Proper 6, Year B, Church of the Holy Spirit, Nashville, June 16, 2024

“[The kingdom of God] is like a mustard seed, which, when sown upon the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth…”(Mk. 4:31).

What a difference one person can make! We sometimes think that nothing we can do can make a difference. The world’s problems are so many and so great, while our own time and abilities are limited. When the need is so great, how can our small efforts help? How can one individual change things for the better?

Jesus in our Gospel reading talks about the kingdom of God as a mustard seed, which is a very small seed, but from which comes a great shrub, whose branches provide shelter. He’s telling us that great things come from small beginnings. After all, all life begins with little evidence of its existence, often something invisible to the naked eye. We cannot see it but it’s there. Like the mustard seed, it starts small, yet great things come from it. Each of us comes from a tiny seed, yet here we are.

Jesus is telling us that this is how God works to bring about great things. He starts with each of us, with our limited time and abilities, and works through us. He has chosen each of us to be the instrument of his perfect will. St. Paul says, “We have this treasure in earthen vessels” (2 Cor. 4:7): signifying that we are the humble material in which the kingdom of God is hidden. “Consider your own call, brothers and sisters”, St. Paul says in another place, “not many of you were wise by human standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth” (1 Cor. 1:26). God called humble people to do his will, not people who were powerful or wealthy or even good at getting things done.

God chose humble people, as St. Paul, says, “that it may be made clear that this extraordinary power belongs to God and does not come from us” (2 Cor. 4:7). God is at work in us, and God does extraordinary things! One person can make a difference; the small seed can become a mighty shrub. We can start small, and spread like wildfire.

But, as St. Paul says, the power belongs to God. So he writes again to the early Christians in Corinth, “But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, things that are not, to reduce to nothing things that are, so that no one might boast in the presence of God” (1 Cor. 1:27-29). One person can make a difference, but the power at work is God’s.

The small seed becomes a mighty shrub through grace, God’s power and presence in our lives. Grace is God’s gift to us, the generous helping that we need to live. God casts the seed of the kingdom widely, as Jesus says in our Gospel. “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” (Mk. 4:26-27). The one who casts the seed watches it grow, day and night, but he does not know how it grows.

Jesus says, “He does not know how” (Mk. 4:27), because of grace. The one who casts the seed is watching, and even working day and night, Jesus says, but he cannot make the seed grow. Only God can do that, through grace. Again, St. Paul: “So neither the one who plants or the one who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth” (1 Cor. 3:7).

The Church of the Holy Spirit is like the mustard seed in Jesus’ parable today. The seed has been growing for a long time, and it is bearing fruit. Jesus says, “The earth produces of itself, first the stalk, then the head, then the full grain in the head” (Mk. 4:28). God is doing this work through grace, which touches each of us here.

God the Holy Spirit will be poured out today through the prayer of the congregation and through the laying on of hands by the bishop. We will share Holy Communion, the gift of Christ’s Body and Blood, signs of God’s grace. The seed is continuing to grow in each of us. What a difference one person can make. Who can tell what will be the result of our efforts? God is at work in them, so we can expect a great harvest. We don’t know how God does it, but he works through us, here at the Church of the Holy Spirit.

  • The Rt. Rev’d John Bauerschmidt, Bishop of Tennessee