Bible: Mark 4:26 - 32
He also said, ‘The kingdom of God is as if someone would scatter seed on the ground, and would sleep and rise night and day, and the seed would sprout and grow, he does not know how. The earth produces of itself, first the stalk, then the head, then the full grain in the head. But when the grain is ripe, at once he goes in with his sickle, because the harvest has come.'
He also said, ‘With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable will we use for it? It is like a mustard seed, which, when sown upon the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth; yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes the greatest of all shrubs, and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade.'
What always strikes me about these verses is that they say "The Kingdom of God is.... not will be, but is. The kingdom, a realm of power, is now. Maybe it's "now, but not yet", as one of my lecturers repeated many times, but certainly now. It is to be experienced now.
Parables are for contemplating. They are not a scientific, text book description of a process. They are not allegories, where each item in the story has a specific meaning. (Although, in fact, the parable of the sower (Mark 4:1-9) is treated as an allegory by the later? verses 13-20.)
Parables are ambiguous. They provoke. They are, as our minister Peter said on Sunday, wrong in some way. As Peter said, we don't just sow the seed and leave it! We tend the crops. Even in this age of broadacre farming, we spend thousands of dollars on spray, or crop rolling, or thinning. A farmer would look at the parable fo the seed and say, "Yeah, right!" But there is also a truth. Something happens beyond us. We play our part, and more happens again. The kingdom is more than us. And the kingdom is now.
And then we have the mustard. Mustard is a weed. It attracts and protects birds, which also feed on the crop. The wild mustard, where I grew up, takes over whole paddocks in a swathe of yellow, using up the valuable soil water.
What farmer would plant a weed? Does the kingdom start from the smallest of beginnings and suddenly grow like a weed?! The power of parables is demonstrated by the fact that in California, according to Margaret at Leave it lay where Jesus flang it, they purposely grow mustard in the vineyards for soil restoration. I wonder how they read this parable?
Direct Biblical quotations in this page are taken from The New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
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