For many years humans have believed that we can have as much as we want, or at least, as much as we can afford. We have had a belief in a world of endless resources; a world where everyone can have more, where nothing is rationed or limited. We are, of course, beginning to learn that this isn’t the case. The earth on which we live has limits, our consumption of goods has to slow down. We have to live more carefully, to treasure what we already have, to mend and repair rather than throw away. And of course we have to recycle – to reuse materials which we now understand to be finite.
This isn’t a new idea – in fact in Jesus’ day resources were understood to be a fixed quantity. There was only so much ‘stuff’. Anyone who became rich was therefore considered to be dishonest – taking what belonged to someone else. So there was no such thing as an honest rich person.
The only exception to this was the produce of farming – in flocks of animals, or the harvest of grapes or grain or olives. Interestingly, having lots of children was understood in the same way. If there was a good harvest, this was a blessing from God, a mystery, a miracle. You can hear this sense of mystery in today’s Gospel reading: 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.
So this Kingdom, the Kingdom of God, about which Jesus speaks so often is to do with the miraculous generosity of God in the establishment of his Kingdom. We see this again in the parable of the mustard seed – a parable we know well and love. The beautiful image of a tree in a hot land providing shade for the birds which live in its branches. We see Jesus’ sense of humour here – a mustard seed could never actually grow that big – in fact it was a rather scrawny looking plant. This is the equivalent of that familiar scene about fishermen boasting about the size of the salmon they’ve just caught – ‘it was huge – this big’ – when we realise it was really only ‘this big’!
But what is this really all about? What is this ‘kingdom’ about which Jesus spoke? Sadly there is no simple answer to this. Clearly, Jesus’ disciples thought initially that this was to do with the overthrowings of the Romans who were ruling Israel in ways which were considered unjust. Many became very poor because the state was taking so many of those limited resources away from people. There was undoubtedly cruelty and violence, and Jewish religious laws were often ignored or deliberately ridiculed. The hope was that Jesus would be proclaimed King, and order would be restored.
When Jesus was crucified, it began to dawn on people that he must have been talking about something else. This wasn’t a physical Kingdom – not like the United Kingdom – but a Kingdom of hearts and minds. A Kingdom of faithful people whose lives were to be centered on God; following Jesus’ teaching of love – love of neighbour, love for the poor and the sick, love for people unlike oneself, and even love of self. An all embracing love.
Now we know that this way of love very often isn’t like planting a mustard seed and getting a tree. It’s more like waiting for a seed to germinate and nothing happens, or planting an acorn knowing that the tree will take hundreds years to become anything worthy of being called a tree. And it’s very often much easier to spread the seeds of suspicion, hatred, and selfishness – sometimes this has much quicker results which can be curiously and immediately satisfying.
Sowers of the love of God have to have faith. For as much as the Kingdom isn’t confined to a geographical space, neither is it confined by time. We sow now, but the growth may be way in the future – we may never see it, we may never know what it is. We have to trust that the seed will sprout and grow – we know not how – that miracle is God’s, the place is God’s, the time is God’s. Our job is simply to plant the seeds of love, the seeds of the Kingdom, wherever we go – faithfully, doggedly, patiently and trustfully. Sowing a seed of love is never wasted. This is Jesus’ promise in these beautiful parables of the Kingdom.Tweet