May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be pleasing in your sight O Lord, our Rock and our Redeemer. Amen.
“God Loves The Tiny”
While living as a captive in Babylon around 587 BC, Ezekiel’s soul and hands and feet hurt. He was a poor Jewish captive to people who looked at his country with disdain. He served his captors and prayed that the remnants of his people would revolt and throw off their Babylonian lords, those who had crushed both the North and the South of Israel in war and carried away as many as they could. King Nebuchadnezzar uprooted and humiliated Israel with glee, snapping Israel and Judah like a kid snaps a pine twig.
When Ezekiel heard that things weren’t going well back home, that his countrymen were against the wall, he heard a Voice promising that things would get worse before they got better (Ezek 37:1-21). And it did. Israel was decimated in 586 BC and its precious Temple, too. It was reduced to nothing but a little twig, a shadow of its former glory, it’s towering cedar strength.
Ezekiel heard God compare Judah and it’s king to that little snapped twig. God says, “I myself will take a sprig from the lofty top of a cedar; I will set it out. I will break off a tender one from the topmost of its young twigs; I myself will plant it on a high and lofty mountain.”
In other words, no matter how dire things get, God will take that little twig of Israel and replant it in its rightful place once again. The politicians won’t do it, the priests won’t do it, the congregations of God won’t do it, only God can restore God’s people. Only God can heal the nation. Only God can bring the oppressors to repentance. Only God can change their captor’s minds. Only God can take a tiny branch and replant Israel to be a light to the nations and a blessing to all people. God will set things right when God sets a twig in the ground to bear fruit and provide shade for “winged creatures of every kind.”
But Ezekiel’s not at that happy place yet. He’s heard God promise a New Life, a flourishing Tree of Life for all to enjoy, but he’s stuck in the muck and mire of a tiny little remnant of his people stuck in slavery and warfare. The old is coming to an end, and something new is beginning, but it’s up to God to do it. All Ezekiel can do is wait in that uncomfortable place between what has been and what will be, hoping that sprig with grow into something beautiful.
Jesus and his disciples are in a similar in-between place in our Gospel story for today. Jesus talks about the coming Kingdom, God’s New World, by talking about a sower (vv.3-8), the seed (vv.26-29), and the mustard seed (vv. 30-32). The kingdom comes by someone scattering seed on the ground, sleeping and waking up to a new garden! Easy-peasy, right? At least Jesus says so. The kingdom of heaven is like a weed, a mustard seed, thrown on the ground and sprouting despite anyone’s efforts to keep it away! These are parables and parables that should be encouraging for such a small community like us. They are stories about God taking something small and making it great.
We can learn from these two stories about Ezekiel and mustard seeds that God loves tiny things.
Tiny communities praying for a New Day, tiny seeds being scattered all over, tiny groups of disciples following a Messiah. God loves the tiny.
I think God likes to work in the tiny things in order to show off. God doesn’t need big seeds to make big plants. God doesn’t need Israel to beat big Babylon in order to make a new Jerusalem. God doesn’t need the disciples to start a megachurch once he leaves. God loves helping tiny humans do the next, beautiful, tiny thing.
Humans don’t like the tiny, though. We get frustrated, concerned, even depressed about the small things. I mean, nobody wants tiny Returns on Investment, nobody wants a tiny bank account, a tiny house, a tiny church, a tiny city, a tiny economy, a tiny youth group, a tiny impact. We want big impact, a big youth group, a big economy, a big city, a big church, a big house, a big bank account. That’s the human way of thinking, the ideal. Anything else is countercultural.
But Jesus is encouraging us today to see the beauty in the tiny. Specifically, he’s challenging us to see the beauty in the tiny seed. So small but so full of potential and potential that only God can give it. There are no seed gym membership or seed personal trainers -- they don’t need them. God gives the seed its growth, it has everything it needs. Even the farmer is asleep when the seed it doing its thing underground. We might think the seed is tiny and dead and insignificant, but God says, “Watch this.”
So don’t discount the tiny. Don’t discount the fact that a tiny mustard seed grows into a huge bush. Remember that a tiny church of 12 people changed the world forever, with no money, no influence and nothing but God’s Spirit. Don’t discount the work we’ve done here, even if it’s a tiny group. If you’re frustrated and want things in your life to grow, look under the surface and see the beauty that God hid in small beginnings.
One of the graces I’ve gotten here with Epiphany is the joy of meeting and working with all of you, from the tiniest beginnings. I look at the pictures on our website and smile, remembering the few people I met here and there that became a small bible study, a potluck group, a trivia night, a late-night hangout talking about God. I thank God that our group has been small enough that I’ve gotten to know everybody and see God at work in each of you, even if we’re small. Would I like Epiphany to grow into a large bush? Of course, but I am thankful for the humble beginning, for the thick sense of community and affection here. I think the soil is fertile for new growth in our midst, and I think your next pastor and God’s Holy Spirit will be able to help it flourish beyond anything that we can imagine.
I brought with me a “goodbye present” today: seed bombs. Seed bombs are a product of a movement in recent decades called “Guerilla Gardening.” The idea is that the world would be a better place if abandoned lots and yards and cracks in the pavement were populated by wildflowers and even edible plants. Guerilla Gardeners roll seeds into fertilizer balls and throw them wherever they might germinate without asking permission of the landowner. This is very much what Jesus is describing in today’s Gospel story from Mark 4:26-34. God throws seeds everywhere and gives those seeds their growth.
We’re making seed bombs to help us remember that God loves tiny beginnings and God gives the growth to all things (1 Cor 3:7). It’s not our work that makes ministry or programs or churches grow. Our work is trusting in God’s work and being loyal to God’s promises.
You’ve done that with me, and I am grateful. I’m grateful that God put y’all in my life and vice versa. God’s done amazing things but it’s just the beginning.
God bless you, God keep you, may God’s blessing bless you and everyone you meet. Amen.