“Let Your Mustard Seed Grow!”
Sermon by fellow parishioner, Ginnie Glassman
In today’s gospel we are told that the mustard seed is the tiniest of seeds. There are 750 in a gram or 21,000 seeds in an ounce! Once planted, the seed will sprout and grow to ten or twelve feet tall in a few weeks. At maturity, the branches spread up to twenty feet across. But these seeds “sprout and grow” while we are busy with other things. We don’t really understand the process that is tended by God. The tiny mustard seed is insignificant in the beginning, but the result is a large and useful plant, for humans, birds and other animals.
Where else do we see this happening? God plants and tends seeds in our lives. Two “mustard seeds” that I want to talk about today are Samuel and David.
Samuel was dedicated at the temple at a very young age, probably about three years old. Samuel grew up under the priest Eli’s care but God had chosen him before he was even born. God had told Eli, “I will choose a priest who will be faithful to me and do everything I want him to.” (2:35)
One night while Samuel was still young, the Lord called him three times (“Samuel, Samuel”), but twice Eli said “Go back to bed. I did not call you”. The third time, Eli realized that God was calling and told Samuel to answer “Speak, Lord, your servant is listening”.
As Samuel grew older, all the people of Israel came to recognize him as a prophet of the Lord. We hear in the text, “When Samuel spoke, all Israel listened.” (3:21)
Today in our reading we find God sending Samuel to appoint a new King of Israel even though there was currently a king in power. This was a king whom the people had wanted, but ultimately a king that had let them down and turned against them.
God said “Sam, I need you to go to Bethlehem to visit a man named Jesse and his sons. I will show you who I have chosen for you to anoint as the next king of Israel.” Now Saul was still king, so Samuel feared for his life if he anointed a new king. He knew Saul would become angry and jealous and try to kill him. God told Samuel to take a calf and say he was going to make a sacrifice. He was to invite Jesse and his sons to join him in the sacrifice.
Samuel met each of seven sons of Jesse but God had not chosen any of them. Samuel asked if there were other sons. He was told that the youngest son was tending the family’s sheep. Samuel insisted that they wait for him to come in. As soon as he arrived, God told Samuel “This is the one – anoint him”. When Samuel anointed David, the Spirit of the Lord came over him and stayed with him all of his life.
Why do I call these two great men, Samuel and David, “mustard seeds”? When they were young, actually before they were born, God had chosen them as men after his own heart. He planted the mustard seed in them and then nurtured it and watched it grow. Samuel grew from a three year old who did not know God’s voice to a prophet who regularly conversed with God. David went from tending the family’s sheep to becoming a king who tended a nation under God’s guidance.
Did Samuel or David have a choice in allowing this mustard seed to grow in them? Yes, they could have turned away like Saul or Samuel’s sons and “done evil in the sight of God” but they chose to listen to God and follow the path he set for them.
Samuel was terrified that Saul would kill him if he anointed a new king but he followed God’s directions and God protected him. David later faced Goliath and was able to strike him down. Once the Spirit came down on David, the Lord’s spirit left Saul. Saul tried many times to kill David but God protected him. As king, David fought many battles and was victorious because he consulted God and followed his ways.
How were these men able to hear God’s voice and know what to do? From a young age, Samuel learned to listen for God’s voice. David learned to consult God and to trust in his plans. “Speak, Lord, your servant is listening.”
Each of us has a mustard seed planted in us by God for his purpose. We can ignore it or we can help that mustard seed grow. We can nurture it so it grows larger and more useful to God.
We need to listen to God, practice hearing his voice in our lives. Then we need to put aside fears when he calls us to something new. We need to trust that “if He calls us to it, He will see us through it.”
There are many opportunities for us to nurture that mustard seed. Maybe we have never sat still and listened for God. We have a meditation group that can guide us to appreciate how blessed silence and stillness can be. For those who love the outdoors, we have the Wandering Church to appreciate and pray with God in nature.
Maybe we are afraid to pray out loud or to pray with others. We have a prayer group where we can share our thoughts and bring them before God. Seeing his answer to our prayers has been so uplifting.
Maybe we think we could never get up in front of a group. We will have a preaching class again in the fall where we can try out speaking to a small group to see if God has blessed us with this ability and a message to share.
Maybe we want to share God’s word but not in our own words. We always have room for new lectors and readers to speak the words of Scripture. At our services, we would welcome people to try out being a Eucharistic Helper or a technical assistant.
Maybe we think working with children is only for teachers, but God may have given us a gift for storytelling and sharing his love and message in simple words. Someone who can coordinate these efforts of others would also serve our community well.
Maybe we are less outgoing and being in front of a group strikes terror in us. Would we be able to help with altar guild, altar flowers, ushering, grounds work, outreach or fellowship gatherings? We can serve God in our own way and still help the parish through these more individual ministries.
Maybe we want to understand racism better or do some to work to combat it. We have four very capable young women who are eager to educate and work with us.
Maybe we have some ideas that we think will help our church. Being on our Vestry would give an opportunity to share these ideas and hear some new ones. Being involved in building up the church serves God well.
Maybe we want to increase our volunteers at church, but we don’t know how to get others to help. We have two able leaders who will teach us on Tuesday this week about increasing volunteerism in our church and in our larger community. There are many opportunities to use or develop these skills that will benefit others.
No, I don’t expect any of us will become national prophets or kings and yes, doing something we have never done before can be frightening but I encourage you to reach out and try it. We never know where God is leading us until we follow him. His path can lead to surprising places, show us talents we didn’t know we had and bring us to things we never expected.
What helps a mustard seed to grow? Sun, soil and rain.
The sun for us is God’s love, care and warmth;
our soil is the faith and prayer that we are planted in;
and the rain is God’s Word that enriches and refreshes us.
“With what can we compare the kingdom of God…? It is like a mustard seed, which, when sown upon the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth; yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes the greatest of all shrubs…”
Go forth, be nurtured and let your mustard seed grow!!
Collect Keep, O Lord, your household the Church in your steadfast faith and love, that through your grace we may proclaim your truth with boldness, and minister your justice with compassion; for the sake of our Savior Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
1 Samuel 15:34-16:13 Samuel went to Ramah; and Saul went up to his house in Gibeah of Saul. Samuel did not see Saul again until the day of his death, but Samuel grieved over Saul. And the Lord was sorry that he had made Saul king over Israel. The Lord said to Samuel, “How long will you grieve over Saul? I have rejected him from being king over Israel. Fill your horn with oil and set out; I will send you to Jesse the Bethlehemite, for I have provided for myself a king among his sons.” Samuel said, “How can I go? If Saul hears of it, he will kill me.” And the Lord said, “Take a heifer with you, and say, ‘I have come to sacrifice to the Lord.’ Invite Jesse to the sacrifice, and I will show you what you shall do; and you shall anoint for me the one whom I name to you.” Samuel did what the Lord commanded, and came to Bethlehem. The elders of the city came to meet him trembling, and said, “Do you come peaceably?” He said, “Peaceably; I have come to sacrifice to the Lord; sanctify yourselves and come with me to the sacrifice.” And he sanctified Jesse and his sons and invited them to the sacrifice. When they came, he looked on Eliab and thought, “Surely the Lord’s anointed is now before the Lord.” But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for the Lord does not see as mortals see; they look on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.” Then Jesse called Abinadab, and made him pass before Samuel. He said, “Neither has the Lord chosen this one.” Then Jesse made Shammah pass by. And he said, “Neither has the Lord chosen this one.” Jesse made seven of his sons pass before Samuel, and Samuel said to Jesse, “The Lord has not chosen any of these.” Samuel said to Jesse, “Are all your sons here?” And he said, “There remains yet the youngest, but he is keeping the sheep.” And Samuel said to Jesse, “Send and bring him; for we will not sit down until he comes here.” He sent and brought him in. Now he was ruddy, and had beautiful eyes, and was handsome. The Lord said, “Rise and anoint him; for this is the one.” Then Samuel took the horn of oil, and anointed him in the presence of his brothers; and the spirit of the Lord came mightily upon David from that day forward. Samuel then set out and went to Ramah.
1 May the Lord answer you in the day of trouble, *
the Name of the God of Jacob defend you;
2 Send you help from his holy place *
and strengthen you out of Zion;
3 Remember all your offerings *
and accept your burnt sacrifice;
4 Grant you your heart’s desire *
and prosper all your plans.
5 We will shout for joy at your victory
and triumph in the Name of our God; *
may the Lord grant all your requests.
6 Now I know that the Lord gives victory to his anointed; *
he will answer him out of his holy heaven,
with the victorious strength of his right hand.
7 Some put their trust in chariots and some in horses, *
but we will call upon the Name of the Lord our God.
8 They collapse and fall down, *
but we will arise and stand upright.
9 O Lord, give victory to the king *
and answer us when we call.
2 Corinthians 5:6-10,[11-13],14-17
We are always confident; even though we know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord– for we walk by faith, not by sight. Yes, we do have confidence, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord. So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him. For all of us must appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each may receive recompense for what has been done in the body, whether good or evil.[Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we try to persuade others; but we ourselves are well known to God, and I hope that we are also well known to your consciences. We are not commending ourselves to you again, but giving you an opportunity to boast about us, so that you may be able to answer those who boast in outward appearance and not in the heart. For if we are beside ourselves, it is for God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you.] For the love of Christ urges us on, because we are convinced that one has died for all; therefore all have died. And he died for all, so that those who live might live no longer for themselves, but for him who died and was raised for them. From now on, therefore, we regard no one from a human point of view; even though we once knew Christ from a human point of view, we know him no longer in that way. So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!
Jesus said, “The kingdom of God is as if someone would scatter seed on the ground, and would sleep and rise night and day, and the seed would sprout and grow, he does not know how. The earth produces of itself, first the stalk, then the head, then the full grain in the head. But when the grain is ripe, at once he goes in with his sickle, because the harvest has come.” He also said, “With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable will we use for it? It is like a mustard seed, which, when sown upon the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth; yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes the greatest of all shrubs, and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade.” With many such parables he spoke the word to them, as they were able to hear it; he did not speak to them except in parables, but he explained everything in private to his disciples.