we ever expected, and in ways completely different to what we ever expected. If you like, God sows seeds of his kingdom and they grow in our lives and the life of our community and our world in ways that can be far bigger than we’d ever think possible and for different to anything we’d imagine. The seeds that God sows work in this special way.
I’m going to focus upon just three of the seeds sown by God. The first is seeds of integrity.
There’s a story of a priest who was hearing confessions. A man came in and told me the Priest that he’d stolen a goose. The priest told the man that it was wrong to steal, but the man responded by offering the priest the goose. The priest, of course, refused to accept the goose and told the man to return to the person from whom he had stolen it. The man told the priest he had offered it to the person he’d stolen it from, but they refused to accept. “In that case,” the priest said, “you can keep it yourself”. When the priest returned home he discovered that one of his own geese had been stolen.
Integrity comes in many different shapes and forms. Equally its absence is noticeable in a variety of ways. Integrity, though, is one of the seeds of God’s kingdom. If God’s kingdom is alive and working, we should be looking for integrity.
Integrity was something that cropped up a great deal in the Parliamentary expenses scandal. Only a very few MPs appear to have actually broken the rules, but a significant number, of all parties, appear to have acted within the letter of the rules but not in an ethical way. Integrity is about setting the rules properly in the first place, and then sticking to the spirit of the rules as well as the letter. Of course, it looks like many, perhaps even most, MPs have behaved with integrity, but of course that doesn’t sell newspapers.
George and Matilda are, of course, far too young to be concerned about such things in the wider world. But they’ll be watching you, David and Charlotte, and will be looking for the seeds of integrity sown in your lives bearing fruit. And I’m sure you’ll be helping God to sow seeds of integrity in them.
The second of the seeds sown by God is seeds of eternity.
A story is told by the Reverend Dr Billy Graham of a time early in his ministry when he arrived in a small town to preach a sermon. Wanting to post a letter, he asked a young boy where the post office was. When the boy had told him, Dr. Graham thanked him and said, "If you’ll come to the Baptist Church this evening, you can hear me telling everyone how to get to heaven." The boy replied, "I don’t think I’ll be there...You don’t even know your way to the post office."
What I mean is that in this world we can be very pre-occupied by the here and now. Perhaps more so than at any other period in last hundred years or more, we live very much in the here and now. Our times are material times, in which many of us are focussed on material things. Some of the seeds that God sows are seeds of eternity, which remind us all of a wider perspective, of something bigger than ourselves.
I wonder if you’ve ever watched The Weakest Link on television. The basic premise of the programme is about getting as much money as possible value at the expense of your opponents. Further, it works by getting contestants to see their fellow competitors not as other people, but simply for what they are worth to them in monetary terms. So, I suggest to you that The Weakest Link is the very example of materialism in today’s world. This is the precise opposite of the seeds of eternity that God sows.