16 June 2024

After last week’s challenge to examine our allegiances and remain faithful to God’s Reign, this week the Lectionary offers us a message of encouragement and comfort which will help us to do just that. The Scriptures this week remind us that small contributions are significant in God’s economy, and that God works in mysterious hidden ways to bring forth fruit in our lives.

As we worship this week, may we know again the power of small things, and may we remember the hidden, but constant, impact of God’s Reign in our lives and our world.

1 Samuel 15:34-16:13: God tells Samuel that God has rejected Saul as king, and God instructs Samuel to anoint one of Jesse’s sons as king. Samuel sees the eldest of the sons and thinks that one of them must be the king, but God tells him that God does not see as human beings do. Then David, the youngest son, is called and anointed to be king over Israel.
OR Ezekiel 17:22-24: God speaks through the prophet using an image of a small branch that is planted on a high mountain, becoming a large tree. The message is that God makes small trees large and brings down large trees, and God makes green trees wither and dead trees live.

Psalm 20: A prayer that God may provide and protect, bringing victory and success to the king, and ensuring that the one who trusts in God remains steadfast.

OR Psalm 92:1-4, 12-15: A celebration of God’s goodness and unfailing love, and an affirmation of how the godly flourish and produce fruit.

2 Corinthians 5:6-10, (11-13), 14-17: Followers of Christ live by faith and not by sight, and do everything with the view to please God. Although we may at times seem crazy, we are controlled by Christ’s love. So we no longer live our old life, but a new one in Christ for whom we live, and who was raised for us.

Mark 4:26-34: Jesus shares two parables of God’s Reign using the metaphor of seeds. In the first, he speaks about a farmer who plants seeds without knowing how they grow. In the second, he describes how the small mustard seed grows to become a large plant in which birds can nest.

Both the Gospel, and its related readings, and the continuous Old Testament reading present two main thoughts this week. The main theme is that of small things which grow to have significant impact and influence. In Samuel, the arrogant Saul is replaced by David, the youngest son of an insignificant family in an unimportant village. It is God who sees the heart, and takes the “small” person who trusts in God and makes him or her someone of significance in God’s purposes. Similarly, Psalm 20 reflects on how those who trust in God know God’s victory and success. In the Gospel, the small mustard seed becomes a large tree, revealing how important small contributions, commitments and actions are for the growth of God’s Reign in our world. This is supported by Ezekiel’s vision of the small branch that becomes a mighty tree on a mountaintop. The second, complementary thought in this week’s readings, is that God nurtures and sustains God’s people and God’s Reign, bringing growth, fruit and flourishing even though we may not know how this comes to be. The Gospel expresses this clearly in the first parables in this week’s passage, but Psalm 92 also expresses this as it celebrates how God enables the godly to flourish. Finally, Paul’s letter calls us to respond to God’s gracious, mysterious kingdom work in our hearts and lives by committing to living lives rooted in Christ’s love, and based on faith, not on the sight of goal-orientation or of human expectations. Flowing from last week’s challenge to our allegiances, and the call to remain faithful to God in spite of what may come, this week’s promise of God’s hidden activity to bring growth, fruit and flourishing in our lives is a comforting, encouraging gift.

Global Application:
There are two ways this week’s theme can be applied to the struggles of our world, depending on whether we focus on the Gospel or the Old Testament. The primary approach would be to recognise that, in the quest for justice, peace and love in our world, results can often be difficult to see, and our efforts can often feel like futile attempts to push back the tide. However, when we can embrace Paul’s call to walk by faith and not by sight, and when we can trust that God’s Reign is at work in and through us to bring forth the fruit of God’s Reign, we can renew our commitment to service and activism. When we recognise that the smallest commitments and contributions, and the least significant people, can have a great impact for God’s Reign, we are inspired to do what we can and not fret about what we cannot do. As the old saying goes, learning to “think globally and act locally” is a kingdom principle as much as anything. If the Gospel is the focus of our meditations this week, though, there is a second possible direction that the readings can take us, and that is into a specific focus on the natural, growing world. The use of nature’s growing processes as a constant metaphor for God’s Reign reveals not just the truth of God’s work in our world, but also God’s commitment to our planet as well as to human beings. In a world where our planet and the creatures on it are under threat, the value God places on the green and growing things of our world is a challenge and a call to take our place as the custodians of creation that humanity is called to be. And again, even in this work of creation care the importance of small contributions and actions cannot be over stated.

Local Application:
For each of us as individual Christ-followers, and for our communities, this week is one of great encouragement. It is easy to become disheartened in our attempts to love others when we so often fall into destructive and hurtful patterns, and when our efforts to love so often feel inadequate. It is easy to lose hope when family members or  friends or companions in community seem to ignore or fail to respond to our attempts to serve and love. It can be frustrating when we seek to make a contribution and we feel that our gifts or opportunities are insufficient or that the resources we bring are too meagre. However, this week’s theme calls us to value the small, the insignificant, the hidden. Every act of service, every gesture of love, every gift we give has value and makes a difference in the work of God’s Reign in our communities and in our own hearts. We may not be talented or well-known or wealthy or well-connected, but we all have fruit that we can produce and that God can use – often in ways we that we won’t even know. The invitation, then, is to learn to value our small efforts and contributions as God does, and to stay faithful even when we don’t see the results of our work.

Praise Be To You
Our Small Difference
Love In Action
Admitting My Gifts
Help As We May

Hymn Suggestions:
All Creatures Of Our God And King
May The Words Of My Mouth (Link to YouTube video)
Servant Song (Link to YouTube video – This can be sung as “Brother, sister, let me serve you…” to be gender inclusive)
Creator King (Link to YouTube video)

A Liturgy Of Compassion
A Liturgy of Creation and Communion

Video Suggestions:
Parable Of The Seed
Life In The Spirit