Week of 3 Epiphany: Friday, Year 1   16 comments

Above:  Mustard Plant

Diversity Within the Kingdom of God

JANUARY 27, 2017

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Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), of The Episcopal Church, contains an adapted two-years weekday lectionary for the Epiphany and Ordinary Time seasons from the Anglican Church of Canada.  I invite you to follow it with me.

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Hebrews 10:32-39 (Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition):

But recall the former days when, after you were enlightened, you endured a hard struggle with sufferings, sometimes being publicly exposed to abuse and affliction, and sometimes being partners with those so treated.  For you had compassion on the the prisoners, and you joyfully accepted the plundering of your property, since you knew that you yourselves had a better possession and an abiding one.  Therefore do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward.  For you have need of endurance, so that you may do the will of God and receive what is promised.

For yet a little while,

and the coming one shall come and shall not tarry;

but my righteous one shall live by faith,

and if he shrinks back,

my soul has no pleasure in him.

But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who have faith and keep their souls.

Psalm 37:1-7, 24-25, 41-42 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 Do not fret yourself because of evildoers;

do not be jealous of those who do no wrong.

2 For they shall soon whither like the grass,

and like the green grass they fade away.

3 Put your trust in the LORD and do good,

dwell in the land and feed on its riches.

4 Take delight in the LORD,

and he shall give you your heart’s desire.

5 Commit your way to the LORD and put your trust in him,

and he will bring it to pass.

6 He will make your righteousness as clear as the light

and your just dealing as the noonday.

7 Be still and wait for the LORD

and wait patiently for him.

24 Our steps are directed by the LORD;

he strengthens those in whose way he delights.

25 If they stumble, they shall not fall headlong,

for the LORD holds them by the hand.

41 But the deliverance of the righteous comes from the LORD;

he is their stronghold in time of trouble.

42 The LORD will help them and rescue them;

he will rescue them from the wicked and deliver them,

because they seek refuge in him.

Mark 4:26-34 (Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition):

And he said,

The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed upon the ground, and should sleep and rise night and day, and the seed should sprout and grow, he knows not how.  The earth produces of itself, first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear.  But when the grain is ripe, at once he puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come.

And he said,

With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable shall we use for it?  It is like a grain of mustard seed, which, when sown upon the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on the 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 without a parable, but privately to his own disciples he explained everything.

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The Collect:

Almighty God, whose Son our Savior Jesus Christ is the light of the world: Grant that your people, illumined by your Word and Sacraments, may shine with the radiance of Christ’s glory, that he may be known, worshipped, and obeyed to the ends of the earth; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

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The mustard bush is not an especially handsome plant, although it can be a large one–as tall as ten feet.  If Jesus had wanted to speak of the kingdom of God–and by extension the body of followers–we call it the Church–in handsome and impressive terms, he could have used the image of a mighty cedar of Lebanon.  But no, he used the analogy of a plant many considered to be huge weed.

This topic requires further investigation.

I write this devotional from northeastern Georgia, U.S.A.  Just a few miles away from where I sit one can see kudzu.  The plant grows and grows then grows some more.  It takes over.  The mustard bush is similar in that, once it starts growing, it continues.

And a variety of creatures take shelter within a mustard bush.  The heterogeneous nature of the denizens is important within this parable.  So, if we accept the mustard plant as an analogy of the Christian Church, we need to leave purity tests behind and remember that we ought not greet just people like ourselves.  This can be truly difficult, for even those of us who think ourselves fairly broad-minded like those similar to ourselves.

So God plants seed and the Church takes root.  Then the Church spreads, and people cannot prevent this.  God is in control, and the Church is home to varied population.  Within that diversity, however, is the commonality of faith tested by endurance.  The Wisdom of Solomon 3:6 reminds us that gold is tested in the fire.  The context for this statement is a section about how the “souls of the righteous are in the hands of God.”

So, my fellow birds, would you rather take shelter in a mighty cedar of Lebanon or in a pesky mustard bush?

KRT

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16 responses to “Week of 3 Epiphany: Friday, Year 1

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