At University Lutheran, we have what’s called an eternal flame. This is a candle, encased in red, that hangs next to our big stained glass windows. The candle is never out. Every Sunday, the candle is burning. If you came in any other day during the week, it would be burning then, too. But what you don’t know is how this happens. Matt, our church administrator, puts a new candle in the case every Friday afternoon so that you don’t have to worry about it going out.
In the same way, we, the people of the kingdom of God, grow in a behind-the-scenes way. Jesus describes this in a parable in Mark chapter 4. “The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed on the ground. He sleeps and rises night and day, and the seed sprouts and grows; he knows not how” (verses 26-27). Although we don’t know exactly how this happens, just as most of you don’t know how the eternal flame is always lit, we do know that it happens – and that we have nothing to do with it. God gives the growth; it’s not our doing.
Jesus continues with another parable. “With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable shall we use for it? It is like a grain of mustard seed, which, when sown on the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth, yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes larger than all the garden plants and puts out large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade” (verses 30-32). Although we all start small, like mustard seeds, God’s growth enables us to become strong and useful. We see again that the growth is not explained. It’s not our doing but God’s doing.
Just as Matt is the tender of the eternal flame, God is the tender of our growth. He knows exactly what we need and when we need it. Because of him, we don’t have to worry about how small we start out or whether we’re actually growing. We only need to be concerned about what to do with our growth as it comes to us. For just like the mustard seed, we are meant to grow into something useful. How will you use your growth to help others?