Mark 4:30-33

He also said, “With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable will we use for it? 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.

With many such parables he spoke the word to them, as they were able to hear it; he did not speak to them except in parables, but he explained everything in private to his disciples.” Mark 4:30-33

I really appreciate the words “as they were able to hear it” because that fairly well describes the journey of my life. It is connected, for me, to that other famous line that I recently talked about, “when the student is ready, the teacher appears.” I think that is the way life works.

No one can be expected to do math until they come to understand the concept of a number. No one can find their way around a town they have never visited unless they have some sort of map or guide. That is just common sense.

How do we learn? We learn through a combination of experience and guidance. We need others to help us along the way. As they help us, and as we gain the experiences of our lives, our inborn talents and interests and curiosities emerge. We find our path. Hopefully, we keep on learning throughout our life. I would love to die still curious.

As I find myself thinking and writing about the word “faith”, I realize that that word has taken on a whole new range of meanings for me that I didn’t use to consider. I say “innocently” because I really was innocent when I used to think that faith was a thing that I could have more or less of. I thought I needed enough of it to please God. If I didn’t have enough of it, I would be in trouble. Like Peter sinking beneath the waves.

Honestly, it was the Bible that contributed to this way of thinking. Jesus says I need faith like a mustard seed, the smallest of all seeds. That tells me, that when it comes to the thing of faith all I need is a little bit. Like Brylcreem—A Little Dab’ll Do Ya! But then Hebrews 11:6 pops up and says that “without faith it is impossible to please God, for whoever would approach him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.” How do you have a little dab of that?

Think about that hard enough and you enter the eternal spin cycle of shame and confusion. Faith becomes one more thing to be compared in a culture that tells us that bigger and more is always better than smaller and less. One more performance to be measured and evaluated and judged and graded.

So how has my thinking been evolving? I realize that I have far too often equated faith with certainty rather than seeing them as polar opposites in constant creative tension. Faith is more about conversation than conclusion, more like a dance than a doctrine. Faith is more a way of being and a way of seeing life.

Faith thus requires both life experience and guidance. It both creates and depends on relationships to flourish. Faith opens life to us because it takes us beyond what we know to the good news that we are known. And so is everyone else. And we need one another to discover that together.

Let us pray: Gracious Lord, open our hearts and minds to the reality of your presence and the guidance of your Spirit. Bring us to a new awareness of our part in your kingdom and help us trust that your purposes will be worked out in the world. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

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One Response to “Mark 4:30-33”

  1. Gordon and Darlene Says:

    Thank you Kerry

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