The mustard seed

How should one measure the stature of a tree? Its girth in centimetres? Its height in metres?  Jesus rarely measured anything quantitively, for him it was all about the quality. The stature of a mustard tree, quite clearly in Jesus’ mind, is measured by its ability to host nesting birds – to give them a place to be safe, to raise their young, and to fly home to.

If that is what the kingdom of God is like, and the church is in some way a sign of it, then can we be the kind of church whose stature is measured not by the number who attend, nor by the amount of money in the collection plate (good and helpful though these things are) but by our ability to provide an environment that is safe, that is nurturing, in which people can feel at home. In essence, for Jesus the kingdom of God is about hospitality.  That’s maybe why after the mustard seed he goes on to talk about yeast – the stature of which is measured by its ability to raise a whole loaf, a loaf which can then be broken and shared with friends and strangers.

Our stature, then, as churches, might be best measured by our generosity – our ability to give, to share, to be given, and to be shared. We practice this each week as we share in Holy Communion, and seek to become what we eat – the Body of Christ, Christ who lived a life of hospitality, and enjoyed the hospitality of others, and who spoke of heaven as a sum of many dwelling places and as a great feast.  May we embody the life of heaven here on earth and may our churches be more like the mustard seed and its tree, the yeast and its bread.

A harvest poem? Halfway through October? Isn’t that a bit late?

Had a request for a harvest poem. Not sure this really works, but hey, it’s a work in progress.

We bring our gifts:
The first-fruits of our labour,
or perhaps the spare we do not need,
(an offering to mitigate against our greed).

To the church we bring them,
and into the hands of Christ we place them,
and we say, ‘Take this,
and do with it some miracle:
Turn water into wine again,
or multiply my loaves and fish
to feed a crowd again.’

And Jesus takes them from our hand,
this fruit of the ocean, this product of the land,
and blesses them, accepting back
what always was the Lord’s.
Our gifts will fill the lack
of hungry people,
putting flesh on words
of charity, and making folk
in our small corner of the world
more equal.

We know there is enough for everyone.
But once the leftovers are gone –
taken to the homeless, hungry poor –
what of those twelve empty baskets standing idly by?
Can there yet be more
that we can ask our Lord to multiply?

Into those baskets therefore let us place ourselves,
those parts of us that need transforming,
grace and strength and healing,
the gifts in us that need to be increased and shared
with a greater generosity than we may be prepared
to offer on our own account.

For we are God’s rich and splendid bounty,
seeds, sown and scattered by the Lord in every place.
the human race:
the crowning glory
of the ever-evolving creation story.
We thank the Lord
that he does not just separate wheat from tare,
but takes our very best
then turns us into far more than we are.

A little thought for Easter 2

When the risen Jesus visits his disciples his visit is characterised by several key elements of his overall ministry:

First, he brings peace – although they are startled and afraid at first, he brings his friends a peace of heart that they have not experienced for many days, and which will stay with them for ever. 

Second, he shares food with them – hospitality and sharing are central to the gospel, from the feeding of the five thousand to the Last Supper, and when we meet in Jesus’ name for Holy Communion we are continuing this tradition of gospel hospitality. Is there hospitality in our worship, in our life as a church?

Third, he brings joy – being in the presence of Christ should bring us joy, even amid the reality of whatever complex troubles of anxieties we have brought with us. Is there joy in our faith? In our life as a community of faith?  Are we really able to share one other’s joy?

Fourth, he brings the evidence of his own suffering, the marks on his hands, feet and side, showing that he truly has walked the path of life as we do, and that there is no place so dark or so painful that we have to go there alone; he will always go with us.  Are we willing to weep with those who weep, as well as to laugh with those who laugh? Are we willing to be vulnerable, to admit our own woundedness?

May we, as a church, as Christ’s body on earth, seek to live out these gospel values in all our activities.