Then Jesus asked, “What is the kingdom of God like?
What shall I compare it to? It is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his garden.
It grew and became a tree, and the birds perched in its branches.”
If you are familiar with the Bible, this may be a familiar verse to you — so familiar they you may skim over it. You may relate it to another of Jesus’ sayings about mustard seed, where he describes a faith as small as a grain of mustard seed is enough to move mountains. But it is not faith that Jesus likens to a mustard seed here, it is the Kingdom of God. This is a simple parable of what happens when things go the way God intends them to.
While it is true that a mustard seed is very small, that’s not the primary emphasis Jesus had in mind here. Rather, he was saying something that would have been troubling to many who would have heard it. From that small mustard seed sprouts an active and aggressive plant, considered in some times and places to be more of a weed than a crop. It was so aggressive that we have records of laws prohibiting the planting of mustard in a garden so that it wouldn’t spread to adjoining gardens. So Jesus begins with an image of a fertile, active plant taking root where it wasn’t supposed to be.
But the unique imagery of what Jesus has to say doesn’t end with the first sentence. A mustard plant is a shrub rather than a tree, and not one that would often have branches strong enough for birds to light upon. But the birds are as important to the parable as the mustard plant. The prophets of the Old Testament used images of birds finding shelter and food in branches to represent people from other places, other nations, coming to find their place in the God’s Kingdom.
While our name is Mustard Seed, our logo is a bird, because the one leads to a place for the other. We have the Kingdom of God in mind, forming a community where all can come and find life, abundant life, thriving life, as God intends for it to be.