Based on Ezekiel 17:22-24, Psalm 20, Mark 4: 26-32
Sermon Title – Seeds of Faith
**Note, this preacher uses a modified order of rooms than what’s presented in the videos on this site. I encourage you to pick the locations and order that most closely match your own residence.
Location 1: Front Yard.
PICTURE: large lilacs in your front yard, your husband out there with the clippers, etc. (Should be pretty easy since this is a personal story.)
My favourite flowers are lilacs, I love the smell, in fact I’m convinced heaven smells like lilacs. We have a bush in our backyard by our kitchen window. For two weeks in the early summer, I press my face against the screen in the window to smell the lilacs.
The thing about the bush, though, is that it can grow quite big and cover the window the rest of the summer. Well, one year my husband, to my horror, took a pair of gardening shears and cut that bush down to about three feet high.
To me, all that was left weresome bare sticks coming out of the ground. My husband assured me though that it would come back. I admit I was doubtful and believed that I had seen the last of my lilacs.
Well, if any of you have ever pruned your lilac bushes, you know it not only came back, but was even taller than before, the lilacs smelling just as sweet and my husband coming in from the dog house!
Location 2: Inside Front Door
PICTURE: Ezekiel inside your front door. The light is out – he is under the shadow of Babylon. A glimmer of hope shines in the dark. A tree grows up through the floor beside Ezekiel.
Two of today’s Bible passages talk about growth. Not just any growth, but growth that is tied directly to the nurturing care of God.
Ezekiel was a prophet during the exile of the Israelites in Babylon. God’s chosen people had been captured and taken to a foreign land. They lived as slaves under a harsh regime.
This was not a time of promise or peace for the people of Israel. Today’s passage though, there shines one glimmer of hope in a dark world, for all is not lost because the hand of God is at work.
For God took a sprig of a tree, planted it, where it grew into a noble cedar. What a message of hope for an exiled people. Even the smallest and the most downtrodden can have hope of rescue and redemption when God is at work.
Location 3: Living Room
PICTURE: Mark in your living room, scattering seeds on the floor. A Bible commentator lays on the couch taking a nap. A banner hangs on the wall which reads “God is working in the world, in the church, in our lives despite what we do.”
The Gospel passage from Mark follows the same theme of growth, growth that is only possible with God. We heard two interesting illustrations that describe the Kingdom of God.
In the first, seeds are scattered on the ground and left alone. Now, I hate to admit this, but my gardening style tends to be like that and while it may not look pretty, it’s amazing how many tomatoes and beans have survived my neglect.
One commentator on this passage said, it’s funny that “The comfort in this parable is to consider the possibility that the most helpful thing I could do to advance the Kingdom of God is to take a nap.”
As the passage says, “For it 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 important message for us is the reassurance we have, that through faith, we know that God is working in the world, in the church, in our lives despite what we do.
Location 4: Dining Room
PICTURE: a mustard plant growing out of floor. Jesus is there, showing the plant to the crowd, explaining the Kingdom of Heaven.
The second illustration in Mark’s Gospel is even better. I love this parable of the tiniest of mustard seeds producing a huge bush, not a tall stately tree, but the largest of all garden plants. One that even birds can find shade.
“The Kingdom of God is like … a mustard seed? Now, surely the Kingdom of God is like something more majestic or powerful, something really big. Like a mountain, or the cedar described in Ezekiel.
A mustard seed? That is like comparing the Kingdom of God to a dandelion which sows itself. It is tough to get rid of, in fact rather impossible to get rid of. It is very hard to tame; to get it to grow only where we want it to.”
Jesus is telling us that the Kingdom of God is not controlled by us, we can’t direct it the way we want. It shows up in our ordered lives without our planning or expectation. God shows up in our ordered lives without our planning or expectation.
The Kingdom of God is like a mustard seed.
As usual, Jesus uses these kinds of parables to awaken our imaginations and help us to look at something we’ve seen a hundred times before or something so insignificant, like a mustard seed, to see it from a new perspective or a new vantage point.
Location 5: Kitchen Sink
PICTURE: Your mother washing the piece of stained glass artwork in the kitchen sink. Picture the other women coming up behind her and seeing the different images in the artwork. Also picture the mustard on the kitchen counter, and all its many forms/uses, including a skunk.
My mother is a stained glass artist, she takes pieces of glass and fashions them into abstract pieces of art. Recently, she gave one of her pieces to a friend as a farewell gift.
As the group of women who had gathered to say good bye admired the piece, there began a discussion on where the top and the bottom was. It was kind of circle shaped andwas made different shaped pieces of glass in shades of blue and green and held together with strips of copper.
Held one way, some women saw a tree with branches, held another way, some saw layers of water and sky. It all depended on each one’s perspective.
Take the mustard seed. When you grind it up, it becomes a seasoning and a condiment, or it can be used as a decongestant when made into a poultice, I’ve also heard that mixed with hot water, ground mustard seed can get rid of a skunk smell.
Location 6: Creative Room
PICTURE: God and/or Jesus CREATING the Kingdom (not us), the plant growns. We watch and learn how to assist, in faith.
When Jesus compares the Kingdom of God with the mustard seed, we need to consider the possibility of that Kingdom, not something that we as human beings arrange or create, but is fashioned by God, for the Kingdom of God is made only through God, not our doing.
Our task though is to recognize our role in that Kingdom. To see the possibilities in what seems impossible.To have the faith to believe that a tiny seed can grow into something an amazing large bush.
Location 7: Master Bedroom
PICTURE: Mother Teresa in the corner with her 3 pennies (the nuns gather around her. Dr. Paul Brand has pain and his wife operate on lepers lying on the bed, replacing tendons. The well-known author and friend is watching them, making his comment.
The winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, Mother Teresa of Calcutta, began her orphanage with such a vision. She told her superiors, “I have three pennies and a dream From God to build an orphanage.”
A dream and three pennies represented resources as small as a mustard seed.
“Mother Teresa,” her superiors chided gently, “you cannot build an orphanage with three pennies…with three pennies you can’t do anything.”
“I know,” she said, smiling, “but with God and three pennies I can do anything.”
Re-imaging, re-imagining, became the life’s work of Dr. Paul Brand. He found that looking at something normally considered negative, from a new perspective, changed the way he interacted with his patients.
For Dr. Paul Brand discovered that for some, pain was a gift. Now, most of us, we don’t consider pain to be a gift and we try to find remedies to our physical pain. Let’s face it, when something hurts, we just want it to go away.
So, why would Dr. Paul Brand consider pain a gift?
Dr. Brand was raised by missionary parents in India in the early 20th century. After being educated in England as a doctor, he returned to India and saw the despair of those who were afflicted by leprosy.
We often hear about lepers in the Bible, how Jesus cured them and how he went against the cultural norms and treated them with care and compassion, as human beings.
And we forget that this horrible disease still affects over 3 million people today and that its spread is the direct result of poverty and still today it comes with a stigma, a stigma that causes the victims to be alienated from family and community support.
Paul Brand and his wife Margaret, a skilled surgeon as well, worked for many years developing reconstructive techniques for those whose bodies became deformed from this debilitating disease.
He developed tendon replacement techniques that gave many the use of their hands and feet back. Margaret performed hundreds of surgeries to repair the damaged eyes of those who were at risk of blindness due to the disease. Together they gave hope and a new chance at life to hundreds of patients.
Well known author and friend of the Brands, says, “Having spent many hours with them both, I cannot help but think that this was the vision of God for humanity: talented people serving others with cheer and compassion while embracing life-all of it- with contentment and gratitude.”
Location 8: Furnace Room
PICTURE a leper touching the hot furnace, but not feeling the burn. Dr Brand is there, and explains the value of pain.
But even more important than their reconstructive surgeries, was a scientific medical breakthrough attributed to Dr. Brand. For he was the first to discovery that leprosy does not directly destroy tissue, but the disease destroys the nerve endings and because the nerve ending are destroyed, people with leprosy do not feel pain.
As much as we dislike pain, pain protects the body, it signals that something is wrong. Without that signal, leprosy patients do damage to their bodies and don’t know it, causing even more damage.
Dr. Brand said, “I thank God for pain, I cannot think of a greater gift I could give my leprosy patients.”
Pain as a gift, not the usual way of looking at it. It is interesting that Paul Brand spent a life time causing pain to others in an attempt to save their lives. His life’s work was to reimagine the world, to take to the humble mustard seed, and see it from a new perspective.
Location 9: Attic
PICTURE: Mustard seeds in the attic, hard to see/find, but full of possibilities.
Where are the mustard seeds today? Where do you see the mustard seeds of God’s Kingdom in the world? When something common becomes something amazing.
Jesus saw the tiny mustard seeds in terms of possibility not in terms of what they were, but what they could be. We are invited to look for mustard seeds around us and see the possibilities too.
Location 10: Backyard
PICTURE: your backyard is just a field, with a manse in it. People and other buildings grow over time. Seeds grow in the field. The people try to discern their gifts/role/work. They leap as they discover their roles?
Next week is the 150th anniversary of this congregation that began with a manse in a field. I read through the history book produced for this celebration and found mustard seeds of faith everywhere.
God has been working in this church through the actions of the faithful and despite the actions of the faithful. That’s the contradiction, the puzzle of the today’s growth parables.
Our actions, God actions. Seeds sprinkled on the ground, growing by the hand of God. The tiniest mustard seed growing into a great bush.The kingdom of God is here, but is yet to come. If God makes the Kingdom come, what is our role, our role as the church?
That is the question for us today.
I’m going to suggest that it is our role to proclaim and to serve the kingdom of God, for God is already at work in the world.
But we can proclaim and we serve the kingdom of God by reimagining the tiniest mustard seed. To take a leap of faith, to be seeds of faith.
LOCATION 11 (back to 1): Front Yard
PICTURE: Six groups of seeds growing. 1) in pain, 2) untouchable,
3) three pennies, 4) 150 years of traditions, 5) new traditions,
6) Seeds of faith found today, scattered by hands of God.
Seeds of faith are found in the pain that saves lives.
Seeds of faith are found when the untouchables are cared for and given new hope.
Seeds of faith are found when three pennies and God will build an orphanage.
Seeds of faith are found here in the honoured traditions of the last 150 years.
Seeds of faith are found in new traditions, new traditions that allow us to reimagine the future, a future that begins with the tiniest mustard seed and then grows into a great bush.
Seeds of faith are found today, in the Kingdom of God, scattered by hands of God. Thanks be to God.