The moth went flying around my house yesterday as if he owned the joint.
According to my daughter, the moth was the size of a jumbo-jet, a monster out of a Japanese horror movie. To my eyes, this was a tiny brown interloper—harmless. Much better a brown moth than a voracious mosquito, in my opinion. But she would not rest until I had gotten it out of the house. In my daughter’s mind, the moth was huge. What to me was an insignificant thing was instead, to her mind, a pest and a barrier to peace of mind.
So too, it is with the mustard seed. A small, insignificant thing becomes a big thing—but in this case, instead of being a disturber of the peace, it becomes a blessing—at least from the point of view of the birds who find their home within its branches.
This Sunday’s gospel from Mark talks about little things growing and becoming blessings– even the mustard seed, which was seen by many to be a pest. Yet if allowed to take up valuable space in the garden, it provided a home for dozens of birds. And birds are vital helpers in pollinating the other plants of the garden. They eat mosquitos and flies and other pests. And their work ends up being a grace to the gardener.
Grace undergirds this brief little parable Jesus tells, and teaches us to never overlook the importance small things, easily overlooked things, can have in our lives, if we allow them. This shrub grown from the tiny seed grows through no effort of our own, but nonetheless blesses the birds—and us.
And if by grace the birds are given a home from such a small thing, then how much more can we be certain that God’s grace and love spreads out and provides shelter for us, a place to rest and refresh ourselves within God’s love and protection?
The little seeds of the gospel are waiting to sprout up—often in places where we least expect it. And so it has been throughout time. In Jesus’s lifetime, only a few dozen people, perhaps less, took in his message and stuck with it all the way through the crucifixion and beyond to the resurrection. Yet here we are. Called together as Christ’s body, the Church to translate and proclaim and embody God’s love for everyone.
Against every impulse of the world we live in, where we are taught to be afraid, to fear scarcity, to feel small, insignificant, and overwhelmed, until the doubt beats like the tattoo of our hearts racing through fear, or resentment, or pain. Actually, put that way, those are the same fears that confronted Jesus’s listeners. In the face of those fears, God calls them AND us to come to be fully ourselves, to fulfill the dream God has for us to be fully alive, through being conduits or channels for God’s abundant love, grace, and comfort.
May we learn to have faith in little things, because from little things, great blessings grow.
The Rev. Leslie Scoopmire is former teacher, a gardener, and a priest in the Diocese of Missouri, currently hanging her vestments at Christ Church Cathedral in St. Louis when she isn’t serving as a supply priest. Her blog of prayers and other writings is Abiding In Hope