Between the seed and the dough
Jesus taught in parables. He even states that He did not teach people ANYTHING without the use of parables. This means that, whenever Jesus wanted to teach people something about the kingdom of God, he chose the medium of parables.
We are a bit removed from the word ‘rabbi’. We do not totally understand the depth of this word and the role that rabbis played in the texture of the social, cultural, and religious aspects of life.
I think that it helps us to, in our context, talk about teachers. Teachers are helping with the formation of people. There is most probably a teacher that played a crucial role in your life. Sometimes it is the teachers that dare to step across the educational boundary into the everyday avenues of life, that impact us the most. Those who dare to care. It is the teacher that teaches more than his or her subject, that impacts us. It is teachers that teach us about life, that impacts us.
Jesus taught life. Jesus lived life. Jesus spoke into thousands of generation's lives, by talking about seeds and sowing, about birds, about flowers. Jesus spoke about life.
Size, space, and seeds
Jesus introduces the parable of the mustard seed to teach us that the influence of the kingdom regularly sprouts from seemingly insignificant seeds. It is not the avocado tree that grows to be a monumental tree, but rather trees with smaller seeds. It is seemingly insignificant that moves the immovable. The seeds of the kingdom are usually planted in spaces of liminal irrelevance. The church should find herself fortunate to be on the side of power because it has always been in the act of service and kindness that she has made herself indispensable in the social structure of life. The cross was planted on the outskirts of Jerusalem, but it stands squarely in the center of the universe.
Exponential growth and transformation
When Jesus invokes the image of a woman kneading a week’s supply of dough, he tries to stimulate our imagination. The ratio for yeast to dough is 1:200. This small addition to the recipe of bread makes the dough to expand exponentially. There is dynamism in the kingdom of God. Just a stubborn, consistent little act of loving-kindness (born out of the agony of the cross) against tyranny, has the ability to change the political system. The mustard tree and the leavened bread brings about transformation. It makes a rugged field into a garden where birds gather and flourish. It makes a dry piece of wheat into a lovely enticing meal of life.
Participating in the kingdom
The mid-eastern listener of Jewish background would hear another level of teaching in Jesus’ parables. The rabbi’s understood the kingdom of God as something static. You hope to stumble upon it, yet it remains to a certain extend out of reach. It is rather a destination one hopes to reach, than an activity you are invited to partake in. Jesus points to the mustard seed and insinuates immediately that a seed needs a person. It is the hand of the worker that takes, plants and waters. The leaven is not just lightly thrown on top of the dough but needs to be kneaded and kneaded and kneaded.
God invites us to participate in the kingdom. He does not leave us on the side-lines of life but drags us by His everlasting love (by our boots and all) into a worldly embrace. We need to participate. We are the heralds, planters, and bakers in and of the kingdom of the almighty God.
LET'S GET INTO IT
It is not the answer that enlightens, but the question. - Eugene Ionesco
These beautiful (also too often heard) parables, invites us to think about organic growth, liminal germination, and the participators in the kingdom of God.
How and where have you experienced the dynamic nature of the kingdom?
Where is God inviting you to plant/knead/participate in the coming of the kingdom?
How do you think about the relation between worldly power and the kingdom? Does the church need a place of authority?
WORD INTO ACTION
What is the next step
Try to embody the seed of the kingdom by serving a power structure that you are against.
What I mean by that is that you can sometimes challenge injustices in a system by reacting in a dignified way. By loving, Jesus challenged the whole Roman empire. Not by the sword...
Jaco Strydom told me that every one of us has to have a secret ministry. It’s an act of love, kindness, and giving that you do in secret. Not to be seen by others (like the leaven), but to be nurtured in expectation for the kingdom to flourish.
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
D.A Hagner writes in The Word Biblical Commentary:
The kingdom of God has humble beginnings; it is like a mustard seed, small and unimpressive. It can be overlooked or dismissed as a trifle. Its coming did not overwhelm the world, as had been expected. Yet it is destined to become an impressive entity in radical contrast to its beginnings. It is impossible to rule out an allusion to growth, even if the parable is mainly about contrast rather than growth.
This is in sharp contrast to our sometimes-monumental church buildings, budgets, and institutions.
Where is the church truly present? This is definitely not limited to churches in tents. Also not limited to institutionalized churches. Also not limited to people and organizations that see or call themselves churches. Sometimes it is so humble as a worker at a petrol station greeting you with a “God bless you.”
Check out the movie “As it is in Heaven” launched in 2004. Here the gift of music and choir plants the seed of the kingdom.
That's all for this week
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