A Message for All Ages: “Garlic Mustard”

The seeds of the Kingdom of God always surprise us – often originating as what others see as a weed or a nuisance. And yet – they grow and grow and grow, and are unstoppable. … This is how our faith is: small beginnings that produce wonderful results we didn’t know could happen!

Garlic Mustard Plants in Full Bloom
Garlic Mustard Plants in Full Bloom

This particular lesson looks at the Parable of the Mustard Seed, which is found (with only minor differences) in Matthew 13:31–32, Mark 4:30–32, and Luke 13:18–19.

This lesson works best when presented at the time of the year (May or early June) when the “Garlic Mustard” plant – an invasive weed here in the U.S. – is in blossom.  It is often widespread in the understory of forested areas, and can also be found growing in disturbed soils, including along the edges of roads, paths, fences, etc.

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Sermon: Seeds

Many have used such stories when claiming to know God’s will, and so bull their way ahead towards some predetermined goal. They are full of hubris, not listening – or looking – for any further guidance from anyone, let alone God; confident that they are not mistaken in of their understanding of God’s will. More often than not, they fail, or else their road to success brings such great sacrifices and pain upon others that one rightfully wonders where God is in all of this.

The Anointing of David by Victors Jan, ca 1645
The Anointing of David by Victors Jan, ca 1645

I love reading from the histories in the Old Testament, such as this morning’s text in First Samuel about the anointing of David to replace Saul as King of Israel.

One thread in this story – as with all of our readings today – is about seeing. About what we see vs. what God sees.

This is made very plain at the heart of this passage, where the Lord says to Samuel about Jesse’s son Eliab: “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for the Lord does not see as mortals see; they look on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” To say this another way, God sees that which we cannot see: the Lord sees the Unseen.

And yet, even after God says this, Samuel keeps on looking at six more of Jesse’s sons, and each time fails to discover what he has been sent to find. Finally, Samuel says “The Lord has not chosen any of these. Are all of your sons here?”

Well, it turns out that one of Jesse’s sons was not seen because he could not be seen, he was not there at all. The eighth and youngest son was up in the hills, tending his father’s sheep. David was the least of Jesse’s sons, and no one even bothered sending for him until Samuel explicitly asked that this last son of Jesse be brought before him. We see that David was unseen in many ways, but the Lord saw him!

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Unexpected Faith

Presented at First Baptist Church, Belmont, MA; June 17, 2012.

Scriptures:
2nd Corinthians 5:6-17 (We walk by faith, not by sight…)
Mark 4:26-34 (The Parable of the Seed that Grows of Itself and the Parable of the Mustard Seed)

How many of you are familiar with the Garlic Mustard plant?

It’s a common weed in this area.  If you crush its leaves, it smells like garlic; and it has a taste similar to that of mustard, hence it’s name.  In colonial times it was a common herb, since the colonists had no money to buy spices from overseas, such as pepper, even if they had access to them.  It was also very easy to grow.   …Perhaps a bit too easy.

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