Then Jesus asked, What is the kingdom of God like? What shall I compare
it to? It is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his
garden. It grew and became a tree, and the birds of the air perched in
I am constantly amazed by the complexity of nature; how something so
small and compact as a mustard seed can contain all the information needed
to make a new plant, programme cells to become roots, shoots and leaves,
and to be responsive to heat, light and day length. No one tells the flower
when to bloom or the plant when to shed its leaves, die back and conserve
its energies until the following Spring - all that 'knowledge' is there
already, held within the genetic information contained in that tiny seed.
That seed can remain dormant for some considerable time, unchanging, until the right conditions are put into place and then, almost as if by magic the process of growth begins. All this is part of the mystery of nature, which is itself the mystery of God's creativity.
When we sow a seed we are hoping for a harvest, looking ahead to a time when the seed will have reached its true potential - there's little point in sowing otherwise. No farmer scatters seed hoping for weeds or bare earth, there is a purpose in the sowing and an expectation for the future
When Jesus gave the example of the mustard seed he was talking about the Kingdom of God, and the picture we see is of this being established from something that is almost insignificant to human eyes. The mustard seed was not out if the ordinary; mustard was a common plant throughout the land, to the point where it could almost be thought of as a weed.
The Kingdom of God was revealed through one man, Jesus Christ and a small band of very ordinary mustard seed people. It continues to grow wherever such seeds are planted and allowed to flourish. The Kingdom of God will explode into blossom when harvest time arrives, as Habakkuk prophesised
"For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea." (Habakkuk 2:14)
The seed is also a reminder to us that without change the seed is nothing but potential. In order to be fulfilled, to achieve that for which it was created there has to be change, and this can only happen when the seed is exposed to the correct medium for growth. In the packet the seed can never blossom, devoid of light and water. Sown in the earth and regularly fed and watered there is every chance that it can reach its full potential.
Change is something that often causes division. We prefer the status quo, the comfortable sameness with which we surround ourselves. Change can mean challenge; it can force us to re-examine our lives, our attitudes, prejudices and priorities. There are many people within our churches who are like the seed within the packet - full of potential but lacking the means to achieve it. There are millions of people in this world who have yet to blossom and reach their true potential.
What is our full potential? It is to become the people that we were created to be; to show in our lives the colour, vitality and beauty that is displayed on the outside of the seed packet; to reflect the beauty of the Creator. None of this can happen unless we break out of the packet of comfort in which we sit, and immerse ourselves in the One who can feed, nourish and enable us.
Gardening is a wonderfully fulfilling hobby. If you have the time, and by now you must have realised that finding time is very important, do the simple thing of planting a few seeds in a pot of earth. Play God by tending to the needs of those seeds, watering and feeding when required, exposing them to the light and warmth of the sun.
Make the exercise more than just a gardening experiment by looking at what is happening with spiritual eyes. I do realise that there is a risk here. Experience has taught me that seedlings can wilt and die, so don't get too despondent if this happens - the analogy is not perfect, it probably just means that, like me, you don't have green fingers when it comes to growing things!
Lord, purge our eyes to see
Within the seed a tree
Within the glowing egg a bird
Within the shroud a butterfly
Till, taught by such, we see
Beyond all creatures, thee.
Christina Rossetti (1830-1894)
1. Stop for a moment to think about the wonder of a seed, and the potential contained within. How could you take this picture and expand it to become a spiritual message that might be shared with a friend or colleague?
2. Sowing seeds is a good analogy for spreading the Good News of the Gospel message,
but how easy is this in reality?
In what situations do you find seed sowing difficult, and why should this be?
3. Consider yourself as a seed, planted by God. Assuming that the ground in which you
have been planted is fertile, how do you imagine that you look to God?
Have you shown signs of growth? Are you blossoming and bearing fruit?
The same question of course could be asked of a church.
©John Birch, faithandworship.com (More Bible Studies avilable on the Faith & Worship website)