The Mustard Seed
One of my favourite images of the Kingdom of God and the church is the mustard seed, the tiniest of seeds. This tiny seed is hidden in the mystery of the dark earth. It grows slowly and progressively over many years until it becomes a huge tree.
See the birds come and build their nests in its branches;
the creatures of the field, buck and deer, sheep and cows come and nestle in its shade;
and people come too to gather the fruit of the trees and from other trees
and they go home.
Home is a place of herbs and culinary delights, of flour and bread, of aromas arousing hunger.
The people sit around a table. They may light candle.
There they gather as family, create a feast around food, meagre or plentiful. They enter into conversation, listen to each other. They play music, tell stories of their day, of their families, their friends, or they play games. There they enter into and develop culture and a sense of belonging – for here they belong.
Yes, a tree – the mustard tree, which offers so much – roots and trunks, and branches and leaves and aromas, and shade and shelter and a spirit of abundance and thankfulness.
You will remember Jesus saying:
‘I am the vine and you are the branches.’ what a symbol, not just of the church but of humanity, of community and of a goodness pulsing through our branches.
How lovely when we see such a symbol of humanity in men and women. Perhaps you have seen it in your mum or dad, brother or sister – or a member of our and your community, even in these dark times.
Perhaps you have seen this in someone who has died recently from the virus and are experiencing a great sense of loss.
How lovely when we see this image of the mustard tree revealed in a person. A good friend of mine died not too long ago at the age of 93. He was such a person; a forester in Kenya, and South Africa. I got to know him in his later years. He had such green fingers, hands like soil. He could make plants grow in his hands. Flowers streamed like crimson rivers from his pots. I enjoyed his knowledge, conversation and humanity – loved the way he and his wife made friends with younger people. He was the delight of his whole family, all his grandchildren – a huge tree. There are two words that speak of him – hospitality and invitation.
He was like the householder in the parable who took out of his store, things old and things new.
There was that sense about him, of the old and the new coming together; of the adventure of life going forward and of the beauty of the past being enjoyed, preserved and passed on.
How lovely when we see the image of the mustard tree revealed in a person. I have been fortunate in knowing many such wonderful human beings in my life. I am sure the same is true of your life.
I wrote a poem some time ago, on what trees do and I think it speaks to our theme.
Trees I see you in a new way,
You are the great earth mothers.
You rise from her depths like a hand,
and where there is nothing,
slowly, steadily, you reach
into it. And you say to us,
see nothing teems with life.
The song of birds celebrate sky.
Insects burrow mansions unimaginable.
Water falls and rises with a heartbeat.
Shadows shape new moments
and moons ease through your leaves.
Mornings you bathe with fragrances
and like one who nurtures,
you give your bark, your leaves and fruit,
even your tears of resin.
Teasing our imaginations you say,
What will you do with these?
You say, when will you take
your hand and reach into nothing.
Like a tree we need to reach into all the good and negative spaces of the corona virus of our displaced times and bring healing, love and compassion.
With the deep conviction knowing that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.
Even in our difficult days, when we are feeling out of sorts, we must hold on to our deep sense of trust and faith that God is leading us through.
That in the simple things around us – stripped now of so much, we must know the treasure of our loves, and of our deep self.
And rise to give thanks for the wonderful people around us during these stressful times;
people who have been trees of goodness and a shelter in our lives;
symbols of the wonderful humanity we see in the person of Jesus.
Soak up the sun
Affirm life’s magic
Be graceful in the wind
Stand tall after a storm
Feel refreshed after it rains
Grow strong without notice
Be prepared for each season
Hang tough through a cold spell
Emerge renewed at the first signs of Spring
Stay deeply rooted while reaching for the sky
Be still long enough to
hear your own leaves rustling.
You may be able to watch a video link of this reflectionhttps://drive.google.com/drive/folders/1386uCjgIZgmgWm2nspMFVQc48PhYQ8X6
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John Donald photographer and Cape Birds