I hope and pray this letter finds you well. This is a great time of year for spending time tending the garden and enjoying its beauty. Also, a time when the garden needs almost constant attention from the mowing of the grass to the weeding and the watering of the plants and vegetables. However, as I have said before, there is nothing more satisfying than looking out and seeing all your hard work paying off! Seeing plants grow and develop from small seeds to beautiful flowers or producing tasty fruit and vegetables is very satisfying indeed. Jesus often talked about plants and trees in His parables, he could have talked about other things such as carpentry or fishing or some other interest. Gardening and nature imagery though is useful for talking about growth, renewal, and development. We have two such parables used by Jesus in our readings for today from Mark 3: 26 – 34.
Jesus continues to speak to a large crowd by the Sea of Galilee and continues after the parable of the Sower and the lamp on a stand to talk about both the parable of the growing seed and the parable of the mustard seed. I shall deal with each in turn. Firstly, we come to the parable of the growing seed, which is unique to Mark’s gospel alone and focuses on the mysterious power of the seed to grow and germinate into a living plant. It talks of how the person who planted the seed goes about their daily business and whilst this is happening the seed sprouts and grows. The key to this is planting the seed in suitable soil to ensure that the seed has the best possible chance of growing in the first place. So, what is the point of the parable, well like the seed, which grows and develops, firstly under the earth, which is unseen and hidden, so the kingdom of God is. Then one day, like the plant popping through the earth, the kingdom of God will manifest itself in glory and be seen by all.
The parable of the mustard seed is more familiar to us all and talks of how such a little seed can turn into such great a plant. The text tells us the mustard seed is the smallest of all the seeds on earth, this is not actually true, the seed of the black orchid is smaller, but Jesus is not giving a lesson here on botany rather He is saying that its just an incredibly small seed which it is. However, the mustard seed, would have been the smallest seed that His audience would have been familiar with. The plant itself grows into a huge treelike shrub and some commentators have noted that they can grow some ten feet tall so certainly a large plant!
The purpose of the parable is to demonstrate how the kingdom of God started off small and weak but one day will become strong and powerful. We know from history how the church has grown and developed over the centuries and how it continues to grow and develop. Now though, due to the pandemic and various other factors, such as losing some beloved and long-standing members, our church at Northwood, seems to be going through a difficult time, as are many other churches, but we should not be discouraged because as these parables indicate the kingdom will continue to grow. As a church though, we need to be planted and rooted in the ‘right soil’ our foundation needs to be in Christ and we need to be tended by the Holy Spirit, our guide. Let us draw inspiration from Christ, His Word and His Spirit as we seek to renew ourselves and our church community, there we will see fresh growth, fruit and life in our church.
May our Lord Jesus Christ, our Sure Foundation, bless us now and always,