St. Mark's Episcopal Church

124 North Sylvia Street - Montesano, WA, 98563

Pentecost 4, June 16

 Subterfuge and subversion. God sends Samuel on a mission of sedition. Paul reminds us why he worked so hard to tell people about Jesusso they would be ready to meet God face to face. And Jesus talks about sowing seeds and the mystery of how the seeds turn into plants. Then he mentions mustard seeds turning into plants. Eugene Peterson interprets this as a pine nut turning into a large pine tree. One wouldn’t want a pine tree or mustard growing in ones crops. Nor would one want birds gathering in your fields and eating the seeds or the grain you want to harvest. I think about the measures my family would go to to keep the raccoons out of their vegetable garden raccoons love sweet corn!

So why would Jesus suggest that mustard plants were a good thing? Or that they grow to a large enough size to house many birds? God’s kingdom is like a mustard seed. In Sojourners this month, Samuel A. Cartledge (who teaches New Testament at Columbia Theological Seminary) suggests that the mustard seed-being an invasive plant-takes over where it is not wanted.

“The kingdom of God is like a weed that tends to get out of control, won’t stay where you plant it, and attracts undesirable birds to cultivated areas.” The Greek text implies that the seed became a great shrub in order to shelter those birds who are among the smallest creatures. The greatness of the shrub is in its ability to provide refuge.

“The Jesus movement was small and vulnerable in the first century, but it stood out for its disruptive nature, its ability to challenge the status quo, and most important for providing refuge to the unwanted. … the success of all transformative movements for justice can be measured by how well they meet the needs of the least powerful among them.”  The Jesus movement in the first century was engaged in “good trouble” like John Lewis urged us to do.

While we are focused on conserving church structures, processes, and hierarchies perhaps we run the risk of ossifying the tradition, such that the next generation sees no value or life in the institution. Notice all our empty pews. We need prophetic energy in the church to embrace disruption to create positive change.

Yet, as Samuel Cartledge notes, disruption is complex. While there are things that need to be disrupted there are things that need to be preserved. Jesus is a disrupter of oppressive systems but a preserver of calm amid destructive storms.

We are called to be the mustard seeds that provide refuge-the kingdom of God. And, we need to be intentional about disrupting oppressive systems and to be vigilant about preserving democratic systems that protect the most vulnerable and secure peace and justice for all. So, vote.

And recognize the organizations in our community who are working to disrupt oppressive systems. When Michael Curry, our presiding bishop, visited the Harbor six years ago-he, too, talked about the mustard seed and encouraged Chaplains on the Harbor and others to continue to point out the systemic wrongs that were placing people on the margins. I believe Chaplains on the Harbor and others have accomplished some of that. And, we still have people on the margins. And we have many more services in place to help those same people. Navigators who go to the camps and engage people. Outreach teams and wrap around services are provided by the Quinault Wellness Cen ter. We have therapeutic courts that have reduced the cycles of incarceration that so many in our community have experienced. All from that small mustard seed. And, this church has been a part of that-by volunteering time and funds to provide meals. By reaching out to people. By supporting Chaplains on the Harbor. We have been disruptors of oppressive systems. And we need to continue. Where are our growing edges? How can we provide refuge? How can we support and preserve democracy?