Jesus told another parable to them: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that someone took and planted in his field. It’s the smallest of all seeds. But when it’s grown, it’s the largest of all vegetable plants. It becomes a tree so that the birds in the sky come and nest in its branches.”
I like this parable – it paints a picture of the beautiful contradiction that is the Kingdom of Heaven. It can be big and small. There’s another mustard seed reference later in Matthew 17 where Jesus says, “I assure you that if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you could say to this mountain, ‘Go from here to there,’ and it will go.” Over the course of time, I’ve heard a lot of sermons and read several devotionals on this passage that boil it down to a simple, “Just put your faith in God! Just trust him!” Oh, that’s all? Well. Ok.
Sometimes my faith is really big. In these big-faith moments, I really can fully trust God. But I’m going to be honest with you, church family. My faith is often less of a “big thriving tree” and more of a “tiny mustard seed.” Examples include:
- When I didn’t get a job that I thought my talents would have fit into like the final puzzle piece (I would have done SUCH good Kingdom Work, y’all!).
- When relationships that I thought would last forever turned toxic and failed.
- When one of the most beautiful people I know died suddenly for no good reason at all.
My tiny faith’s best effort was to yell at God, or more realistically, mutter at him under my breath. “Hey, remember that thing I told you I was mad at you about last week? I’m still mad at you. What the heck, God?” It didn’t matter that I knew God wasn’t responsible for my heartaches; I needed someone to hold responsible, and as the biggest person I know, God often takes the blame. Bless the Lord for his patience. In those moments, I couldn’t white-knuckle my faith into something big. Tiny faith is a surprisingly heavy burden to carry alone, so I reached for the phone. I called my aunt, a friend, my mom and dad. Each time the bottom fell out, I needed my people to carry my faith for me. Enter the Kingdom of Heaven.
In this passage, we are reminded that the Kingdom of Heaven is like a sprawling tree that birds nest in – big enough for all of creation to fit inside of it! It also reminds us that the Kingdom of Heaven is like a tiny seed – small enough to fit inside of us. But remember that the Kingdom of Heaven is a group project that requires community. A mustard seed doesn’t sprout from nowhere. It’s planted by someone who takes the time to cultivate it. Sun, rain, and good soil all contribute to its survival. Our faith doesn’t grow all by itself – it flourishes in togetherness. God gave us community for this very reason. There are times when we gather around our people to celebrate and dance with them. There are also times when we gather around our people to mourn with them and carry their faith for a little while. These beautiful contradictions are both manifestations of the Kingdom of Heaven.
I think the preachers and writers who taught me about this mustard seed were mostly right. We can trust God. God is a good and faithful (and patient!) God. But they forgot an important truth: when we find ourselves unable to trust on our own, we can lean on our people and let them trust for us. The Kingdom of Heaven is a phone call away.
Father in Heaven,
We are grateful that while our faith can be very small, you are very big. We know you work all things for good, but sometimes we have a hard time seeing that from this side of Heaven. In those moments, when our vision gets blurry from grief or frustration, we thank you that the Kingdom of Heaven is a community, that your people are our people. Give us the courage to accept help when we need it. Amen.