Sermon June 14: The Power of the Tiny

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Faith United Methodist Church

June 14, 2015

Third Sunday after Pentecost

Rev. Kristabeth E. Atwood

Scripture: Mark 4:26-34

Prayer of Illumination:

Bountiful God, your kingdom is like a seed that someone scatters on the ground. How it grows, we do no know, but there is abundance in the harvest. Open our eyes that we may see your kingdom in a tiny mustard seed and marvel at the simple beauty of our world and our lives. May the words that I speak and the thoughts that we form bring glory to your holy name. Amen.

Sermon:                       The Power of the Tiny

We live in a digital world. It’s convenient, right? Our TV shows come in crystal clear. We can communicate with someone half way around the world with the click of an icon. But sometimes I get a little nostalgic for the things of the past. Party lines on our telephones. Rabbit ears on top of our TV. Instead of tin foil wrapped around our TV antennas, we have HD and LED screens, Blue Ray, TiVo, and Hulu. We never again have to worry about missing our favorite show because of bad reception or a scheduling conflict. It is even possible to access the Internet from our TVs and download our favorite movies.   Kind of makes you wonder what the next big thing will be….

Well, in case you are wondering, I think I’ve figured it out. Air-Writing. Do you ever get frustrated while texting from your Blackberry? E-mailing from your iPhone? Well, you can forget fumbling with tiny keys! With air-writing, you can just hold your cell phone like a pen and write your messages in the air. I’m serious. Yahoo news reported it, so it has to be true! And, mark my words; it will be the next big thing….. until the next big thing comes along.

But that is human nature, isn’t it? To always be looking for the next big thing. That thing that will change our life, make things easier, save us time. No wonder infomercials are peppered with the descriptor “revolutionary.” Revolutionary weight loss system. Revolutionary wrinkle reducer. Even my Lean Cuisine comes with its very own ‘Revolutionary Grilling Tray.”

Yet, Martin Luther ~ a revolutionary himself ~ suggested, “If you truly understood a single grain of wheat, you would die of wonder.” Perhaps he was on to something. Forget Digital HDTV or Air Writing, a simple, single grain of wheat ~ a sprout from a seed buried in the ground ~ has the power to hold us in awe.   Perhaps we don’t need the next big thing. Maybe what we need is to pay closer attention to the small things right in front us.                                                                          

Small things like seeds that sprout and grow. Small things like bushes that provide shelter for the birds. Shifting our focus from what we want to what’s going on around us, we may begin to see the small, seemingly simple, things that happen regardless of whether or not we are paying attention. “The kingdom of God is as if someone would scatter seed on the ground, and would sleep and rise night and day, and the seed would sprout and grow, he does not know how.” Such a small thing, yet a witness to the power of God.

The truth is, days of small things are most of the days of our life. We don’t often wake up in the morning with big plans to change the world. Most of us aren’t on the fast track for the next big thing. We wake up to days filled with small choices. Choices to offer a compassionate word. To pick up trash on the street. Choices reach out to a friend in need. To offer the last Oreo cookie to someone else.   Choices not to live in fear, but with hope. Preacher Barbara Brown Taylor describes it saying, “The antidote to anxiety is courage, chosen over and over again, everyday that you live…” Small choices that, when made in love, can change the world. Mustard seed choices, we might say, For it is “… the smallest of all the seeds on earth; yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes the greatest of all shrubs, and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade.”

We know today ~ the horticulturalists among us will tell us ~ that the mustard seed is not, in fact, the smallest seed. Nor does it grow into the greatest of shrubs, but is more like a weed. What was Jesus thinking? We could argue about these discrepancies, but that is not the point.   This is a parable…. a story designed to get us thinking. Rev. Martha Sterne points out, “Small things, tiny seeds, are the work of Christ.”   Jesus’ great gift was to use everyday things to teach about divine things. Tiny seeds. Insignificant bushes. Jesus invites us to look at the world with new eyes. To faithfully wait and trust a process we cannot fully understand.

In a couple of weeks I will celebrate six years of being your pastor. Six years! It has gone by very fast. The past six years have been full of wonderful thing, and most of those things have been small things. We haven’t solved world peace. We haven’t eliminated hunger. But we have made connection, shared struggles, offered comfort, given to those in need. We have planted seeds. Small things done, I pray, with diligence and patience. I look forward with hope for many more years of doing small things together

And perhaps some of these small things will be joined together to be part of big things ~ or bigger things ~ but that is not for us to know, at least not now. And that’s okay. “The kingdom of God is as if someone would scatter seed on the ground, and would sleep and rise night and day, and the seed would sprout and grow, he does not know how. “ The words of Archbishop Oscar Romero, assassinated for his work with the poor in El Salvador, remind us to, “…take the long view… because we are guardian of a future not our own.”

The good news is that our work is never done, not as long as we live upon this earth. We will sleep and rise, night and day, planting seeds, doing our small things in our particular places. Small things that may, one day, blossom into big things by the grace of God. The power of the tiny. And, here’s the really good news: We get to be part of it by faithfully waiting and trusting a process we cannot fully understand. To paraphrase the words of another pastor, “God has endless confidence in our potential for God alone sees what we, as individuals and as the church, can become.” Jesus sees beyond the appearance to the possibility. We, his followers, are the seeds. Who knows what might grow up among us?

Meanwhile, we will be bombarded by the next big thing…. The next revolutionary product that will change our lives…. until the next big thing comes along.   But even if we can’t program our DVR or figure out how to text our friends, we know we are part of the biggest thing going, by paying attention to the small things around us. For small things, tiny seeds, are the work of Christ.

“It is like a mustard seed, which, when sown upon the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth; yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes the greatest of all shrubs, and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade.” The sower starts with a simple seed, the soils nurtures it into a big plant and the birds of the air find that the weed is a palace. Such is the kingdom of God. Amen.