August 16, 2007 was the day my eldest nephew was born. My whole family was nervous and excited. I spent a lot of time with my brother and sister-in-law that week. And as Jen slept one day, I was speaking with my brother Jason. Jason looked exhausted both emotionally and physically. And we had a long heart to heart about life, family, our childhood and about his fears as a new father.
He talked about how we both had the same Sunday school years, the same teachers, and attended the same church as we grew up. Yet, he was still confused about God. He talked about how he looked down at his new born little boy as a first time father and he was scared and he saw a miracle looking back at him and yet he was still confused. He said to me, “Manda you inherited all the faith in the family”. He struggled to see God most of the time. He struggled to feel that same connection that I did.
He just couldn’t understand how we had the same upbringing, many of the same experiences and yet we ended up so very different when it came to faith. He talked about how he never felt easy with the notion of God and yet I had never really questioned it. He thought that it must be in the genes.
Jason claimed to not have any faith. Yet, he saw the miracle of birth and sat in awe of it. He raises his children with good Christian values and makes sure they are enrolled in vacation bible school every year. They may not go to church every Sunday, something I tease him about because their church is literally across the street from their house, but he makes sure that his family has the Christian moral compass. He learned the same lessons as I did and he was granted that experience with my nephew and although he questions I see the seeds of faith being planted for him, whether he knows it or not.
Those seeds, tiny as they may be, are there and in time they will grow into a faith that can be depended upon. I don’t have to carry the family in faith. I share this story with you today because as I read and contemplated the scriptures for this week and thought about the Kingdom of God and the mustard seed. And I realized that the kingdom of God is all around us. It is not this far off place somehow apart from us. My eldest brother Erick called one night when I was in college to ask me a quick question for a paper he had to write for school once. He asked me “What is the Kingdom of God?”. And still this day, I am discovering just how deep this question is and still discovering new aspects of it.
The Kingdom of God is all at once in us and around us. We get glimpses of it from time to time when we experience something life changing and meaningful. When we are building our faith and when our faith is stretched and challenged the Kingdom of God is growing inside of us. The Kingdom of God that Jesus speaks about in our scriptures for today is about faith. It is about God in our lives, it is about all that we experience in life and how we let those experiences shape us as human beings. When people tell me they don’t have faith, or it’s just not in their DNA, or that they have science they don’t need God, I think that they just haven’t experienced the Kingdom of God yet. When they do it will rock their world and everything they had held to be true will change in an instant.
My brother claims to have been born without faith. But the reality is that none of us are born believing in a higher power. It is learned and experienced. It is something that is developed throughout a lifetime and cultivated through the experiences of this world. Faith isn’t easy and there will be times in all of our lives when we really begin to question God and ourselves. My brother is right. He and I are very different in many ways. My brother is a very concrete person and likes to have all the facts and the data before he will believe something. I tend to follow my heart more and trust in a greater plan. But in the Kingdom of God all types of people are needed and called to faith.
That mustard seed of faith planted in his soul years ago will continue to be shaped by his life. The fact that he struggles and yearns for answers to what happens in the hereafter tells me that there are the seedlings of faith beginning to take shape. Jesus said, “With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable will we use for it? It is like a mustard seed, which, when sown upon the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth; yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes the greatest of all shrubs”. We all have the ability to develop and have faith. We all have experienced parts of the kingdom of God. We are challenged this morning to help others develop their faith, to use their experiences to shape them for tomorrow. Our challenge is more than just working on our own faith development; it is about sharing those experiences so that others might find strength, refuge and faith in the presence of God for their lives. We could be the person who helps to plant the seed of the kingdom of God in the life of someone else. So go forth this week, and help cultivate faith in our own lives and in the lives of others.
(based on Mark 4: 26-34)