"The Kingdom of God is like a mustard seed."

Homily by Father Glenn Empey - Mark 4: 26-34

Wouldn’t it be nice if there were an instruction manual or some kind of guide book about the kingdom of God. Instead Jesus always spoke about the kingdom of God in the form of parables which can be just like a riddle.

“The Kingdom of God is as if someone would scatter seed on the ground , and would sleep and rise again night and day, and the seed would sprout and grow, he does not know how.”

There is something truly mysterious even magical about planting a seed. I suppose if you’re a professional botanist, you’d know all the science  behind the germination process and the life cycle of that seed. Or if anyone of us had actually been there with the Twelve, we would have heard explain what he meant in plain language. 


But we were not there with the Twelve. And if Jesus did give them some kind of manual or guidebook, the Twelve did not pass along any plain language explanation he might have given. Or they didn’t understand the manual any better than the parable explanation.

Jesus also said, "With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable will we use for it? 31 It is like a mustard seed, which, when sown upon the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth; 32 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."

Like all parables, this one is an invitation to become engaged and to explore the mystery. Maybe that’s why the Twelve did not pass on any less cryptic explanation. That would take the mystery out of it. That would have removed the invitation for engagement and the journey of discovery.

From the tiniest of things a great tree can grow. From the smallest of concepts and ideas, great understanding can grow. From the tiniest notion of faith, mysteries can unfold.

Normally when a person hears the word “kingdom” she or he may think of royalty. Or they may think about an empire. And it’s not likely that an analogy about a tiny seed would fit. After all, empires are things built by powerful people. They force it to happen – often violently. So, there’s the first turn-about in Jesus’ riddle or parable. The kingdom of God is somehow different than other kingdoms or empires.

And, here’s another thing about a seed. Once you plant the seed, there is really not much you can do. We might help it along a bit with water in dry spells but it’s mostly the natural rain and the natural richness of the soil that enable the seed to grow. And the warmth of the sun. We really don’t do much after the seed is planted. In the case of the growing seeds, we watch. In the case of the kingdom of God we watch but also listen.

Some people may equate the seed in these parables to the word of God. And so there’s where the hearing and the listening comes in. The teachings are sown into our hearts where the search for understanding begins in exploring its mystery. And the fruit or the harvested crop is that deeper understanding. It’s the process of growing. Not like the history of an empire but a forward looking process… an on-going search.

It’s all on a different kind of dimension. What the seed really represents is the presence of God within the world, within our hearts, minds, and souls. And the call is to see and to hear the presence of God in ones life and experiences.

It’s a change in attitude. It is seeing the world and hearing the teachings in a way that is always enriched by recognizing the presence of God even if we don’t right now fully understand. And hence the process of discovery, learning, growing. The parable is an invitation into seeing God’s presence.

Now that is mysterious but look at how powerful that change in attitude can be.  Consider what it can bring forth even if we cannot understand the exact details of how. At least we can’t understand it fully now. But we can respond to the invitation and take up the journey.

It’s not so much about any of us-- it’s about God. It’s about becoming able to see God’s presence.

It’s about letting God’s presence influence how we see the world. It’s about profound trust in his presence. It’s about profound trust in his actions in the world and in the heart. It’s about forgiving and being forgivable. It’s about loving and about being lovable.

Just imagine all the things that go on beneath the surface where the kingdom of God is sown. And imagine how the seeds over and over again continue to blossom. It is seeing beyond the fog of distractions. It’s about hearing beyond the noise. It is about going for the kernel of things.

And just think about this when engaging with this mystery and this parable: just think about how differently a person can see the process and experience of life with this new way of seeing and with this new way of listening.

And so the seed sprouts even when we don’t completely know how. That’s exactly why Jesus speaks his word to us in parables.


  1. Doug Woods on 21 June 2018 at 11:19 AM

    What I love about the parables of Jesus is that they’re rich with interpretations. There’s no one right answer. One of the things I get from the Parable of the Mustard Seed is that our life is like the life of the mustard plant. It starts as something pretty small—not the slightest bit impressive to look at. It just gets planted and watered—I don’t want to minimize what farmers do! They work very hard to help their crops grow, but the underlying LIFE of the thing is totally out of their hands. The seed grows and becomes a plant through no effort of its own. LIFE just happens … and it becomes something big and impressive. That’s a lot like MY life. Things have turned out to be a huge blessing—but I never started it, and it came out way better than I could have ever planned. That’s God’s blessing, God’s kingdom. So much from just some little thing ….

    • Father Glenn on 21 June 2018 at 12:20 PM

      Lovely 🙂 Glenn

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