Alive and Growing
How do you know you are alive? Try pinching yourself. Last I saw you all you were very alive and after several months I presume you still are. But how do you know if you are alive spiritually? It has been said that if you stop learning, then you stop living. Spiritual growth is a sign of being alive.
Your alive starts small. We all had small beginnings. How small did you start out? Just a zygote or a diploid cell that has all your DNA. A baby starts from an itty bitty cell and then by the time they are 2 they are into everything and control their whole world (and yours as well).
I actually can’t think of anything, ever, that started out big—except for maybe the universe but who knows, maybe it started small too, and science tells us it is still growing.
Jesus came from a small beginning too, born in a stable and grew up in a low down, obscure town called Nazereth known for its “no goodness” where bad people came from, a place where nothing good could ever come from.
The church started from humble beginnings; just 12 rag tag, uneducated guys who spread good news to the known world.
Well, that’s what the Kingdom of God is like too: starts from not greatness, but from a littleness comes humble beginnings.
Zechariah 4:10 says, “Do not despise these small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin.” God is excited about beginnings. The Lord rejoices over what has started out small in your life. All life has potential.
The Kingdom of God we’ve been talking about in the gospel of Matthew grows too. There is no concern about how small or big the Kingdom is in you; rather, the question is is it growing?
In this gospel Jesus teaches, explains, and demonstrates what the Kingdom is like. The disciples don’t always get it. To be honest, I don’t always get it either. What is this Kingdom like? Jesus says, ok guys, sit down and cool down and let me tell you a story. He tells them two parables.
First in Matthew 13:31: The Kingdom of Heaven is like… he uses a comparison. The Kingdom of Heaven is like… they are waiting, he has got their attention. The Kingdom of Heaven is like an epic, gigantic, mammoth, infinite galaxy, right? No, wrong! The Kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed. A mustard seed? What a let down.
Continuing on, “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and sowed in his field; and this is smaller than all other seeds, but when it is full grown, it is larger than the garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and nest in its branches.”
Okay, so it might not be the smallest seed in the world, but is very small in comparison to the tree that comes from it. There are three kinds of mustard trees and the largest is about 15 feet high, easily a home for birds. Such small beginnings with big results. This is what the Kingdom is like, it starts small but watch out.
Then Jesus shares another parable, kind of like a twin parable.
He spoke another parable to them, “The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into a large amount of flour until it worked all through the dough.” Matthew 13:33
What is yeast? It starts as a single-celled microorganism. They exist all around us—in soil, on plants, and even in the air. It is fermented and dried to made bread yeast. It is a living thing and it makes the bread grow and rise.
The amount of flour was three measures of that day. It would make 270 Italian pizzas or 57 large loaves. This is no small little piece of dough. It can feed a crowd.
I’ve made a comparison chart between the seed and the yeast. How are they alike?
|2.||Needs to be planted – intentional||Needs to be kneaded into flour – intentional|
|4.||Needs nourishment to grow – water, soil, sun||Needs nourishment to grow – water, sugar, flour|
|5.||A living thing – potential||A living microorganism|
|7.||Takes over below ground and above ground||Gets into everything, the entire lump of dough|
|8.||Provides shelter||Provides nourishment|
- Starts small
Like your own faith. It started like faith as a mustard seed, like the spark before a big roaring fire. I’m glad that God seems to be okay with a little faith because sometimes that’s all I’ve got. He’s excited about small beginnings.
- Both the yeast and the seed need to be planted
Planting is intentional, planting is an action. The planter or the kneader might be Jesus working in us or it might be us planting in others. If you want something to grow, plant. If you don’t plant seeds, you will get exactly what you didn’t plant, more of nothing. If you plant carrots seeds you get carrots. If you plant Kingdom seeds you get the Kingdom. If you want your bread to rise, put in the yeast.
Growth is a natural thing. It’s what the seed and the yeast do, no striving or forcing, they just do what they are created to do: grow.
Ken Timmermans and the coffee bar: a small idea now helping many people every month (I miss that coffee bar).
The Kingdom is like the story when Jesus feeds 5000 with a little boy’s little lunch; we might think we don’t have much but when Jesus touches our little bread and breaks it open it’s far bigger than our little faith.
- Both the seed and the yeast need an environment for growth, dirt or dough
So does the Kingdom. Nourishment for Kingdom seeds comes from the word of God, from love that comes through fellowship with others and from the work of the Holy Spirit. The Kingdom doesn’t grow in a vacuum.
- Both the mustard seed and the yeast are living things
The Kingdom of God is a living thing. It is alive and real and full of potential. When there is life there will be growth.
- Both multiply
The tree produces more seeds, the yeast produces more yeast like the starter yeast that is used for sourdough bread.
- Both take over
The seed grows roots down and branches up, the yeast takes over the whole lump of dough. It’s no small thing. Yeast gets into all the dough and the baker works it into the flour. The Kingdom gets into all of us—our thoughts, our actions, right into our choices, our decisions, our emotions, how we spend our money, how we treat people—it gets right into all of us and who we are. The Kingdom is not just compartmentalized into a spiritual corner that we sometimes visit.
- Both the seed and the yeast provide for others
The seed becomes a tree where birds nest, a home between the earth and heaven. The Kingdom of God is our home here on this earth: we perch in it, we build our heart’s home in the Kingdom, it is a shelter.
Also, the yeast expands bread which is symbolic for nourishment, food. Martin Luther said daily bread is “everything included in the necessities and nourishment for our bodies.” The bread symbolizes our needs met.
So here we have it, these two little parables show that the Kingdom starts small and becomes both shelter and food. The Kingdom is both home and nourishment. The Kingdom in us is also to be home and nourishment for others. It spreads, it reaches, it grows, it affects everything. The Kingdom of God is alive and growing. This Kingdom of God started small and has become a unique treasure to the world, a treasure that is found nowhere else. It has something the world does not have.
As mentioned in one of the points earlier, the seed and the yeast are living things. The Kingdom is alive. Is there alive in you? The spiritual life in you will grow once planted, intentional yet not forced, but natural growth from your spiritual aliveness.
The Kingdom starts small and grows. Why? Because it is alive. It doesn’t matter how small or how big your spiritual world is. What matters is if it’s growing. Jesus is resurrected from the dead and very alive, and if the alive One is in you then there will be growth.
If you feel stunted or same old the alive in you might need some stirring up, some fresh yeast, a new seed. Some environment to help it grow, or some living water or the fresh wind of the Holy Spirit to visit you. Maybe your alive just needs a little attention by time spent with God.
Maybe you are more alive and growing than you think you are. Usually it is others who see it more than you do. I see alive in you. I thank God for the alive in you. Your alive encourages my alive.
May the Kingdom be alive and growing in all of us.
Being apart during COVID has challenges. Are there ways we can still encourage the alive in us? Give someone a call and ask how they are doing. Ask how they are experiencing the Kingdom even during COVID. Say a prayer for them. Let’s be praying for each other that the alive One, Jesus, is working in all of us and that our spiritual lives are experiencing growth and vitality. This time away from church can be rich fertile soil for spiritual growth as we are experiencing new things while being Kingdom people. I’m finding I have more time to read scripture and I’m loving that.
Are there new and small things beginning in you? For you, I hope the seed is growing into a big tree for Kingdom nests and the yeast is making Kingdom bread. I believe there is much alive in you.
Thank you, God, for the gift of parables. Thank you that you love us enough to teach us over and over again. Thank you for the gift of little faith in us. May it grow and be a gift to the world. Thank you that you are our shelter and our bread, our home and our nourishment. Thank you that you are the alive in us. May it always be so. Your will be done in us, on earth as it is in heaven. Amen.