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Notes from Steve:
June 13, 2021
“Jesus and the Ajuga Plant”
(1 Samuel 15:34-16:13, Mark 4:26-34)
I wonder if Jesus would use the ajuga plant, found in our backyard here in Orono, instead of the mustard seed when teaching about the Kingdom of God? After all, the ajuga plant has much in common with the mustard tree. Doesn’t quite have the same ring to it though, does it? “The kingdom of God is like an ajuga plant.” No, let’s stick with the mustard seed.
Typically when we remember this teaching, we think of the potential of the tiny mustard seed. Though it is small, when planted, it grows to become the largest plant in the garden. This is like the kingdom of God; when planted even in small ways, God’s presences becomes evident in big ways. Today we are challenged to think of this parable in three new ways.
Why is the Kingdom of God like a mustard seed? Because unlike most other plants, a mustard plant can pop-up and grow in the most unlikely of places. I am reminded of Dietrich Boenhoffer, who was imprisoned in Nazi Germany before being executed just days before the end of WWII. From terrible circumstances in prison, Boenhoffer wrote words which would become books about the Christian faith. These books have been agents of transformation for millions through the decades. Imagine that! Kingdom of God work planted, and growing through a young theologian in a German prison.
Why is the Kingdom of God like a mustard seed? Because like the mustard tree/shrub, the way the kingdom of God is revealed isn’t defined by some as “beautiful.” Recall our passage from 1 Samuel this morning. It wasn’t Jesse’s older, stronger sons who were anointed as the next king of Israel. Instead, it was Jesse’s youngest son-the “runt of the litter” who was chosen by God, and anointed by Samuel. I also think of people like Mother Teresa-not someone who would be defined as beautiful by worldly standards. Yet the kingdom of God was beautifully offered through the life of this nun.
Why is the Kingdom of God like a mustard seed? Unlike many other plants, the mustard tree/shrub is hardy, and can endure dry seasons and threats from predators. Think of the Christian church in Russia. Russia has a deep Christian heritage, but during the 20th century religion was abolished. Yet today, 25 years after the fall of Russia, Christianity is on the rise. In fact, 7 out of 10 Russians affiliate themselves with the Russian Orthodox Church. The kingdom of God survived a dry season and predators, and is alive and even growing today.
Jesus is defined in many ways: savior, messiah, good shepherd, light of the world, the living water.Jesus is also teacher, and many times he used parables like today’s mustard seed story. May we understand God’s kingdom as a seed that grows in unlikely places, becomes evident through unlikely people, while enduring through the dry seasons of our lives. May the kingdom grow and flourish in this church. Amen!