Above: General Sherman
This sermon was preached
shall we say the kingdom of God is like…?
It is like a mustard seed, which is the smallest seed you plant in the ground…..”
Thanks to the choir for your singing today.
Sparrow Mass gets its nickname
from some musical phrases in the Sanctus,
which are said to sound like the song of a sparrow.
So it is
appropriate that today’s Gospel
refers to the tiny mustard seed which grows
to produce a tree large enough for birds to gather in its branches.
some dispute amongst scholars
as to the tree referred to in the passage –
Palestinian Mustard bushes were hardly trees with branches –
but the point is clear. In the words of the old English proverb,
From small acorns great oaks do grow.
Question: What is the world’s largest tree?
General Sherman, a giant sequoia growing in California.
This tree is 275 feet tall and 30 feet in diameter.
It is estimated to weigh 2,750 tons.
It is over 2000 years old.
Question: How much does the seed of the Sequoia Tree weigh?
seeds would equal one pound.
Each seed this weigh between 1/5,000th and 1/6,000th of an ounce
confronts those who are perhaps pouring scorn
on his gospel and his talk of God’s Kingdom:
this Kingdom of yours, Jesus?
Nothing much seems to be happening yet,” they say.
“Look at this tiny seed – think what it’s going to be –
don’t underestimate what God may do….”
And of course we can all lose faith in what God can do.
sums it up in a passage
which refers both to mustard seeds, birds and Mozart -
"People are prepared for everything except for the fact
that beyond the darkness of their blindness there is a great light.
They are prepared to go on breaking their backs
ploughing the same old field until the cows come home
without seeing, until they stub their toes on it,
that there is a treasure buried in that field
rich enough to buy Texas…..
They are prepared for a mustard-seed kingdom of God
no bigger than the eye of a newt
but not for the great banyan it becomes
with birds in its branches singing Mozart.
They are prepared for the potluck supper at First Presbyterian
but not for the marriage supper of the Lamb."
Plant a seed, says Jesus, and who knows what God may do with it!
Do the smallest thing –
· which affirms the dignity of another,
· which refuses to destroy or deny or belittle them
· which offers love and acceptance and understanding,
God forgive us,
we wonder of these tiny things we say and do
can make any difference.
are Kingdom values we are sowing in someone’s life –
they are the seeds of the Kingdom –
and who knows how they may grow in the power of the Spirit!
small things – you can get loads in a tiny bag
- they are just feather like seeds –
but Oh what a forest you might grow!
You know the old story about a man
who bought a house with an overgrown garden.
The weeds had long since taken over the garden
and it was a mess.
But slowly the man began to clear the weeds,
till the soil and plant the seeds.
Finally, he had made it into a showcase garden.
One day the minister came to visit,
and when he saw the beautiful flowers and plants,
"Well, friend, you and the Lord
have done a marvelous job on this garden."
To which the gardener replied
“Yes maybe –
but you should have seen it when God had it all to himself”
How is God’s love and peace and justice growing in the world?
Well, we certainly can’t do it without God’s help.
But he is
also relying on you and me
to cultivate the ground and water the seeds!
Thinking as we
are today of sparrows,
I’m reminded of a rather whimsical old story
from the ancient middle-east .
It tells of a time when a horseman riding along a path
finds a sparrow in the middle of the road
lying on its back with its feet in the air.
"Little sparrow," called the horseman,
"What are you doing lying upside down?"
"I am holding up the sky so it does not fall, "
answered the sparrow."
"Hah!" laughed the horseman,
"You believe that your spindly little legs
can hold up the whole sky?"
"No," said the sparrow softly,
"But one does what one can. One does what one can."
We may not have
the muscles to hold up the world,
but we do what we can
We may not have
food for 5000,
but we do have some bread and God may use that for a feast.
We have our seeds of hope, our crumbs of comfort
Through which God’s work may be done.
I am always amazed by the way they build gardens
at the Chelsea Flower Show –
they bring in great big trees and goodness knows what
in huge containers and crane them into the site.
But for you and me – we don’t have that option:
for us it’s a packet of seeds –
or maybe we splash out on a £4.99 pot
from the Garden Centre –
often, when the Chelsea Show is dismantled and just a memory,
the seeds in your garden have only just broken the surface,
and their story has only just begun!
Today is Fathers’ Day.
also the start of Refugee Week,
when among other things we remember displaced children
with no father and no home.
Maybe some of you saw the TV programme this week
about Sir Nicholas Winton, who has often been described as
the “British Schindler” for his work in rescuing Jewish children
from Nazi occupied Czechoslovakia in the 1930s.
One of the little girls he saved was called Vera Gissing –
She recalls as an 11 year old girl arriving alone
off the continental boat train on a London railway platform.
She said the very first thing her foster mother said to her
when she arrived was “You shall be loved” –
“Years later I asked my foster father why he took me in –
I knew I could not save the world,
That I could not stop a war starting,
But I knew I could save one human soul.”
So tell me – what
seeds has God given you to sow?
Don’t tell me they are nothing –
they are the seeds of the Kingdom –
Is there a beanstalk of hope to be planted in a trench of despair?
A tender shoot of peace to be nurtured in some muddy battlefield?
Or a sapling of love to be sown or planted?
And when you and I are long gone from this world,
perhaps, God willing,
we may look down and hear the sound of singing in the branches of the forest –
and wouldn’t it be great if we could point
to a mustard bush or an oak or a redwood and say
“Praise God, I planted that one!
And praise God, who has brought the increase!