Part of my journey this semester began over the summer, with a small parable embedded in Luke’s account of the parable of the mustard seed (see Luke 13:18-19). So that you don’t feel like you’re reading an exegesis paper, let me just say this: a mustard tree is more like a gnarly, ugly-looking bush — not a majestic tree. This is not the way Jews envisioned the Kingdom of God showing up. They would have envisioned something more like a cedar from Lebanon, or an oak, like the oaks of righteousness from the psalmist, representing what the Kingdom would look like. A mustard tree is a bush — a shrub, even. This story is easily overlooked because Jesus certainly didn’t mean the Kingdom is like a gnarly, ugly bush. Or did He?
What if Jesus is saying the Kingdom comes in ways we don’t expect —on His time table — to wherever He wants it to come. I like to call these “who’da thunk” moments. For instance, when Susan Kizzee walked on this campus as a freshman art major, did she think she would be called to live overseas, doing graphic design for a company with her husband, helping raise funds for their ministry, while at the same time using her artistic talent to beautify a developing office compound in India? I think we could put that in the “who’da thunk” category. I’m sure Susan didn’t see that coming, but now wouldn’t have it any other way. That’s the way God works.
The Kingdom doesn’t always appear in ways that we can predict. Maybe if we stopped trying to predict how the Kingdom is supposed to come (i.e. telling God how to do His work), we would actually recognize Kingdom work more often. Early in the semester, we started engaging our imaginations in the process of listening to what God has for us, and now we are right back to where we started. For us to hear God, maybe we need to think outside the boxes we’ve created for Him. Maybe we need to remember that this is His work, not ours. Maybe we need to re-imagine what the Kingdom is about. Maybe we need to be reminded that it isn’t about us. And remember, this is most effective and meaningful when it happens in community.
So, we’re back to where we started. We have come full circle. We’re looking for “who’da thunk” moments. We’re looking for the ways that God works in and among us that we didn’t see coming and couldn’t predict, allowing Him to create His dreams for us, as we partner with Him to build His Kingdom.
So, the questions we’ve been asking each other throughout the semester are still there: What are you hearing? How is God re-shaping your dreams? Have you seen any mustard plants lately?