Mark 4: (26-29) 30-33 [This sermon was preached on a Sunday when two infant baptisms and two teen confirmations were celebrated. The first parable was read with the children before the baptisms; the second before the confirmations.]
Bible scholars like to fuss about the things Jesus says, and what he says about mustard seed is no exception. You should Google it, really.
One observation out there reminds us of Jesus’ sense of humour – that people of his day would have laughed at the absurd exaggeration. Like an old time comic on stage saying, “Yep, that some big mustard plant” … and the audience replies, “how big is it?” “So big that birds are building condos in it!” Or maybe a 21st Century version of it: “The kindom of God’s like twitter. It’s the smallest message in the world, yet politicos, athletes and movie stars tremble at its influence.” Slightly more subtle humour there, sort of like Jesus’. By the way, if you’re following me, that tweet was 139 characters.
So what’s the point here? Just like in Jesus’ day, when his interpretations were based on current realities, we bring to his parables the current context through which they are interpreted today, and no one interpretation then or now is ever complete. Every one of us, and all of us together as a faith community, will see the parable’s good news differently through today’s lens, right here, right now, at Orleans United.
I’m moved by the coincidence of this two-part gospel reading assigned on a morning when, as it happens, we at OUC are celebrating two baptisms and two confirmations. So if the kindom of God’s love is like a seed planted in the fertile heart of every child, and through baptism we symbolically represent God’s sacred watering of that seed, prompting its mysterious yet profound growth deep within Madeleine and Kayden and everyone of us … if the kindom of God’s love is like that, then in a complementary way, the kindom of God’s loving community will also grow and grow and grow until we are big enough, mature enough, gracious enough to offer a safe place and spiritual sustenance and loving kindness to any who will land in our branches. And that, Emma and Liam, is what you are growing into as you stand before us to confirm the baptism faith of your childhood.
I like Peter Holt’s comment the other morning at breakfast, when he observed that this sort of coincidence – baptisms and confirmations on the same Sunday – along with a reading like this no less – seems divinely blessed, and very Biblical. He said that the two confirmands in particular, were actually blessed by name in the Bible, in the Beatitudes (Matt 5:5): “Blessed are the Meek(s) – Emma Meek and Liam Meek – for they shall inherit the earth”
And it’s not too big of a leap of faith for me to acknowledge that what both of you, and all of us inherit again today is God’s ever expanding Spirit of loving community that seeks to make room for all inhabitants of this earth … sort of like an imaginary monster mustard bush offering itself to every bird in the air. And just about when we say, “That’s insane. Who actually believes that?” is when we realize that only together will we ever find out how possible it really is.
Liam and Emma, confirmation is more than growing into what you personally believe about God’s love blossoming inside you, even though that’s really important. It’s also about growing into and finding your active place in God’s kindom. Have you noticed that I’ve been saying “kindom” and not kingdom this morning? Some bible scholars point out that Jesus’ talk about the kingdom of God contrasts it from the corrupt earthly kingdom of Rome that harshly ruled over the people at that time. And what Jesus tried to show people was a new way of life based on loving community. So certain interpreters call it “kindom,” a kind of radical, imaginary term of inclusion – all of us kin, all of us family, together in God’s beloved community.
In your confirmation today, in addition to saying YES to God’s love, you also say YES to God’s welcoming family, and to finding you’re your meaningful pathway to continue growing here with us. And the good news is that you’re not alone. Today in your confirmation, all of us will say our own YES to God’s kindom, our own YES to loving, nurturing community, our own YES to a faith that makes room for all.
Welcome to the family. Welcome to God’s kindom. Welcome to God’s blessing.