Have you ever noticed a mustard seed at the bottom of a jar of pickles? It is hard to imagine that something so tiny could grow into a large bush or tree. Yet this seed is used by Jesus Christ to explain the marvelous in breaking of God’s reign or kingdom into the world.
“[The kingdom of God] 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” (Mark 4:30-32).
There is an ancient story that illustrates something of what this parable reveals of God’s reign: An elderly woman was on pilgrimage to a saint’s shrine at the top of a mountain. It was during the rainy season. When the local innkeeper realized what she was trying to do, he said, “You will never be able to climb that mountain in weather like this.” “My friend,” the woman said, “that will be no problem at all. You see, my heart has been there all my life. Now it is simply a matter of taking my body there as well.”
In a very real sense, when we gather as Christians we’re trying to do what the woman in this story struggles to do―live into the place where our hearts already are. We acknowledge that this place is so much larger than we are, but that only impels us more strongly to live the gospel of Jesus Christ, and to live it large.
Whenever we pray the words of the Our Father that Jesus taught us, we ask, “May your reign come to be!” Another way of praying for this is to ask, “Help us to live fully into the place where our hearts already are!” As we gather to pray, reflect, discern, and act for justice, we ask God to transform us from a tiny mustard seed, full of potential and promise, to a tree that branches out, reaches out, to welcome all people into the reign of God. We ask our Father to transform our hearts and our world so that God’s reign, kingdom, and will may come to its fullness here and now.
As we open ourselves to this transformation or change of heart, our relationship with Jesus Christ is transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit. This radically new relationship is the coming of the reign of God. It must catch our attention to realize that we cannot know Jesus intimately without responding to this reign.
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