The Rev. Dr. Bob N. Wallace

Sermon for Today

June 13, 2021

A MUSTARD SEED

Mark 4:26-34 Text: vs. 31 “It is like a mustard seed, which is the smallest of all seeds on earth”.

90 years ago, Vladimir Zworykin, a Russian-born inventor worked for Westinghouse Electric Corporation. He was a man obsessed with an idea. He wanted to invent an iconoscope. It would be the first video camera tube used in early television cameras. He, also, wanted to invent a kinescope, that big, heavy, bulky cathode ray picture tube in your first TV. It’s now been replaced with smaller compact, energy-efficient, flat-panel Liquid Crystal Displays and Plasma displays. It all happened because of the seed of an idea was planted in the mind of one man. And because of that, you now can watch television programs from all around the world. Television is like that “tree” which grows from a small mustard seed.

It’s like that with God! The Tree of Faith in the human spirit begins as an exceedingly small thing, like a mustard seed “when planted, it grows and becomes the largest of all garden plants, with such big branches that the birds can perch in its shade”. The mustard seed was probably the smallest of seeds in Jesus’ time. Today a lot of women wear a mustard seed sealed in glass around their necks. When Jesus was telling His hearers about faith, He said it is like a mustard seed. Mighty things can come from it, the point being, from a very small thing, very large things can grow. For example, Jesus chose twelve disciples to follow Him to learn from Him. He wanted them to preach the Gospel. Spread the Good News. Then, after His resurrection, spread the Word of God to all nations. Those twelve disciples had the chance to see just how big their “tree of faith” would grow. It grew from where they were in Jerusalem, which was once the capital of Judah and is now the capital of Israel, to the Middle East, to Africa, to Asia, to Europe and eventually Worldwide.

In time, mustard seeds produce very large bushes. Faith can be like a mustard seed. It can grow as big as you want, no matter how small you begin. Or how large the barriers are you are facing. It doesn’t matter. You grow by striving. By working. By stretching. But some people have more problems than they have answers, and they wonder why all their prayers aren’t answered. Why they have to travel the same tedious path of spiritual discipline others have trod. It’s because continual prayer, Bible study and meditation are for spiritual growth. Soren Kierkegaard, a Danish philosopher, theologian, poet, and religious author said, Christians remind him of schoolboys who want to look up the answers to their math problems in the back of the book, rather than work through their problems to get the answer. Yes, everybody wants shortcuts. But shortcuts lead away from growth, not toward it!

You can apply that theory to Job in the Old Testament. Job was a good, prosperous family man. With God's permission, he was tormented by Satan to test Job’s faith. Horrendous disasters took away all Job held dear. His children. His health. His property. He struggled to understand all that happened to him. Then, he began to search for answers to his difficulties. And what was the result? Rabbi Abraham Heschel said, "Faith, like Job’s, cannot be shaken. His faith was the result of having been shaken". Job never cursed God. He passed God’s test! And Job became a better man both materially and spiritually because of his suffering. God’s blessings made Job wealthier than he was before his testing. Testing enabled him to do better than he did before. Job proved; suffering can result in blessing. And by testing, you can prove yourself trustworthy to handle more blessings and responsibilities. That’s called spiritual growth.

A few years ago, archaeologists began excavating the courtyard of a medieval monastery. They found some seeds that had been dormant for more than 400 years. The hidden seeds began to grow. King Henry VIII had closed the monastery in 1539 when those herbs had been tended by the monks. But now, they had sprouted to life again. Why? Because the archaeologists had disturbed the earth in which the seeds had been laying undisturbed for 400 years.

It’s like that with faith. Job found that out. And so will you. A little prodding is good for your spiritual life. Daily Bible reading. Constant prayers. Regular church attendance. Having concern for others. When Job found the answer to his difficulties, he became a better man. Maybe that’s what you need. A stirring of your soul by the Holy Spirit. It’s called spiritual growth. But have you ever wondered exactly what that means? What does it mean to ‘grow spiritually?

Spiritual growth is something that happens within you. It’s when you get rid of your old ideas and bad habits. Your wrong beliefs. Your mistaken values. Your crazy ideas about life. Spiritual growth happens when you put something more meaningful in the place of the things I just mentioned. It’s when you widen the horizons of your awareness. It’s when you begin to understand the inner truths about yourself. It’s not something physical. It happens when you expand your awareness and open your mind to see life from God’s perspective. When you get rid of wrong concepts and beliefs. When you are gaining new insights about who you really are and about the world in which you live. You get rid of those negative habits, thoughts and beliefs. You let the Holy Spirit of God become the positive part of your daily life. It’s when you are aware you are no longer alone, and that God is always with you, that something wonderful begins to happen in you. But to not grow spiritually, is to live an ineffective life. It’s like, if you don’t continually feed children, they don’t grow. Despite having a healthy lifestyle of exercise and fresh air, they won’t grow without nourishment.

It’s no different for your spiritual life. Spiritual life, quite simply, is a life lived in, with, and by the spiritual nourishment of God. Just as your physical life began when your physical heart started beating, your spiritual life begins when your spiritual heart starts beating. Spiritual life begins when you are “born again”. We looked at that two Sundays ago when Nicodemus asked Jesus the question, “How can someone be born when they are old? Surely they cannot enter a second time into their mother’s womb to be born!” And Jesus told him, “No one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So, it is with everyone born of the Spirit”. Being born of the Spirit was a clear a reference to Nicodemus accepting Christ as his Savior. When you are born again, as Nicodemus was, you should never forget you have forgiveness of your sins. You receive eternal life because of Christ's sacrifice on the cross for you. Nicodemus should be a model of your faith and courage.

I just planted a tree in my front yard. It isn’t very big. It almost looks like a small plant, but it has the potential to be over 20 feet tall. Did I just dig a hole and put it in and walk away? No! I very carefully prepared the soil. Got rid of the weeds and bad grass. Placed fertilizer in the hole. Poured in water. Then carefully made sure the roots were separated and ready to be covered by good topsoil. Then I covered it with good mulch, having enclosed it with a circular barrier to keep the weeds out and the lawnmower from damaging it.

Are you any different from my tree? God has touched your soul and prepared your spirit for an eternal life with Him to such an extent that you long to become His child. He has chosen you. Placed His Holy Spirit into your soul. And will feed you with His inspiration and guidance all of the days of your life. Psalm 1:3 compares a righteous person to a tree and says, “He will be like a tree, planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither; and in whatever he does, he prospers”. In spiritual growth you become like a tree, planted by the nourishing waters of God, and your faith, “when planted, grows and becomes the largest of all garden plants, with such big branches that the birds can perch in its shade”.

What a story! Why don’t you become a mustard seed in God’s eyes and then see what will happen to you as He nourishes your spiritual growth. It can happen. It will happen! Start being a mustard seed, today. AMEN