Palimpsest: Small Things

mustard seeds MMH

Matthew 13:31-32

What should an empire be like: a mustard plant or the noble, mighty cedar? The answer is clear. An empire is more like a cedar of Lebanon. But Jesus’ parable burlesques this assumption. It pokes fun at our expectation that an empire is more pervasive than dominant. It is like a pungent weed that takes over everything and in which the birds of the air can nest; it bears little if any resemblance to the might, majestic, and noble symbol of empire of Israel or Caesar. Take your choice, says the parable.
—Bernard Brandon Scott,
Re-Imagine the World

Both (parables) proclaim that God’s action in the world, while almost imperceptible (the mustard seed was proverbial as the smallest thing that an eye could see) or hidden (as leaven in dough), is nonetheless real and will in God’s own time come to full fruition. Both assume that the kingdom of God is not a strictly future reality that will suddenly appear full-blown without any prior activity. In Jesus’ ministry the kingdom has been mysteriously inaugurated.
—Douglas Hare, Interpretation: Matthew

 We can get a better handle on listening by turning to theologian Karl Rahner, one of this century’s master gardeners. Rahner’s message is that the listening that grows God is really a remembering. Embedded with Godseed as we are, each person already contains the promise of harvest within his or her heart. But we generally forget its presence to such an extent that it takes a special effort to recall to consciousness what we knew all along. When we cultivate the soil by listening, we remember.
—Kerry Walters, Growing God

It (mustard) grows entirely wild, though it is improved by being transplanted: but on the other hand when it has once been sown it is scarcely possible to get the place free of it, as the seed when it falls germinates at once.
—Pliny the Elder, Natural History

“A weed,” my mother used to say, “is just the right plant in the wrong place.” To me this is much more accurate than defining weeds as “wild” plants as opposed to “garden” ones...And man a garden plant, fine in one spot, can be an unwelcome guest in another. Even the right plant in the right spot can be weedy if there is too much of it; in that case you must “weed” it out along with the pigweed, man-underground and fall panic grass.
—Barbara Damrosch, The Garden Primer

The butterfly effect is a metaphor that encapsulates the concept of sensitive dependence on initial conditions in chaos theory; namely that small differences in the initial condition of a dynamical system may produce large variations in the long term behavior of the system.
—James Gleick, Chaos: Making a New Science

· Have you ever lost a battle with weeds in your garden? How did that happen? What did you do? Was it expected?
· When has a small thing made a large difference in your life?
· Do you believe our lives, and the way of the world, is a set thing, or can it surprise us?
· Does God surprise us? How does God participate in small things?

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