Tiny Seeds: a Service Commemorating the Martyr Óscar Romero, died March 24th, 1980
Reflection for our Óscar Romero Service June 14th 2015
Ezekiel 17:22-24 Psalm 92:1-4, 12-15/ 2 Cor. 5:6-17 Mark 4:26-34
There is a song that goes something like this: we don’t have to worry about the rain because we’ve planted seeds in the ground.
Martyrs have from of old have been called the seeds of the church. And their suffering can make our tears fall like rain, but we can have confidence in God, because those seeds will grow (we don’t know how) and bring a harvest of new Christians. So we commemorate Óscar Romero and think of all the Christians now being martyred in the Middle East and though our tears fall like rain, they will become the seeds for the new growth of our church. So we can no longer be comfortable Christians. We have to get out of our comfort zones.
Jesus said that when a seed is placed into the ground and dies, it bears much fruit. We can’t see the plants grow looking at them. Only patience makes that possible, because growth can be seen only over time. But think of how much fruit a seed can bear. Take one kernel of corn: planted in the ground a sprout grows, then a stalk that can grow 12 feet tall, then on each stalk from six to eight ears of corn that can have hundreds of kernels of corn on each ear. Have you ever tried to count them? So in the sacrifice of one kernel as a seed thousands of kernels miraculously come into existence. (A seed is a sacrifice because we do not eat it.) That growth and that well-spring of new life comes from God. We are not the originators of that whole life cycle and its reproductive multiplier effect. But we can do our part in the gardening which in this case is the ministry of growing and multiplying God’s people.
Often we apologize that we are so small. A nurse in Leigh’s hospital room said there were 2,000 members in her church. That made me think of our small church like the offering of the widow’s mite. But there is a difference between how we are seen by the world and how we are seen by God. We might appear like the widow’s mite to the world but in God’s sight we are mighty. (We could speak about the mighty widow’s mite.) “See this widow,” Jesus said. “She put in more than anybody else, because she put in all she had.” Do you see what we have to shoot for? Not ten percent, but 100 percent. We are invited to orient our whole lives around God’s purposes for our lives.
In our lesson, Jesus does not say that bigger is better, but he features the very smallest of seeds and that mustard seed grows into the greatest of shrubs and the birds of the air come and find refuge in its branches. Now it’s the humility and modesty of a congregation that Jesus underscores here. Jesus does not describe the beloved community as a mighty Cedar of Lebanon or a great oak tree, by which the mighty empires were once compared, where the nations like birds found refuge in their branches.
No, our church is a humble mustard bush, where new members can find refuge and rest and sing merrily in our branches. I knew a fellow who felt very guilty about having had two wives who both had died. He felt very guilty and married a third wife, who was an alcoholic, perhaps as a way to punish himself, because she was very abusive. In the middle of one night he went out of the house contemplating suicide. He was standing under a tree when the morning broke with dawn’s new light. Suddenly the whole tree burst into bird-song with the birds singing away, because it was filled with birds awakening and greeting the sun. The singing birds flooded his emotions with new hope and saved his life.
Isn’t our church like a tree filled with song-birds, bursting into song, because of the breaking light of Christ, the light of the love that is among us, the light of the knowledge of God and of our self-knowledge among us, the light of the developing Christ-consciousness among us. That S-O-N light (Son-light) is greater than the S-U-N light (sunlight), because without the light of our consciousness we could not even see the sun. What good would physical light be if we did not have spiritual light to see it with?
So let’s not apologize for being little. God’s eye is on the sparrow, and Jesus said, even the hairs on our heads, which seem so insignificant to us, God has numbered. Now we know what Jesus meant. Each cell, even in one of our hairs contains our whole genetic code! Can you imagine!?
But we have to be humble as the dust and be a modest bush, knowing that we are called under the cross to become seeds like Óscar Romero. We are called to be buried in the ground and die to ourselves so we come alive for God and our neighbors, bearing much fruit for the glory of God and the people of God so that countries and all their people find refuge in the gentle and friendly branches of God’s church. Our faith becomes active in love and love seeks justice, not the revenge kind, but the forgiving and long-suffering kind of justice. Amen.