The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed
that someone took and sowed in his field …

Matthew 13:31

Mustard Seeds

Mustard Seeds
Photo: Mattie Hagedorn

I love language. I love the use of words that – though admittedly clumsy and often bulky – can convey complicated images and messages with wonder. When threaded well, words can present things that make little sense in a way that almost does … Though math can present well the beauty of connexions of cause and effect, of intrinsic bindings of atom to quark, of apple to quantum, words paint paradox onto a canvas that otherwise would seem too dense, too convoluted, too inaccessible …

In our Christian context– I am not objective in case you were wondering – the height of word use is often demonstrated in Jesus’ use of parable. He took these common images and phrases, mixtures of colloquialism and metaphor and repackaged them. He undermined and subverted cultural norms and expectations in a way that was both apparent and obscure. Sometimes they made sense and other times they confused even those with whom he journeyed in ministry. It was somewhere in these words plays, the gap between what should be clear and that which was not, that meaning was and remains to be found. The seeds … well they’re right up there in the Hall of Fame as far as I am concerned.

One of the interpretations – or lenses – which speaks to me about the agrarian image of the ‘mustard seed’ is its subversive nature. Of course sowing seeds is good – hey who doesn’t want food to grow abundantly. Have you seen the way zucchini or cucumber just take over a garden, if you’re not careful? But that’s not what’s happening in this parable, well sort of.

Jesus is equating the seed sower as a weed bringer. This Christian message, the Good News, is not apparently about abundant tomatoes or a bumper crop of wheat: nope! It is – in fact – about dandelions blooming over fields awash in yellow or purple loosestrife choking out cattails in marshes and ditches. In other words, those who endeavour into discipleship are being equated with intentionally planting invasive species in a crop that is meant to feed people. And – as though the subversive part is not rebellious enough –the implication is that what everyone eats is actually bad for them and the weeds are not!

the field is the world,
and the good seed are the children of the kingdom;
the weeds are the children of the evil one

Matthew 19:38

Purple Loosestrife

Purple Loosestrife
Photo: seyed mostafa zamani

Okay, hopefully we’re not totally confused at this point (thought the original hearers may very well have been), because further in the text Jesus does that ‘mixed metaphor’ thing with the parable that is unsettling. There’s gnashing of teeth, a supposed binary or those who are ‘good’ and those who are ‘evil.’ Both are planting in this field where sometimes what’s supposed to be a good crop is a bad one and a bad one is good. Then there’s the twist that what’s good is actually good and bad actually bad … there’s a few more flips in there, but you get the gist … ummm … right?

So what? What’s this have to do with anything about the church? I think it speaks a great deal to us in ways with which we are still uncomfortable. I think – or maybe it’s just my imagination – that the parable remains true: we are and will always be sower of seeds. The question, in this time of cultural shifting, changing and transformation, is what is nature of the soil into which we are planting? And – perhaps even more importantly – what is our intention?

Church has changed and is changing – no one who parks her/his spiritual journey in a religious institution has not either experienced this or heard that lament. And, if – as the metaphor goes – we have been called to sow seeds, but the till and soil has changed, do we then need to ask what we intend to grow? Do we want more of what we had, which is no longer? Do we long for a past that clearly is no longer tenable in the present journey toward that which will be? How is our sowing risk-filled, as it was for the Early Church?

1. Plant the mustard seed
Deep inside of me
I wanna throw the mountains
into the sea
Everybody knows
What you reap is what you’ve sown
And I don’t want to be found in me

2. Gonna march out of the bar
Climb up to the stars
So you can see me shining down
I’m the weeds in the wheat
Gnashin on my teeth
I create my own reality

3. Place my hands on the plow
Let the angels tell me how
Lucy fell from Heaven in a flash
Oh, my pride is a beast
Only takes a little yeast
Rise you up and wake you from the dead

4. Gonna march out of the bar
Climb up to the stars
So you can see me shining down
I’m the weeds in the wheat
And I’m gnashin on my teeth
I create my own reality

5. So rise up, rise up
A war against yourself cannot be won
And wake up, wake up
It’s posible that this is just a dream

6. Plant the mustard seed
Deep inside of me
And I’ll uproot a sycamore tree
Oh my pride is a beast
And it’s coming here to feast
On these limitations I put out on myself

7. Gonna march out of the bar
Climb up to the stars
So you can see me shining down
Oh I’m the weeds in the wheat
And I’m gnashing on my teeth
And I create my own reality

8. Gonna march out of the bar
And climb up to the stars
So you can see me shining down
Oh I’m the weeds in the wheat
And I’m gnashing on my teeth
And I create my own reality
Oh I create my own reality

Damion Suomi ©2011

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