"He told them another parable: 'The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field. Though it is the smallest of all your seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and perch in its branches.' "
- Matthew 13: 31-32
Mustard. Personally, I don't like the stuff. Occasionally a dollop or two on my burger is tasty, but not very often. Mustard. Why the boota did Jesus choose mustard? Is it pretty? Well, looking at the Psalms and a bunch of other Jewish descriptions of beauty, mustard doesn't appear too often as a symbol of beauty and majesty. If you haven't seen a mustard plant, head on over to http://images.google.com and run a search for "mustard plant." You get a lot of pictures of this puney looking weed-type plant. Ok...so we know that a mustard plant is no forest of California Redwoods or Cedars of Lebanon. What did Jesus' audience think of his association of the kingdom of heaven and mustard? I think Shane Claiborne and Chris Haw said it best in "Jesus for President":
"[Jesus] told his listeners that the kingdom of God is like mustard, which grows like a wild bush...The mustard seed's growth would have been familiar to first-century Jews, since many of them were farmers and peasants well acquainted with its way of taking over gardens...Jews valued order and had very strict rules about how to keep a tidy garden, and one of the secrets was to keep out mustard. It was notorious for invading well-trimmed veggies and other plants and quickly taking over the entire garden. Jewish law even forbade planting mustard in the garden." (p. 103)
So Jews were familiar with mustard. Personally, I am not a 1st century Jewish subsistence farmer. In all honesty, I am a 21st century white dude from what I guess you'd call a suburb (for lack of a better name). I get the mustard thing to an extent. But I think I have a good way to explain this parable in some more culturally familiar terms. We Americans love our grass. Don't deny it, you know you do. We cut it so that it looks nice. We take the cut grass off of it so that the grass looks even better. We water it so that it gets greener. We give it fertilizer so that it'll be greener than the neighbors (you know you check almost every morning...it's ok. I do too). But those pesky dandelions. They keep showing up. You can dig every one out every day and there would still be more tomorrow. We put so much work into making life difficult for those dandelions, but they keep coming back. You have to admit, those are some very rugged stubborn plants...that nobody really wants. Perhaps our "mustard plant" is the dandelion. In their two respective cultures, the plants are an extreme nuisance that won't go away. The Jews and United States citizens are engaged in an endless war against our pest plants. That's what the kingdom of heaven is like. It will keep coming back no matter how hard anyone tries to eradicate it. We spend so much time and money in trying to eradicate the dandelion. The kingdom of heaven is so intense, that nothing can keep it away. Jesus went on to say that birds would make their nest in these bothersome bushes. Can you imagine a falcon or eagle making his nest in a dandelion? Yea...it's like that. God's kingdom is so invasive and contagious that it won't go away despite valiant efforts by the world.
(Thanks to my good friend Trent in Zimbabwe for inspiring this http://yeastandmustard.blogspot.com )
I have less than 2 weeks before I go to Nicaragua. It's exciting, and kind of scary. Remember to follow God's call and love everyone without reservation.
Monday, May 12, 2008
Plane ticket is purchased. Appointment for shots and malaria meds is made. Still looking some more funds, but that's ok. Selling possessions on eBay is a great way to make money and make move-in time at school easier! Friday June 6 at 8:00pm, you'll see an American Airlines plan leave O'hare airport headed towards Miami. I'll be on it.