By Devyn Chambers Johnson
Lectionary reading for 3/23/2022: Psalm 39; Numbers 13:17-27; Luke 13:18-21
Selected passage for reflection: Luke 13:18-21
Luke 13:18-21, NRSV
18 He said therefore, “What is the kingdom of God like? And to what should I compare it? 19 It is like a mustard seed that someone took and sowed in the garden; it grew and became a tree, and the birds of the air made nests in its branches.”
20 And again he said, “To what should I compare the kingdom of God? 21 It is like yeast that a woman took and mixed in with[a] three measures of flour until all of it was leavened.”
Several years ago, I completed training as a Godly Play storyteller. In Godly Play the stories are told simply and slowly with basic props. For the parables all the props were cut out of felt and would lay two dimensional on the floor. I loved this type of storytelling because it encourages wonder. If done well the kids lean forward and hang on every word spoken by the storyteller.
One of the first stories I taught was the parable of the mustard seed. The story required that I develop some sleight of hand/magic trick skills. I had to take the piece of brown felt, that had been cut in the shape of a tree, and roll it up in the palm of my hand. And as I said “The Kingdom of God is like a mustard seed that a farmer planted in his garden” I was to point at a nearly invisible seed on the floor. And after a pause say: “But it grew and grew so big that birds lived in its branches.” And as I said this I rolled out that brown piece of felt hidden in the palm of my hand.
At this point the children audibly gasped as the tree seemed to appear from nowhere. I then proceeded to place little felt birds in the tree. At the end of the lesson the children were asked wondering questions. One of the questions was “I wonder if these birds have names?” To which one little three-year-old responded by naming the birds after herself and every member of her family.
I’ve never forgotten this lesson. I’ve never forgotten the sheer astonishment on these kids’ faces when that tree appeared. Wonder and astonishment that I envy. And I’ll never forget the poignancy of the little girl’s confidence that her and her family are at home in the Kingdom of God.
When the world seems overwhelming—when the world (and the church!) seems overrun with conflict—we tend to forget the power of the Kingdom of God. When churches, leaders and political parties fail us we throw our hands up in defeat. But the Kingdom of God is stronger and more pervasive than earthly challenges.
We are invited to be part of this Kingdom of God but the success of the Kingdom is not dependent on our might or our right belief or our sheer will. The Kingdom of God is God’s. God who calls us to faithfulness and humility. And God who will surprise us with his power, his love, and his grace.
May we rest in the power of God and, like children, gasp in wonder when we witness the Kingdom of God at work in this world.
Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen. Ephesians 3:20-21, NRSV
Can you remember a time when the power of God or the goodness of God made you gasp in surprise and wonder?
Is there a time you missed the opportunity to be in awe of God because you worried it would seem childish, immature or irrational?
Creator God, open my eyes to see you at work in the world. Soften my heart to receive these gifts with wonder and awe. Amen
About the Author
Rev. Dr. Devyn Chambers Johnson currently serves as Co-Lead Pastor (with her husband Ryan) at Covenant Congregational Church in North Easton MA. She is the founder of Four More Women in Pulpit, an advocacy movement for women preachers. Devyn is the proud mother of Rosie (9) and Susanna (5). Find out more at revdevyn.com.