This Week's Reflection

Images

This Week's Reflection

One of the things I love about the teaching of Jesus is the number of times he uses images from nature to help us grasp things about God. One thing that I draw from this is the depth of our connection with nature which I think is really important to reflect on in these times of climate crisis. Reading stories like this that are at least 2000 years old reminds me that this connection is deeply embedded in us and that cherishing the precious earth that God has given us is nothing new.

Another result of Jesus’ use of nature is that it means much of his teaching timeless. This week I have been looking at a story he told to help us understand how the ways of God, which Jesus usually calls “The Kingdom of God” or “The Kingdom of heaven.” Whenever we hear these words in his teaching we’re reminded to be ready to be surprised, for God’s “kingdom” is not a place of power and control and financial gain and superiority, but rather a place of flourishing for all creation and of love and hope and equity, and all the things that flow from this “alternative kingdom”. Some writers use the word “kin-dom” to emphasis a place of connection and equality and the distinction between God’s ways and the ways of the kingdoms of the world.

The story I’ve been looking at this week is about welcome. Jesus tells a story that says the kin-dom of God is like a small mustard seed that gets planted and grows and grows and becomes “the greatest of all the shrubs, putting out large branches, so that the birds in the air can make nests in its shade.”  It’s an incredibly powerful story about small things doing big things and even though it’s a really short story it has a really big message.

One of the messages is that the way of God is about welcome. Specifically in the story, the welcome given to the birds when the tree of God’s way has grown. Following the ways of God and welcoming those who need a place to “nest” is a really crucial part of being a follower of Jesus. But it’s not easy. Sometimes we might only want to welcome people who are like us, but the birds in the story come from everywhere and anywhere. Sometimes we might only want to welcome people we think are worthy of building a nest in our tree, but the truth is, when we read the whole story of the life of Jesus, we discover he welcomes people whatever their background and whatever they have done. Indeed, Jesus gets accused by the religious authorities of his day of spending too much time with prostitutes and tax collectors – people who is Jesus’ time were considered to be the lowest of the low. But Jesus eats with them and listens to their pain and welcomes them to nest in his tree of God’s way.

Another challenge to welcoming people is that while we might be OK to welcome them as they are, even when they are very different to us, we really expect them to change to fit into our ways of being and doing, and that’s not a true welcome. A true welcome says comes as you are FULL STOP! However, the biggest challenge to really welcoming people into our tree is that they will change us. When we really welcome a new person into our lives they do change us. We hear their story, we discover something new about the world and the way life is for someone who is not us. It might be as simple as a new food or as complex as a completely different way of thinking or seeing life. The more different the people are, the more we will be changed by them, and the more challenging that can be for us.

Such a welcome of those who are different though is vital, as is the change it brings to everyone involved. Our world tends to function in a very “them and us” way, and it seems to be getting more and more divided. But Jesus says that when we can welcome people to nest in our tree we can find a completely different way of living in and sharing our precious world. And all this from a small seed!

Rev’d Anne Sardeson 12th June 2021