Of the comparisons of the reign of God to a field, a mustard seed or the leaven in bread…I have always liked the comparison of the mustard seed to the Reign of God. This tiny, tiny little seed grows into a great bush…so large that the birds of the air make their nests in it. If you take the parable at its face value it all seems quite lovely. However there is a dark side that farmers know well: the mustard bush is an invasive plant, it grows wildly and rapidly, quickly overtaking a garden, ruining the plants that had been planted with care and reducing their yield, if not completely choking them out. Mustard bushes are uncontrollable and rapidly spread across a farm if not quickly uprooted before going to seed. Surely this reality was not lost on Jesus…nor on those who heard him tell the parable. It seems that perhaps Jesus is presenting an image of the expansion of the Reign of God as something uncontrollable, invasive and fast growing!
Looking through the lens of this image…the Reign of God is not something that can be domesticated or controlled…by its very nature it grows uncontrollably and burst forth offering refuge. I believe that most of us though would prefer something that we could contain and control…domesticate! But the truth is that the Reign of God is just that…”God’s Reign”…not ours. We are part of it by our baptism and we are called to help water it so that it continues to grow and “invade” every crevice and furrow of this earth…but we don’t get to tame it.
Two thousand years ago Jesus’ vision of the bursting forth of the Reign of God was nothing less than radical ….and it still is today. We are called to be part of that radical vision…to feed the hungry, shelter the homeless, visit the sick and imprisoned, to welcome the stranger -- to love one another as Christ loves us and to reach out and to care for “the other”, to proclaim the deep and passionate love of God for all peoples! And wasn’t it just this radical vision of the reign of God that Jesus preached that got him crucified? As his disciple, just how radical of a life am I willing live?
In a world that proclaims a “gospel of personal prosperity”…tax cuts for the rich at the cost of healthcare cuts for the poor, in a nation where overt acts of racism and discrimination are on display daily across the country, in a nation that legally allows babies and young children to be snatched from the arms of their parents who are seeking asylum or immigrating looking for a better life and puts them into detention centers…to what lengths am I willing to go in building up this radical vision of the Reign of God that Jesus preached? What concrete action can I take today to “water” the Reign of God? Where and how do I see the Reign of God bursting forth in imaginative and radical ways?