Welcome to the Foundations daily podcast. My name is Helen, and I’m part of the team here at STC Sheffield. It’s great to have you join us this week as we continue our journey through the Gospel of Luke. Today our passage is Chapter 13 v 18-35, and we will be focusing on the first two verses:
“Then Jesus asked, ‘What is the Kingdom of God like? What shall I compare it to? It is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his garden. It grew and became a tree, and the birds perched in its branches.”
I wonder if you made any New Year’s Resolutions, and if you have managed to stick to them? My resolutions are the same every year: eat less chocolate, and try to reach the bottom of the washing basket at least once in the next 52 weeks! Those of you working full time, with 3 kids, know this last statement is more of a fantasy than a resolution!
However, at the beginning of this year I felt God asking me to reflect on 3 questions. These were: Where am I called to create something with God? What am I cultivating? And how am I helping others to flourish? In today’s Bible passage, we see these same three themes: Create, Cultivate and Flourish.
As Christians we all have a calling, and that is to see the Kingdom of God grow and become more evident here on earth. The way we live out or express that calling is different for each one of us, but the calling itself is the same – we are called to help create the kingdom of God.
The man in verse 19 has a mustard seed. It is tiny, brown and dry. In the palm of his hand it would seem insignificant and uninspiring. He could have looked at that seed and thought nothing great would ever come from it.
But the man took a step of faith. He planted it.
Rather than leaving it as a tiny, dry seed in a packet, he chose to put it in the soil.
He chose to work with God to create something new, to release the potential of the seed, to discover what it would grow to become.
And so the first question from these verses is where am I, or what am I, called to create with God?
We may not be a farmer with a mustard seed……perhaps you’re an accountant balancing the books, a shop assistant stacking shelves. Perhaps we are just trying to reach the bottom of the washing basket. We may look at what God has given us to do, and think that it is uninspiring and insignificant.
But today, be encouraged that this is not how God sees us. God sees us as co-workers, people he wants to partner with. He has a plan to create something of the Kingdom of God with us and through us. It might just need us to take a step of faith first.
The second thing we see in this short passage is linked to cultivation.
When the farmer looked at the mustard seed, he wouldn’t necessarily be filled with joy. I have never grown a mustard tree, but the internet tells me that it is wise to keep them in pots in a greenhouse for 3 years before you plant them outside. 3 YEARS! That is long haul gardening! And even after that, the tree can grow to 20ft high and 20 ft wide. Growing a mustard tree means a commitment to years of tending and pruning.
The story of the woman kneading dough, gives us the same sense of commitment. In the NIV it says there was “a large amount” of dough. However, the actual translation makes it clear that there was enough to feed about 150 people! Kneading one loaf is strenuous, let alone the time and effort it would take to work yeast through 30 kilos of dough.
Jesus’ words are a reminder that we are called to create; but also to cultivate…..and cultivation takes time, effort and commitment.
The farmer could have thought of the long years of labour ahead and put down his trowel. The woman could have looked at the huge amount of dough, and just walked away. I could think that reaching the bottom of the washing basket is impossible, and give up before I even get started.
In today’s society, time and effort is replaced by the demand for instant results and quick fix solutions. Alexa dims our lights, plays music, and can even order a pizza and an Uber for us! In the jobs market, in our relationships, commitment is replaced by the acronym ‘FOMO’ – fear of missing out.
However, as Christians we need to commit to cultivate, if we are to see the kingdom of God grow and expand. Where is God calling us to make that commitment in 2019? Is it in praying for our people of peace daily, and cultivating our relationships with them? Is it inviting people to Alpha or church…..and not giving up, or never doing it again, if someone says no? Is it committing to the Grow project and to community in order to cultivate our own faith?
Lastly, at the end of verse 19, we see that as a result of creating and cultivating, the final part of our calling occurs – enabling others to flourish. After the man has created a mustard tree, and cultivated it for many years, the birds perch in its branches. It becomes a place where they can find rest. Similarly, it is fair to assume that the woman in verse 20 is not kneading 30 kilograms of dough because she is going to eat all the bread it produces herself. No – through the food that she creates, others will be fed and blessed. Me doing the mundane task of loading the washing machine, means my family are clothed and kept warm.
What can we do today to enable someone else to flourish? How can we bless those around us? Because when we seek to do this, we are helping to create the kingdom of God on the earth, as it is in heaven.
Heavenly Father, Thank you that you want to partner with us; to help create and grow your kingdom. Help us to commit to the relationships and places where you have sent us to do this, and show us how we can enable someone else to flourish this week. Amen.
READING: Luke 13:18-35
Then Jesus asked, ‘What is the kingdom of God like? What shall I compare it to? It is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his garden. It grew and became a tree, and the birds perched in its branches.’
Again he asked, ‘What shall I compare the kingdom of God to? It is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into about thirty kilograms of flour until it worked all through the dough.’
Then Jesus went through the towns and villages, teaching as he made his way to Jerusalem. Someone asked him, ‘Lord, are only a few people going to be saved?’
He said to them, ‘Make every effort to enter through the narrow door, because many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able to. Once the owner of the house gets up and closes the door, you will stand outside knocking and pleading, “Sir, open the door for us.”
‘But he will answer, “I don’t know you or where you come from.”
‘Then you will say, “We ate and drank with you, and you taught in our streets.”
‘But he will reply, “I don’t know you or where you come from. Away from me, all you evildoers!”
‘There will be weeping there, and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, but you yourselves thrown out. People will come from east and west and north and south, and will take their places at the feast in the kingdom of God. Indeed there are those who are last who will be first, and first who will be last.’
At that time some Pharisees came to Jesus and said to him, ‘Leave this place and go somewhere else. Herod wants to kill you.’
He replied, ‘Go and tell that fox, “I will keep on driving out demons and healing people today and tomorrow, and on the third day I will reach my goal.” In any case, I must press on today and tomorrow and the next day – for surely no prophet can die outside Jerusalem!
‘Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing. Look, your house is left to you desolate. I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.”’