The Third Sunday after Pentecost
June 13, 2021
The Rev. Christine Gilson
How many of us “of a certain age” have a Sunday School mustard seed necklace or a pocket token hidden in our memory boxes. Remember? Remember the lessons that said we were supposed to have faith the size of a mustard seed and we could even move mountains? Did some of us hold our necklaces or tokens and pray and pray something like, “Lord I have faith – please move that tree into the lake?” And of course it didn’t happen.
And then, when it didn’t happen we may have asked, “Well, where were you Jesus? Why didn’t what you said “come true”? You said, “If you had faith the size of a mustard seed.”
And then, we hid the necklace or the token in the back of our memory boxes and forgot them. And we hid our childhood faith in the back of our minds – the faith that God would always make things come out the way we wanted. That became as cast off as those Sunday School objects. And we grew up – or thought we did. And as we grew we tried and tried to make things come out right ourselves and control the results because we didn’t think that God had that power.
Maybe it’s time to search the places where we store our cast-off childhood items and look at those mustard seeds with new eyes. Maybe it’s time to dust off our childhood faith and look at it with new eyes too. Maybe it’s time to realize that it was never about our faith all along – but the grace of God – planted in our hearts as the tiniest of seeds, but growing all the time, even when we are unaware.
I wonder if those seeds might make us think about something else. Perhaps the seeds are the everyday un-self-conscious things we do that God uses to build God’s kingdom.
Look! Have you ever done a kindness for a complete stranger? Or said a kind word to a person who waited on you? Or thanked someone repairing a street for their hard work? Those actions and words may have made a world of difference in their lives.
Have you ever had someone thank you for something you’ve completely forgotten? They tell you about a chance remark or an action that made a real difference to them? You never had the slightest idea, of course, until they mention it. But that tiny act turned out to have made a big difference in their world. Maybe someone says they remember a Sunday school lesson you taught that has given them hope in their lives, and thanks you. Someone thanks you for your prayers or your presence when they were going through a bad time.
Someone hears you go to St. James and says that’s a beautiful church – I feel close to God the times I’ve been there. Someone says to you “I was baptized here” and here my faith began.
Or even (since sacraments appear in many ways) “I love the Olde English Tea – it makes a real difference to me. Even that is a branch of the kingdom of God.
Or, in the inner city right here. A man climbs the side stairs to St. John’s to go to sleep for the night. Perhaps he is a bird nesting in the shade of the shrub that is St. John’s building. A branch of the kingdom of God. Safety to those in need.
In spite of those illustrations, it is not the great and noticeable things we do, but the unknown, as hidden as seeds in the ground. And we are not to be self-conscious about it – not to be like small children who sometimes pull up new plants to see if they’re growing. God invites us in this morning’s Gospel to learn how to let seeds grow, both in our lives and in the lives of those around us, without trying to control the process. Maybe the invitation is to live without fretting about whether we are sowing enough seed, or the right kind, or in the right place.
That – is where faith comes in. We trust in God to give the growth (like the sower, we don’t know how it happens). We are not to start looking at everything we do with an eye to “is this the deed that will change everything? “Am I doing well enough? Our faith also does not allow us to try to do spectacular things and say “Oh look what I’ve done to build God’s kingdom” but to go about our lives faithfully, as Paul says, “We make it our aim to please God.” In that faith, we don’t worry about progress or control or doing things right – we just believe that God will grow what we do in God’s good time.
So – take out those mustard seeds – or simply take a seed and contemplate it. Realize that, just as the entire plant is contained in the seed, the kingdom of God is contained in every seed-like word or action in which we aim to please God and God will grow it – we know not how or when or where – our faith is indeed in God who gives the growth – and that is enough.
And now in the words of the creed let us stand and affirm our common “mustard seed” faith.