Thursday, March 1 — Growth — Mark 4:21-34

“It is like a mustard seed, which, when sown upon the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on the 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.” 
    Today, we find ourselves with another agricultural parable, comparing the Kingdom of God with something that occurs in nature. This time, the Kingdom of God is compared to the actual plant — the mustard seed, to be exact. This small seed somehow grows into a great shrub with large branches. Mysteriously, something small transforms into something great. 
    Our faith is like that. Our journeys with Christ might start out as something small. Like a mustard seed that falls to the earth, our faith grows mysteriously season after season. Every once in a while, we hit a season of growth where branches and roots emerge with great excitement. But, sometimes growth is the painful loss of a branch. This parable, when placed after the parable from yesterday, shows the mystery in growth. We can spend all of the time in the world tending to the soil, guarding against weeds, watering the seed, but there is still mystery in how a seed grows into a thriving plant with deep roots and flowering branches. 
    We may be able to make the conditions right for the seed to grow, to enhance the seed’s ability to take root, but in the end we can’t make the seed grow. The point in Jesus telling this parable is to emphasize what God does when we aren’t looking. He is drawing our attention to the mysterious growth for which it is tempting to take credit. Ultimately, this parable points to the hope that we can have that God is working even when we do not realize it. There are many times in our lives when we try to take control of the seed, when we try to force it to grow. But this parable is our lesson is letting go and realizing that a lot of growth happens because of the grace of God. 
    As we continue in our Lenten journey, where might it be most tempting to take control of your growth? Where is it most evident that God is helping you grow? 

God, we are thankful for the way that you tend to our gardens. You have planted seeds in us and are helping them to grow in ways that we could never imagine. We pray that you will continue to grow us, continue to manifest yourself in our lives. Amen.