My Dad loved his hot mustard.... at least he claimed he did,
and Mom would make it for him from the can of Keen's dry mustard.
But Dad only liked a little bit, at a time.
He would take a spoon full, and put it on the side of his plate,
and then take the tip of his knife and dip it in
and touch the piece of ham on his fork.
He may have had a bit with every bite,
but there was always a large smudge of mustard left on his plate.
Mustard plants... a weed really, grew rapidly in ancient Palestine.
I imagine they still do.
Mustard weed is difficult to get rid of,
and can easily be more than six feet tall.
They spring up in the middle of wheat fields,
and block the sunshine from growing grain.
It doesn’t do much good to pull up the weeds,
because birds would just drop seeds somewhere else in the field.
You see... birds cannot digest mustard seeds,
so where birds go... seeds get dropped and grow.
Mustard seeds may be tiny,
but their impact on Palestine’s agriculture was huge.
Jesus begins by comparing faith to a tiny mustard seed,
but he goes on to explain that it isn’t how much faith you have that matters.
It’s how you use it.
Faith, Jesus and a Mulberry tree,
isn’t usually as familiar as:
Faith, Jesus and moving a mountain.
In Matthew chapter 17, Jesus has just cast out a demon
that the disciples couldn’t get to budge.
When they ask Jesus why they couldn’t get rid of the demon,
he tells them, “Because of your little faith.”
“For truly I tell you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed,
you will say to this mountain:
‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move;
and nothing will be impossible for you.”
We all too often assume that it takes huge acts
to embody faithfulness, grand gestures to change the world.
More often than not, it’s just the simple everyday acts
of human kindness that change reality.
I wonder... if this isn’t perhaps, just one more example
of Jesus telling the disciples they are asking the wrong question.
Instead of asking for faith to be increased,
perhaps the disciples should have been finding opportunities
to act on the faith they already had.
Now the passage that Jayne/Judy read, isn’t identified or named
as a parable per se... but it has the qualities of a parable.
So it is good to remember that parables are tricky! Complex!
Parables… far from being cute little ways for Jesus
to make a simple point for simple minds,
parables are actually profound exercises in radical communication.
Parables are a way in which Jesus seeks to break into
his hearer’s consciousness, transforming the way we look at reality.
Why would we assume, that in order to make the world a better place,
we should somehow increase our faith, make it bigger, deeper, better than it is.
We assume that bigger is better; more powerful, more noticeable.
All too often we hold off, we hesitate.
We feel the call of Jesus, the stirring of Spirit’s encouragement,
and yet we try to ‘figure it all out’ before we do anything.
We are to act on the faith we already have,
and to build upon these simple acts... and change the world.
We already have plenty of mustard on our plates,
to change the whole world.
Our faithfulness, our willingness to head off down the path of Love,
sharing kindness, opening hearts, offering care... makes a difference.
Our inter-relatedness, our humanity, our way of being in the world
makes a difference.
We actually have to do something though.
Faith is a gift... A gift from God... from that which is Holy.
Faith is a way of life. Faith is not so much about believing,
rather a deep-seated confidence... it is about trust.
Belief is more like an opinion.
We can believe something to be true
without it ever making any difference to us.
Faith is trusting that there’s a better way
and setting out on the path down that road.
Faith has nothing to do with waiting around
until you have it all figured out.
Faith is just taking off, trusting that you’ll find a way.
You don’t really need a whole lot of faith to change reality.
Just a smudge on the tip of your knife!
There’s nothing more ridiculous or useless
than replanting a mulberry tree in the ocean!
And I wonder if Jesus wasn’t reminding his disciples
that faith isn’t found or shown in flashy magic tricks, or pointless excursions,
or self-admiring displays of power.
Faith is never found in destruction and displacing people or cultures,
but in daily acts of faithfulness.
Faith is found in commonplace acts of obedience
that grow the kin-dom, one carefully tended little mustard seed at a time.
This morning, in an act faith, Chloe was brought to the waters of Baptism.
Water flowed, and splashed and touched the forehead of Chloe.
And the Spirit moved and stirred, rested and blessed.
Members of this congregation promised to support Chloe,
to care for her and her family, and to pray.
This blessed action, this action of faith, in community...
is not something that can be measured.
It is sacred and Spirit filled and a gift we give each other.
And as we gathered around the Table,
we participated in the mystery of Christ present,
in the breaking of bread, and pouring of the cup.
We acted out our faith in unseen things,
and in a God present and near, and at the same time dancing with stardust.
God always gives us enough,
don’t let it sit on the side of your plate like un-wanted mustard.
We don’t need more... we shall use well, what we have,
and change the world... one faithful action at a time.
We shall keep travelling with the Creator, moving from the old to the new.
We shall leap and sing, we shall pray for each other and gather in community.
With faith as small as a mustard seed...
we shall move faithfully... one step at a time.