Bill and I have been married almost 31 years.  He knows my sense of humor really well, which tends to be kind of dry and sarcastic.  There are many things I do not think are funny that other people enjoy.  As a general rule I don’t like watching comedies because I think they often go too far; worse yet, I sometimes miss the joke – I don’t understand why something is funny; then I ask a clarifying question only to be told I made the joke “not funny”.  Now that our daughter is an adult, she too accuses me of making jokes “not funny”.  So, I decided that that is my role in our family; to make jokes not funny.  The way I see it, someone has to do it.

I hadn’t really thought about the parable of the mustard seed as something that is a bit of a joke by Jesus who is always making us look at things much differently than we might otherwise.  He speaks of the mustard seed being the smallest of all seeds; but then he describes it as a strong plant where birds can nest there; now full disclosure, I am not a gardener.  While I enjoy a pretty garden, I don’t think the hours of work put into one is really worth it to me.  I have other things I need my time for, and planting things isn’t one of them.  Talking about the world in terms of farming or gardening was common in Jesus’ day, and so he uses the parable of the mustard seed to make a point.  Being the smallest of seeds is likely true, but talking about it as a large bush that can house various birds might be a bit of a stretch.  I never thought about it before, but the mustard plant really isn’t a mighty bush that protects birds all that often.  Sometimes the plant can grow to a height of 6 feet, but really more resembles a weed than a mighty bush. Is it possible that Jesus was trying to make a joke and here I am trying to make the joke not funny?

If we take a look at the plant itself, it really seems to look like more of a weed than a mighty bush; and it’s kind of small, somewhat invasive and more like a weed than a true plant one would want in their crops…

What I find about both of these parables is how they compare the kingdom to something that grows without a lot of help; the plants described are somewhat invasive and move slowly before they look like much of a crop; and in the first parable it seems like the person tending garden really doesn’t do much at all other than plant, and before they know it, the garden is erupting with growth.

In my work as area missioner I talk a lot about seed planting which has got to be some sort of joke on God’s part.  All of the churches I am working with are smaller than St. Michael’s and trying to find a thing “to do” and to be known for is often difficult because we all feel like we aren’t really equipped to do some of the things we feel called to do.  And that is where these parables come in… when we are faithful seed planters who try to make sure that the seeds are tended to, we are often rewarded with a favorable crop, sometimes without visible work on our part.  The seeds of God’s kingdom can be very small indeed – isn’t that how much our ministry is?  We get an idea or perhaps even one of those  “Holy Spirit” shoves I talked about last week, and if you stop to think about how absurd the idea really is, then it’s likely that we won’t continue on because we become afraid that our ideas won’t produce any fruit.  But Jesus seems to be saying that it doesn’t matter.  Our ideas and our passions for ministry may seem kind of silly or unattainable to us… but when we allow God to help tend to the garden of our kingdom work and ideas, even the smallest idea, the smallest of seeds is capable of becoming something we do not expect; our successes in ministry are difficult to manage and see but what I think he’s telling us here is that outcomes are not our concern.  And the joke seems to be that in the kingdom of God, the outcomes are big and grand to the point of ridiculousness.  The tree that grows from the mustard seed is not an expected outcome, but can be the outcome in God’s kingdom, because even though God is sometimes a really bad farmer, you cannot argue with the results.  God’s idea of farming is to just scatter the seed wherever we are and with the help of the Holy Spirit, watch what happens.  It is what our psalm this morning says that “those who are planted in the house of the Lord shall flourish in the courts of the Lord, they shall still bear fruit in old age they shall be green and succulent.”  What plant in its old age produces like it did as a young plant?  Any one who has the Lord as their farmer.  Even us.

I don’t know if I made the joke “not funny” today or not.  But I hope that we can be encouraged by our God to take risks with the resources that we have; and that we can live in the hope of God’s abundant resources to help us to grow God’s kingdom on earth as it is in heaven.  

May we scatter the seeds God has given us with reckless abandon.  With the help of the Holy Spirit and the example of Jesus, may we continue his work here on earth to bring the kingdom of God to full realization.  There is much that needs to be done.  Where are we being called to plant new seeds?