26 He also said, “The kingdom of God is as if someone would scatter seed on the ground, 27 and would sleep and rise night and day, and the seed would sprout and grow, he does not know how. 28 The earth produces of itself, first the stalk, then the head, then the full grain in the head. 29 But when the grain is ripe, at once he goes in with his sickle, because the harvest has come.”
30 He also said, “With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable will we use for it? 31 It is like a mustard seed, which, when sown upon the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth; 32 yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes the greatest of all shrubs, and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade.”
33 With many such parables he spoke the word to them, as they were able to hear it; 34 he did not speak to them except in parables, but he explained everything in private to his disciples.
I have a very nice garden. It’s not of my doing. The former owner of my home did a wonderful job of planting trees and shrubs in my front and back yards. Gazing on them brings joy to my heart.
Until I see those weeds. I think it’s called ground ivy. It grows quickly. Once a week I go through the gardens, pulling out ivy. It grows out of the ground and wraps itself around the branches of the Rose of Sharon and the Crepe Myrtles. The following week they return, larger than ever. This time peeking up through the middle of the azalea bushes. Just when I think I’ve gotten it all, I turn a corner and discover them growing up the chain link fence.
They haunt my dreams. Their leaves wave in the wind as if to taunt me. I’ve spray them with a homemade, non-toxic weed killer. They grow back bigger and stronger. I gave up and used a popular toxic weed killer. They grow back bigger and stronger.
They are truly amazing plants, not just because of the speed of their growth. They wrap themselves around branches and it’s hard to tell where the ivy ends and the branch begins. They’re equally amazing in how they sneak up on me. I think I’ve gotten everything pulled, only to discover a big one I totally missed.
At first, I compared them to Jesus’ mention in John, “I am the vine, you are the branches.” Theologically, it fits. In our best moments, it’s hard to see where we end and Jesus begins.
But, really, isn’t this a kingdom metaphor?
A farmer throws some seed in the ground. A bit of water, a dose of sun and up they come. The farmer sleeps and awakens to growth. He has no idea about the chemical process of growth. He doesn’t know about photosynthesis. He only knows that if he throws the seeds in the ground, the seeds will grow. Eventually, the crop will be ready for the harvest and he’ll take a sickle to it.
Then we have the mustard seed. I’m told that the mustard is a bush, not a tree. It grows to be huge, it’s branches all over the place. But, animals find homes in its branches.
I’m not all that familiar with mustard and I’m not a farmer. But, I know about ground ivy and here’s what I’ve observed. It grows so quickly I barely notice it. It grows so quickly I can’t keep up with it. It’s fragile and strong. It won’t be stopped. Nothing gets in its way; it simply wraps itself around the obstacle and continues growing.
Its leaves are small to begin with, but the more it grows the bigger they get. This hearty ivy grows well after a good rain, but drought won’t stop it. It gets in the way of my other trees and bushes’ growth. It makes everything look different and messy.
Meanwhile, the birds of the air set up their nests and the squirrels love to play in the branches which are surrounded completely by ivy.
For all the fighting I do with it, I admire it. Nothing stops it. I’m absolutely convinced that if we suffer a nuclear holocaust, the cockroach will survive side by side with the ground ivy.
And maybe that’s what the kingdom of God is about. It grows while we’re busy doing “important” work. It grows whether we like or not, whether we care or not. When evil attempts to uproot it, it starts over, growing intrepidly. Nothing can stop it completely. When it runs into obstacles, it wraps itself around it and moves on.
The kingdom isn’t the least intimidated by the powers of modern day Caesars. It’s seen power come and go for thousands of years. God’s kingdom is in the business of taking over the Caesars of history.
The kingdom is hidden, grows like a ground ivy or mustard bush.
The kingdom hosts the nations of the world in its boughs. They find shelter in the kingdom. It grows automatically. God does the work, despite humanity’s best efforts to kill it.
Most of all, the kingdom is close by. It’s a certain thing in our lives of uncertainty. The kingdom continues to grow, and will come to fruition some day. In the meantime, we spend our days seeing it and not seeing it all at the same time.
The kingdom is a certain thing in our lives. And we wait, with our hands on the plowshares, workers for God.
I will continue my battle with ground ivy and with little success. But, I will give thanks that as I pull and yank at it, I can also be grateful for what it represents: patience, hope, care, effort, preparedness of the kingdom. It is both comforting and discomfiting. It’s growth may be imperceptible, but the results are right there in front of us, if we have eyes to see.
Most of all, that intrepid ivy represents grace.
Unconditional, undeserved, misunderstood.
All glory and honor be to God.