Sunday, July 26, 2020

The Expansiveness of the Realm of God.

Expansiveness — that was the word that came to me as I read the lectionary gospel for today. The text (Matthew 13:31-52) records five short parables, I loved what an expansive picture these parables are giving of the realm of God. 

I rarely look words up when writing a blog but today I did and loved the definition given. Expansiveness: magnificence of scale. What a great definition?

I think these parables will be familiar to all but today, I’m just going to linger with the first one.

The realm of God is likened to a tiny mustard seed which produces a tree where the birds can nest and find protection. I have spoken about this parable before and make no apologies for some repetition as I find this such a rich picture of the realm of God.

When Andy and I lived in the UK we sometimes went camping in France — I had also camped there in my childhood. One of the delights of the journey was seeing the mustard fields. They stretched, bright yellow, for what seemed like miles and miles to the horizon. From them is harvested the mustard that one eats as a garnish. 

However, I don’t think it was that sort of mustard which was in the author’s mind when this gospel was penned.

I believe the story is talking about the mustard tree which is native to Israel and several other countries in the Middle East and Africa. It thrives in hot, dry conditions.  Salvadora Persica is a shrub which grows up to thirty feet tall. It is known as the mustard tree or toothbrush tree. In addition to shelter and nesting for birds it has many uses. The leaves are said to help cure many diseases including coughs, asthma and rheumatism. The fibrous branches are used for teeth cleaning. The small berries are eaten, both fresh and dried, whilst the leaves are used to make salads.

I thought it was such a great picture of the expansiveness. In this one parable, through the image of the mustard tree the realm of is depicted as a place of refuge, a place of new life, a place of healing and a place of nourishment. 

I know if I were to ponder the other four parables, I would see more images of the expansiveness of the realm of God. However, today, I want to linger on the image of the tree. I am writing this surrounded by trees. They are sheltering me from the sun, the birds are singing in them, the squirrels are running in them. Trees are such a picture of life and as I sit among them it seems fitting to ponder the magnificence of scale of the realm of God.