The Mustard Seed

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The parable in our gospel today is one that could have many meanings. Like many of Jesus’ parables that have to do with seeds and soil and planting and harvesting, this one tells us that the Kingdom of God is like a mustard seed, which, when sown upon the ground, is the smallest of all seeds on the earth; but once it is sown it springs up and becomes the largest of all shrubs, and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the sky can dwell in its shade. Was the point of the parable not that it was the smallest of all seeds, but that something small can grow into something great? Was Jesus perhaps saying that a small baby who was born in a humble stable would grow up to become a Savior, and people would find comfort and security in him? Could Jesus have been saying that the Christian Church, which began with just a tiny gathering of fearful men in a small, upper room in Jerusalem, would one day become a gathering of more than 2 billion people who find their hope in him? And on this Father’s Day could another interpretation to The Parable of the Mustard Seed be that the mustard seed is the child in our midst? You know how much Jesus loved little children; how he would take them on his knee and bless them. Could Jesus be using the words of a parable to remind fathers of every age that children are our greatest resource, and our greatest responsibility? The Mustard Seeds are indeed our children, and our purpose is to nurture them, encourage them, protect them and guide them, until they grow up to become the greatest of all shrubs. And as parents we all start out with such good intentions, but then stuff happens:

Often dads have to work long hours to provide for the family, so they don’t have time to play catch. Remember the song “Cat’s in the Cradle?”

Maybe as parents we don’t like the kids’ music, so we buy them an iPod so they can listen to it without bothering us. We spend hours taking care of the lawn and the garden with little time or energy left for the “shrub” that God has given us to care for. I love the story Harmon Killebrew tells; that he and his brother were playing football with their dad in their yard, and Harmon’s mother yelled out the window “You’re tearing up the grass!” Killebrew’s father shot back “We’re not raising grass, we’re raising boys!” Oh, how true!!

I believe that it’s more important to give children our time, not our money. It’s more important to be respected by them than to be liked by them. It’s more important to encourage them in their interests than to require them to share our interests. That means, dads, that if you were a fullback but your son loves the violin, you better learn to love the violin! I will always remember my own parents listening to me as I squeaked and squawked on the clarinet and tenor sax. Mom escaped to the basement to iron and dad was stuck trying to watch T-V while I practiced. Dad had the patience of Job. I also remember when my grandson, Jason, was 2 years old, he first showed an aptitude for mechanics when he took apart his parents dehumidifier with the cool tools that they bought him for his birthday. Jason was always fascinated with mechanics even though both of his parents were in the medical profession. This fall he will graduate from Lincoln Technical Institute in Windsor, Connecticut, with a degree in diesel mechanics and, at the age of 19, is also working full time for the Connecticut Southern Railroad as head diesel mechanic. Jason’s parents encouraged and supported him to follow his dream and he loves it.

And so this message isn’t so much a “parenting report card” as it is a reminder that God calls us to care for our children. And when they flourish and grow, we can know that we nurtured them along the way. Mustard Seeds today will be the leaders of this world in no time, and God has called us to help prepare them. Do this, and it will be a “happy” Father’s Day indeed.

Sylvia Bates