Friday Scripture - Matthew 13: 31-32 31 He put before them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that someone took and sowed in his field; 32 it is the smallest of all the seeds, but when it has grown it is the greatest of shrubs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches.”
Simple acts, slight skills, small characters. This has been our focus for the week. Sunday's sermon and Monday's reflection showed us that in the midst of social, political and religious upheaval and chaos, new hope was born when a women fell to her knees in prayer. On Tuesday, it wasn't even what Leah did, but how she was treated, that invited God to intervene in a life of shame and dishonor to bring life and happiness and hope. On Wednesday it was the love and faithfulness of Ruth and Naomi that allowed these women to negotiate the waters of trauma and trial, resulting in the birth of the father of King David. Yesterday, the wit of Shiphrah and Puah and the beauty and skill of Esther that both undermined the murderous intent of Kings.
In large part, I hope that this week's devotions have been a celebration of the critical role women, too often unnamed in the Bible itself and far too often overlooked for the male characters like Abraham, Moses, & David, played their role, their vitally important roles, in the mission of God. But I am also reminded of Jesus's parable of the mustard seed. The Kingdom is born from the smallest of seeds. My point, of course, is NOT that these women are small in any sense of that word. But still, the ways that they inspired, incited and enacted life and hope and resistance and change were indeed, small. Hannah prayed, Leah wept, Ruth loved, Shiphrah and Puah joked and Esther cooked and from each of these seeds of hope and lament and resistance, amazing things happened.
Too often I fear, whenever American Christians ponder this parable it gets subtly shifted so that it excuses setting the bar low for how it is that we will live out our faith. The Parable of the Mustard seed does not condone slacktivism. It does not mean that because we post a bible verse on Facebook that we have planted a seed. Instead, it is meant to inspire us to risky and courageous acts of compassion, solidarity, and resistance even when logic tells us that our action will not lead to change, will not make a difference. Parable sets the bar higher, not lower for it promises that what may result from our halting and fearful acts has much greater impact than we can imagine. Let's not forget what's really happening on the larger stage. In the life of Hannah, God is intervening in social chaos, political corruption, and religious infidelity. Through Ruth God in interrupting systems that denigrate and exploit immigrants and foreigners. In Leah God attending to the experience and the voice of women who are ignored and dishonored by men. In Shiphrah and Puah and Esther, God in intervening in violence and genocide and death. The parable of the mustard seed inspires us to rise to the occasion when we perceive any of these systems in our culture believing that while we, on our own, may feel too small or ill-equipped or lacking in influence, God can and will magnify our efforts and bring life and hope to bear on cruelty, exploitation, and death.