Jesus said to the twelve and those around him, ‘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 earth produces of itself, first the stalk, then the head, then the full grain in the head. But when the grain is ripe, at once he goes in with his sickle, because the harvest has come.’
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.
With many such parables he spoke the word to them, as they were able to hear it.
Do you remember your school days? What is it that you remember about them? Do you remember the men and women who taught you? What is it that you remember about those teachers?
Most people have great respect for the teaching profession. Many times I have heard people say something like: I don’t know how teachers do it … I wouldn’t have the patience. That word ‘patience’ is, of course, important, but it is also only part of the story. The bigger issue for those who are entering the teaching profession revolves around their ability to communicate at an appropriate level.
School children, like adults, know when they are being patronised, when someone is not showing them the respect they are due as a fellow human being. In earlier days, the world of education focused more on students sitting in silence and listening to the wisdom of their ‘elders and betters’. Over time, educationalists have found that engagement and mutual respect are far more effective in the classroom than the blind acceptance of authority.
This diversion into the world of education connects very closely to today’s reading. Yet again Jesus talks about the scattering of seed. He speaks of seed sprouting and growing, of its ripening to the point of being harvested for the nourishment of others. This is a mighty ambition for any small immature seed, that it might one day provide that which is life sustaining for many.
Jesus then goes on to speak of the mustard seed. I have a mustard seed in a phial in my study. It was given to me on my last day at theological college, just days before I was ordained. Until I was given that tiny wondrous seed I had had no idea of how small a mustard seed really is. Suddenly Jesus’ talk of the greatest of shrubs growing from the smallest of seeds made sense. Suddenly, I realized the responsibility that has been laid on the shoulders of all who profess a faith in Jesus Christ.
We are not all called to be teachers in the conventional sense. We are not all called to stand in classrooms and share specific areas of expertise with others. But … we are all called to teach. We are all called to teach in the sense of sharing that which we have learned and which excites us. We are called to nurture the interest of others in order that it might grow into a great passion. We are called to tell the story of Jesus to all whom we meet, and to tell it in a way that will help it to take root and to flourish. We are called to sow those tiny seeds of faith, whether we consider ourselves to be teachers or not, and then to nurture those seeds into the greatest of plants which will, of course, in their turn, spread their seeds to others.