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Posts Tagged ‘Mustard seed’

57//365I love the fact that Jesus arrived in such a gentle way, and in the midst of such painful circumstances.  Many of our folks are in painful circumstances and need him to come to them gently this Christmas to soothe and to heal.  All we need is “a little Christmas.”

A Mustard Seed Christmas

A Sermon on Luke 13:18-19, Psalm 137:1-4 and Luke 2:1-7

(Inspired by a meditation by Charlene Fairchild titled “A Mustard Seed Christmas,” gleaned from the Kir-Shalom website.  Unfortunately the link, found on one of the Holy Christmas pages, is currently broken.)

There are times when it’s hard to sing.  There are times when an ache in the body or soul becomes an ache in the throat when you try to sing.  That was what God’s people experienced when they lost their home, Jerusalem, and were carried into exile in Babylon.  “Let’s hear one of your hymns of Zion,” the Babylonians teased the homesick people.  “How can we sing God’s song here?” they cried.  They couldn’t!  They put away their musical instruments.

It was the same years later when they finally were allowed to go home.  They wanted to be able to sing songs of rejoicing when they reached Jerusalem, but they just couldn’t.  They stared at the ruins of what had been their houses and God’s house, the temple, and tears flowed all over again.

They were home, but found that they were still in the shadowlands of grief. It is the same now when our lives are disrupted.   How can we sing the Lord’s song in a strange land?  Israel mourns in exile!

Indeed, the land of grief is a strange land.  How can we sing “Joy to the World,”—I mean really sing it from the heart—without our life’s partner at our side, without those irreplaceable people we have lost?  How can we sing when our hearts are heavy with concern and worry?  Everyone else seems to be busy and happy, but the thought of pasting on a smile and pretending to be joyful is distinctly unappetizing.

Just when Mary needed to be at home in familiar surroundings with caring people as her due date drew near, the powers that be mandated a journey.   Joseph and Mary became temporary exiles.  It was not a jolly journey to Bethlehem.  It is hard to imagine a more uncomfortable ride: to be nine months pregnant, bumping along on the back of a donkey.  And then to go into labor in a strange place with nowhere to go.

The birth of Jesus went largely unnoticed in all the hubbub of the tax registration.  The revelation of his birth was given only to a few shepherds—nobodies, inconsequential people.  It was a small, fragile beginning for God’s act of salvation.  Jesus truly was vulnerable.  King Herod came close to succeeding in eliminating him.  If Joseph hadn’t been listening for a word from God…Thank goodness he listened!

God’s way is often small and quiet.  God often works in a mustard seed sort of way.  The very kingdom of God is like a mustard seed that someone planted, a grown-up Jesus declared later.  From the tiniest of all seeds, a great, hospitable tree grows!  God grows his kingdom from tiny, humble beginnings.   God planted a tiny, vulnerable mustard seed in Bethlehem.  Yet the Virgin’s tiny boy is the Lord of the universe!

Maybe what we need when we cannot rejoice in a big way at Christmas is a mustard seed Christmas.  (more…)

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yeast

Image by slayerphoto via Flickr

When I began this blog last October, I published a sermon on this week’s Gospel text (RCL 17A), Matthew 13:31-33.  Here’s a link to that sermon.  Hint: mustard weeds (yes, I said weeds) and heaven leaven are unstoppable.

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Yellow mustard seeds

Image via Wikipedia

The conventional wisdom of the mustard seed says that great things grow from small beginnings.  As for the leaven, the wisdom is that a little something yeasty can go a long way and have a big impact.   While that’s certainly true, I have discovered that there is deeper wisdom still in the parables of the mustard seed and the yeast.  A sermon about them is an appropriate place to begin a blog entitled The Mustard Seed Journal:

“It’s Unstoppable!”

A Sermon on Matthew 13:31-32, with Allusions to Isaiah 55

The parables of the mustard seed and the leaven seem so tame, on first reading at any rate.  Who has not observed the marvelous growth that comes from a tiny seed?  What’s more, many of us can recall the delicious yeasty aroma of rising and baking bread.  Jesus’ point seems clear: great things grow from small beginnings, and so it is with God’s kingdom.

But as I studied these parables, I discovered that when Jesus first told them, in the listener’s ears they had bite.  They were tangy, even a bit offensive.  The people of Jesus’ day were surprised, even shocked to hear him speaking of God’s kingdom that way.

That was especially true with the leaven.  Every other reference to leaven in scripture is negative.  Why?  Because leaven to Bible folk was not the clean, sanitary packaged yeast that our mamas used to make bread.  The way they made leaven was to take a lump of dough or a piece of bread, keep it in a dark, damp place until mold grew on it.  Then they used this moldy lump as the starter for the next batch of bread.

Picturing that, I can see why Bible people thought that leaven was unclean.  And as such, it was a fitting symbol for sin, corruption, creeping rot.  Like leaven, sin creeps through and corrupts everything.  No wonder Paul wrote to the Galatians, who were upset by a certain man’s teaching: “How can you let this troublesome teacher lead you astray?  Deal with him!  Don’t you know that a little leaven permeates the whole lump of dough?”  (Galatians 5:9).
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