In one of his parables, Jesus compares the kingdom of heaven to a mustard seed. He said that the Mustard Seed is the smallest of all seeds, but when it grows, it becomes the biggest of all, providing branches for the birds of the air to perch and make their nest on. Jesus doesn’t say that the tree also provides shade from the sun or that its branches later become firewood to heat our homes and to cook our food. You may ask yourself, as I do, "How can the seed which is the smallest becomes the biggest of all?" The seed in you and me may be the smallest and invisible to the eye, in fact, but if it grows, it can do amazing things.
What’s the seed in you?
The desert may be the harshest of all paces for a seed to germinate. And sometimes there may be no seed at all. But just let it rain. Give the desert some rain, and you will be amazed at what you would see. The reality is that some seeds don’t die, they simply hibernate, and then when the conditions are right, they spring up.
There’s an old, run-down bank building in the neighborhood where I grew up. It just so happened that plants grew up everywhere on this old building - even on the walls. There was virtually no soil for these seeds to take root and grow-how did the seeds get up there and how did they grow under those conditions? Scientists may have long figured out how that happens-and I am not in the position to challenge their theories. Heaven knows I know nothing about the sciences.
I am sure you have also seen, on sidewalks and some concrete spaces, how a small opening provides a place for a plant to grow. One sometimes wonders how and why this happens. Yes, science may provide the reasons why, but if you think a little more deeply about it, you chance upon the realization that we can yet find fertile grounds in the hardened concrete of our hearts.
What I do know is that the seed that lies buried within you needs the rain to grow. What I do know is that the vision that lies buried in you simply needs the right condition - the new you - to make it grow. Some may argue whether there is ever the right moment. They are correct because there is never a right moment for a seed to grow, and there’s never a right condition for your vision to grow; what matters is that you have the vision and that you are willing to work towards the realization of that vision.
The truth is that you don’t typically make progress in leaps and bounds; we always have to remember the Chinese proverb: A journey of a thousand miles begins with a step. Our dreams cannot materialize without that first initial step. It is that step that guarantees we can accomplish the goals that we started. Do we always accomplish those goals, however? No, we do not. But we can always gain satisfaction in the fact that we at least gave it our best shot.
As we celebrate Rev. Dr. King, I am reminded of the seed that he believed was in each of us. It is a seed like the mustard seed. It is a seed that never dies. It is a seed that endures the harshest of conditions and yet can still sprout because as Morihei Veshba reminds us, “Your heart is full of fertile seeds waiting to sprout.” Within each heart lies seeds that are simply waiting to grow, waiting to bear fruit, fruit that would last.
Dr. King was under no illusion that the battle he was fighting would be costly. At the back of his mind may have been the words of W. Edwards Deming: “A bad system will beat a good person every time.” But for the millions of African Americans and his White supporters to succeed in their common vision of a free society, they had to face up to the entrenched forces who believed in the dehumanization of the African American.
The seed in Dr. King and millions of Americans saw a world where honor, dignity grace, compassion, and justice ruled the day and shaped human life and relationships. The seed in them saw a world where we lean not into fear, but into love.
It is for this reason that, despite the harsh treatment that they endured from the entrenched system, they could not give up, for the seed in them needed only the rain to grow and not the right condition. And if the rain was their sweat and blood, thanks be to God - for it is through this rain that the seed would germinate.
And so, they could not be intimidated; not by the savage bite of a police dog, cruel beatings by police officers, imprisonment, burnings, and killings. Remember, most seeds do not die, and theirs did not die.
The seed that Dr. King and the millions had in them has always been in every one of us. Through the tortuous path of human history, beginning not least from the slavery of the Israelites in Egypt to the brutal experiences of African Slaves in the New World, the seed has endured great hardship. But that same seed had also yearned for a world where each seed wouldn’t be limited by any harsh conditions but like the mustard seed, could grow to become the largest of all trees.
The strange and sad reality is that there are still others who, despite the gift of God’s seed that yearns to grow in them, desire a different outcome for others. They wish that the old, dominant culture still would hold others in chains and dehumanize them.
Which type of seed is in you?
There’s a vision - it is God’s vision for us, and God’s gift to us. The beauty of the gift is that it can tell right from wrong, and it truly does not matter what your opinion or mine is. The gift is such that no matter how hard we try to justify a wrong, the gift of God rejects our justifications.
Again, which type of seed do you want to nurture in you? Is it the seed that dehumanizes, or is it the one that lifts people up?
On this Dr. King weekend, I invite you to think about the seed that lies within you, and to ask yourself, whether it is one that seeks to justify a wrong or one that is in tune with God, desiring to grow like the mustard seed. The point of the mustard seed, remember, is that it grew to serve a worthy purpose.
Remember this, too: desire is the seed of every great accomplishment. If you have the desire to make your life count, if you have the desire to make another life count, and if you have the desire to make a difference in people’s lives, don’t forget that there is already a seed in you.
Go nurture that seed. It can yield to abundant life.