Tag Archives: kingdom of God

An Inevitable, Unstoppable Kingdom

Mark 4:30–32
30 Again he said, “What shall we say the kingdom of God is like, or what parable shall we use to describe it? 31 It is like a mustard seed, which is the smallest seed you plant in the ground. 32 Yet when planted, it grows and becomes the largest of all garden plants, with such big branches that the birds of the air can perch in its shade.”

This short parable of Jesus is packed with significance for us. In attempting to explain the nature of God’s Kingdom (ie. God’s “rule and reign”), Jesus used the picture of a mustard seed.

mustard seeds
Photo courtesy of Anja Herbert Noordam

The mustard seed indigenous to the land of Israel is extremely small.  To the naked eye a single mustard seed seems trivial.

What possible significance could come from something so small?

Indeed, it’s difficult to image that from just one mustard seed a tree like this could emerge:

 

mustard seed tree
Photo courtesy of Anja Herbert Noordam

Many sermons have emphasized the point of Jesus’ parable to be that God’s kingdom begins small–almost imperceptively so–but grows large.  That is an important (and encouraging!) dimension to this teaching.  But there’s another aspect to this parable that sometimes goes unnoticed.

In the first-century laws were in place that placed strict parameters on where mustard seeds could be planted.  Why?  Because the aggressive, fast-growing nature of the mustard plant caused some to view it as a “malignant weed” with “dangerous takeover properties” (Michael F. Bird, Jesus and the Origins of the Gentile Mission, Continuum, 2006, pp. 73–77).

From the Wikipedia Entry on the parable:

Pliny the Elder (Roman Naturalist and philosopher) , in his Natural History (published around AD 78) writes that “mustard… is extremely beneficial for the health. It grows entirely wild, though it is improved by being transplanted: but on the other hand when it has once been sown it is scarcely possible to get the place free of it, as the seed when it falls germinates at once.”

The significance of this fact is incredibly important for us to understand.  Jesus wants his disciples to understand that although the kingdom starts small, it’s growth is inevitable and unstoppable.  Regardless of where it’s planted, God’s kingdom is a offensive, encroaching, non-domesticated force that quickly overwhelms the ecosystem around it with God’s power, joy, love, grace, and truth.

Last Sunday about 60 people gathered at our church to worship, share communion together, pray, and learn more about following Jesus.  By Sunday afternoon I found myself reflecting on the the future of our church within the broader Nelson community. To the naked eye our church seems trivial.  

What possible significance could come from something so small?

And I realized in light of this teaching that I was asking the wrong question.

If we are sincerely following Jesus and allowing God to establish his kingdom within our lives, growth and impact will materialize.  The question I should have been mulling over was, “What possible significance will come from something so small?”

Because the kingdom of God is like a mustard seed.  It has takeover properties.  Despite its meager beginnings, life-giving impact to the surrounding ecosystem is inevitable and unstoppable.

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One-Minute Review: “Journey to the Common Good”

Today I finished a short, punchy book by Walter Brueggemann called Journey to the Common Good.  Here’s my one-minute review.

 

common good journey

 

“What is Journey to the Common Good all about?”
Brueggemann is a brilliant Old Testament scholar who draws powerful connections between the decisive events of the Old Testament (e.g. enslavement, exodus, Sinai covenant, exile, etc.,) and our contemporary political and social landscape.  In just 115 pages, Journey to the Common Good contrasts the life-defining narratives and values offered by the empires of this world (both ancient and modern) against those of the kingdom of God.  Brueggemann offers Israel’s journey as a nation as the pattern for how the people of God today can release themselves from the empire’s distorted values of wisdom, power, and wealth, and embrace the values of God’s kingdom; values that lead to common good flourishing for all.  Brueggemann believes the realization of this kind of communal life can only be achieved through “neighbourliness,” covenanting, and reconstructing a social imagination based on the distinctively prophetic texts of the Old Testament.

“Should I read it?”
Maybe.  Journey is a dense book.  There’s absolutely no filler.  There’s no feel-good stories, humorous quips, and I don’t remember one illustration.  It’s a fiery, intense book.  On the positive side, that means the book ends up being a scant 115 pages.  On the negative side, its literary intensity and compactness doesn’t offer a lot of breathing room.  Personally I found Journey to be incredibly stimulating, but I could see how many people might not connect with Brueggemann’s material due to its “no nonsense” approach, and due to the fact that there’s no emotional bridge into the subject matter.  Journey is the very definition of a Mind type book!  That being said, for those looking for a rich and insightful analysis of why Christians ought to be committed to the common good, and ways to practically subvert empiric values that demean and dehumanize, this small book will have a big impact.

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