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Growth, it would seem, is a mysterious, urgent, and risky process. The Scriptures suggest that growth and regrowth would also seem to be what we are spiritually called to be aspire to. But our particular texts this week (Fourth Sunday after Pentecost. Proper 6 (11). Mark 4:26-34; 1 Samuel 15:34-16:13; Psalm 20 and 2 Corinthians 5:6-10, 14-17.) also seems to demonstrate that growth is not always a straightforward “onwards and upwards” but a much more confusing and fraught path as individually and communally we flourish and founder at regular intervals.

You may like to read what I wrote three years ago in response to the same gospel and the Ezekiel reading.

It is said that it is written in the Talmud: “... every blade of grass has its angel that bends over it and whispers ‘Grow, grow.’” Growth, as our first beautiful parable from Mark’s gospel reading this week illustrates, is a mysterious unfolding according to a process that is inherent in the seed, in the design of things. And so we might reflect that the tendency toward growth is a natural instinctive urge, is an expression of a living beings’ true self, an unfolding of our Creator’s purpose for us and through us.


But as other “seed” parables (Mark 4:26-34) have described growth is not always easy with some falling in poor soil and by rocky paths. And the parable of the mustard seed, while full of growth – rampant growth - is not a straight forward teaching about beautiful growth for the mustard ‘tree’ was really an invasive scrubby bush not the grand cedar that was often a symbol of successful empires! Therefore as a metaphor for growth as individual persons and the community of faith, or the kingdom, the mustard seed parable speaks to a more tricky, sneaky, invasive, out of left field, mode of growth. Some of us may prefer the image of the mighty cedar to the wily invasive mustard bush but some of us can identify with the image of flourishing in inhospitable places and despite our less than noble nature!


Indeed when we hear the story of King David, the ruddy faced lad, being chosen we delight in his anointing but we also know that the day will come when he is revealed to himself as a murderous greedy leader who has brought suffering upon his family. And yet even in David’s remorse and brokenness God will work through David for his and Israel’s growth and flourishing. With God it is not one or the other but growth by grace even in the real life mess that we find ourselves in.


Whatever our growth journey it is not simply for us but it is very much for and as community, or kingdom, that we are called to growth. Whether mighty cedars or mustard bushes we are to flourish and provide shade and shelter to the birds of the air, travellers and neighbours. This is not simply a beautiful image but a very real and urgent call to grow into a community that respects the needs of others – birds of the air, water and the other elements, and all our neighbours near and far. It is a call to growth that is ecologically and socially just and generous. And if there is not room and elements supportive of a mighty cedar then let us be sneaky, invasive, persistent mustard bushes (or creators of good trouble as Senator John Lewis encouraged). Still large and robust enough to create shade and shelter.


I sometimes think we are given so many curious parables about the nature of the kingdom because our invitation is written in enough languages and images so that we can all hear and see ourselves invited and included, and so that if the kingdom does not emerge quickly and mightily in our time we can be inspired to grow in more stealthy and resistant ways!


The kingdom does not appear to be lowered out of the heavens all glorious and ready-made for us to attend a banquet (just yet) but a community of the lost and least being made out of the fragments and fractured hopes of people who gain and lose their faith in the stony soils of our times. Let us celebrate that the kingdom in not only like a mighty cedar but also like a pesky mustard bush. Let us celebrate that there is not only room for us all but there is need of us all. We are each and all being called to grow, grow ... until we are all new creations and part of the ecology of God.

Even so, come Lord Jesus the Christ, come entice us to grow and become a place of shelter and shade.






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