In Mark 4:30-32, we read of Jesus comparing the Kingdom of God to a mustard seed when he says, “What shall we say the kingdom of God is like, or what parable shall we use to describe it? It is like a mustard seed, which is the smallest of all seeds on earth. Yet when planted, it grows and becomes the largest of all garden plants, with such big branches that the birds can perch in its shade.”
In the Presbyterian Church of which I am a pastor, we recognize what we call “The Great Ends of the Church.” These statements speak to the overall vision of what the Church is called to live out in the world. The first is the overall mission, “The proclamation of the Gospel for the salvation of humankind.” The second, though, is what came to my heart as I read the words today from Mark. “The shelter, nurture, and spiritual fellowship of the children of God.” I have always resonated with this statement about what the church is called to be. The church is to be like that mustard seed that blossoms into something far greater than when it started, but it blossoms into that which nurtures and supports and cares for ALL the children of God. There’s no qualifier in the great end here – its not just some of the children or a select group, but its simply “The Children of God.”
I am not an avid bird-watcher but when I do take some time to watch the birds in the magnolia tree outside our house or while I am out on a hike, I notice how there are no boundaries (at least from what I observe) about the trees. Birds go from tree to tree. There’s no gate keeper waiting to approve which bird can go where. But instead they just go and stop and then move along and eventually get back to their nest. I think there’s something in that about what the Kingdom of God is to be. We have so many walls that we humans have set up creating walled gardens that keep people out (even though we say we want everyone in). Yet God’s kingdom is far wider than that. It was exemplified in Jesus and the table that he set before all who he met, in those whom he touched and healed, the people he spoke with, the walls he broke down.