MESSAGE: 3rd Sunday after PENTECOST B 13th June 2021
Walk by Faith, not by sigh; see things how God sees them
These are three phrases (or texts) which stand out for me from the Lectionary readings:
1 Samuel 16:7 – “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for the Lord does not see as mortals see; they look on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.”
2 Corinthians 5:17 – “So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!”
Mark 4:32 – [The mustard seed] “when it is sown it grows up and becomes the greatest of all shrubs.”
God’s call is often unexpected. In this week’s scriptures, God interrupts Samuel on his way to Ramah, calling him to go to the house of Jesse, in Bethlehem.
While there, God has him anoint David, the youngest child of Jesse, to lead the people.
Throughout the readings for this week, the people and their leaders pray for the protection, wisdom, justice, and compassion they need to live by faith.
The realm of God is like a mustard seed, tiny as it is planted, but growing mysteriously into something large enough to offer refuge to everyone.
We’re called to embrace and nurture life in ways we do not understand. Life is a mystery, and we walk by faith.
After last week’s challenging call to stay faithful to our allegiance to God’s Reign, this week gives us a glimpse into how God seeks to work in our lives. It’s easy to get caught up in exceptionalism – in an addiction to always being special, grand and focused on appearances – in our faith.
But this week’s readings offer us a different way to experience God’s work in our lives.
There are two readings that you may hear in church this week. The first is the story of how the young David – the youngest son of an insignificant family – was anointed to be Saul’s successor as king of Israel. The second reading, from Mark’s Gospel, relates two parables that use seeds as the metaphor for God’s Reign. In both readings the message is clear: God often uses the least, the smallest, the hidden, to accomplish God’s purposes. God’s work is often subversive and hidden, and God often works God’s transformation by using small things to slowly and gently impact our world.
This week we will be exploring how to recognise and co-operate with the small, hidden work of God in our lives and our world.
Reflect: The two parables that Jesus tells in this reading are both simple and very comforting. In the one, the Reign of God is shown to be a reality that grows in secret in ways that we cannot control or even understand, but that produces fruit if we just nurture it and receive it. In the other, God’s Reign grows from small, but significant, things. The seed is the perfect metaphor for these truths. Farmers work with seeds – planting them, watering them, weeding the ground, nourishing the soil – but no farmer can make a seed grow. All they do is co-operate with the process of growth that is built into the seed. In the same way, we cannot make God’s Reign grow. We can only open our hearts and allow the seed to be sown into our hearts. We can only nurture, nourish, and water the seed, and then trust that God’s Reign will grow in our hearts and lives. Furthermore, the miracle of the seed is that a tiny thing can become a large and sheltering plant. God’s Reign is like this. Even the smallest actions, attitudes, words, and thoughts can be seeds that can grow into significant movements or realities in which God’s Reign is manifest.
The invitation that lies in these two stories is simple. Rather than strive in our own ability to make God’s Reign visible in our lives and our world, we need only open ourselves to God’s activity and presence. Then, often in ways that we can’t observe or control, God’s Reign begins to take hold of us, and we begin to change – with the result that we begin to reflect the character and compassion of Jesus, and bring life, healing, and welcome to others. How can you open your heart to the seed of God’s Reign today? How can you trust the process of growth that God has created to bring the change you need in your life?
Do: It can be helpful, in seeking to allow God’s Reign to grow in us, to learn to be more mindful. This doesn’t mean we have to “watch” the growth process or try to control it. It just means that we look for the signs that God’s Reign is becoming visible in our lives. The practice of listening – to our hearts, to others and to the world around us – is a good way to grow in mindfulness. Try it today.
Pray: Open my awareness to the seeds of God’s Reign growing in my heart and in my world.