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11th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Ages 3-6): Marvellous Growth

Mark 4.26-34  (focusing on verses 30-32)


In the gospel reading this Sunday, Jesus tells us a parable. He wants so much for us to know about the Kingdom of God that he gives us these little mysteries to think about. The more we think about the parable, the closer we come to the mystery of the Kingdom of God.

Jesus says,

“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.”

There it is, the whole mystery. The Kingdom of God is like a mustard seed. What is so special about a mustard seed?

Jesus says it,

is the smallest

The smallest? Can small be special?

Adults may say they know what mustard seeds look like. They may go to the spice cupboard and pull out a jar of little yellow balls. These are mustard seeds, they will say. And they are right. Those are mustard seeds that grow in mustard weeds here in Canada and the United States.

But Jesus says these words in Israel. In Israel, mustard seeds are even smaller. They look like a dot on a page. They look like a flake of pepper. They look like a teeny tiny piece of dirt. They look like nothing at all special.

Here is a mustard seed from Israel:

It really is tiny, is it not?

How can something that small grow? It seems too small to do anything. It can hardly be important. If we drop it, how would we ever find it? It would be impossible.

But Jesus says the Kingdom of God is like this impossibly small mustard seed.

What does the mustard seed do?

Jesus says,

it grows up and becomes the greatest of all shrubs

Whoa. The smallest becomes the greatest? How can this be?

It is hard to imagine that this tiny little seed can become something so great. It must take a HUGE amount of energy for that seed to grow. And it does not just grow, though, does it? It has to change, too. It has to change from a tiny little round thing into a great shrub with branches sticking out all over where birds make their nests! Growing and changing—how can it do that when it is so small? Where does it get that incredible amount of energy? Who gives the mustard seed the strength it needs to grow?

Jesus says the Kingdom of God is like this. Does anything else start so impossibly small and become something so incredibly great? If we look around us, can we find that marvellous energy causing tiny things to grow and change? We cannot see it, can we? We cannot actually watch something or somebody grow. Small things are just small...until one day, they are not! And then, we know who has been working while we were not watching!

This is what the Kingdom of God is like. It starts small. With a marvellous strength, it grows. It changes. One day, it becomes so great.

Thinking about the Mustard Seed, we have drawn closer to the mystery of the Kingdom of God. We know something now about that mustard seed, so terribly small that no one should notice it. And we know that Someone does notice it. Someone fills it with a marvellous power to grow and become something so great. Someone thinks it is just perfect for the Kingdom of God.

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