COMMUNITY CONGREGATIONAL CHRISTIAN CHURCH
CITRUS SPRINGS, FL
DEVOTIONAL December 1, 2021
to all who helped decorate the church for Advent and Christmas, much appreciated!
Bible Study - Wednesday 10 AM
Luke 13: 18 - 21
18 Then Jesus asked, "What is the kingdom of God like? What shall I compare it to?
19 It is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his garden. It grew and became a tree, and the birds perched in its branches."
20 Again he asked, "What shall I compare the kingdom of God to?
21 It is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into about sixty pounds of flour until it worked all through the dough."
It almost seems like Jesus, in these two parables says, if you think that is small, let me show you this! However, the people listening did not want to hear parables about small things, especially when it came to Israel's future. They wanted to hear parables about big things, grand things, mighty things, and hopefully those things arriving soon. They liked what they saw with the crippled lady we spoke of last week. God intervening with power and might bringing quick resolution to their problems. Yet, had you asked the lady who was crippled if God's intervention happened quickly, she may have said otherwise. The first parable challenges our perspective about the Kingdom of God as much as it did then. We share a need to have our needs met now and we know exactly what those needs are, just ask us. The crippled women in the previous devotional resembled Israel. They too were crippled under the oppression of Rome and corrupt leaders. They too were unable to function as they felt they should, being they were the people of God. They needed an intervention from God, swift and powerful, to deliver them from their current state, restore them to what they once were, and establish them as a nation among nations. Well, that was not God's plan. The next chapter would start small, very small, and it would grow. It is interesting that Jesus chose this plant to describe the Kingdom of God. Like all seeds, it is tiny in comparison to the tree it produces. Its growth rate was not particularly slow, but unlike weeds, it did not sprout up overnight. It took a while. So, if the people thought that God was going to do a miraculous turn-around of their behalf, they were mistaken. Through this parable Jesus was saying the Kingdom of God will develop over time and it will include and be inhabited by all people (birds) who come and make their home in it. Like the parable about the wineskins (Luke 5: 33-39), that was not what the Israelites wanted to hear. Yet, I find it intriguing that Jesus chose the mustard seed in the garden motif to make this point. He could have picked any seed/tree illustration He wanted and some were better illustrations of the size/growth comparison. Why did the mustard seed in the garden fit His purpose better than others? As you know, mustard is a spice. It was used to make the meals taste better. A hot dog without mustard is ...bad. So, not only does the mustard tree make a good home for the birds to live in and find shelter, it makes the world around it better too. It is a spice that adds and accentuates the meal.
The lesson found in the yeast is similar to the mustard seed in that it too addresses Israel's need for radical re-establishment and support from God. In this parable Jesus makes the point, Israel may have been the beginning, but they are not the end. We cannot be too harsh on them for holding their desired beliefs. I can confess to wanting God's ways to be my ways, God's plan to be my plan. And, maybe like you, I can be very rigid in my beliefs. The question is, can I be open to other perspectives? Like Israel, I may leave a few numbers out when I do my calculations and I may even round a few numbers up or down when it comes to the final calculation. I am using numbers to symbolize Scriptures or prophesies. God understands our tendencies in this matter. The question is can we work the figures again in the way they were meant to be worked. Jesus began talking about the mustard seed and now He is referring to something much larger. The tree was more in line with nationalistic thinking. The dough symbolizes more of a global perspective. And just as yeast moves unseen, almost mysteriously, through the dough, so too will the Kingdom of God move throughout the world. As with the mustard seed, Jesus' choice of yeast and dough are intriguing. There were many options he could have chosen to make the point, but He chose this one. Again, look at the end product. Yeast and dough make bread. The mainstay of their diet and sustenance.
So, we are left with a question. Did it happen? Did Jesus' prophecies made through these parables come true? They did, but it did not occur instantaneously or in favor of any particular group of people. As global movements go, it did well and is still ongoing. The question is, are we providing the sustenance God desires in the world around us. What do we add to the communities we inhabit? In all of us, there is some dough and some spice that we are asked to develop and express in our daily lives. Like I have said before, it's not necessarily expressed in big events or endeavors, but instead in the ordinary things we do each day. Living the way we are called to in our personal lives, the places where we live, is very challenging. If we asked the mustard seed or particle of yeast, how did you do it? Where did you draw your power? They would reply, God, and the yeast would add, others. The way the Kingdom of God spread throughout the world was person to person, community to community, country to country. The church being the vehicle. Many would have scoffed at the idea of Christianity becoming the world's largest religion, especially when confronted with its beginnings. Just like people would laugh at the sight of a mustard seed laying on the ground and being told it was the beginnings of a tree or a pinch of yeast permeating sixty pounds of dough, but they did. How? By being true to what they are and abiding with God (John 15: 4-6).
Pray with me ...
Holy God we confess we can get too attached to our plan, blocking out other ideas. Grant us discernment as we process through the many challenges and situations we face each day. Help us to stay with the process, not becoming impatient or overwhelmed by what we face. Lord, we are thankful for the ways You have blessed our life. Hear us as we pray for our loved ones, bless them in accordance with their needs. Bless our church, so we can continue to fulfill the vision You have for us. In Jesus name, Amen