Wembley Downs Uniting Church
Current Sermons
Trees and Weeds (Pastor Karen Sloan) 17.6.2018
Reading: Mark 4:26-34, Matt 13:31-2

I was catching up with Leanne Watson some months ago, and we were discussing our home offices and our propensity for having messy ones. I won the award for the messiest one when we compared photos of them! She gave me a book titled The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up which is supposed to magically change me into an organised, de-clutterer.

Needless to say, I haven`t read the book and I still am completely disorganised with bits of paper everywhere. Once when I was doing my masters at , my supervisor was so annoyed that I had taken over the lab and all the bench space with my stuff, he threw it all on the ground and left a note on top saying, tidy this up, in big letters. So I think its genetic!

Yet through this chaos, and mess, I still seem to function and maybe do some good things along the way.

It reminds me of the reading today. The parable of the mustard seed. Traditionally it is interpreted as a shift from small to large, that a small seed can grow into a great big shrub, or in Matthew and Luke a great big tree. So from small things big things grow. Yet the mustard seed is not the smallest seed, and actually it grows into a weed, rather than a tree, that can get completely out of control if you let it. So when Jesus was talking about the kingdom of God, a kingdom of love and peace and justice, maybe he wasn`t talking about a great big tree, but a weed, that infiltrates and before you know it has taken over! Like my mess.

But If this is the case, then what has the tree to do with the message? Brandon Scott and John Crossan feel that when the empire was talked about, it often was seen as a tree, particularly a Cedar tree, as in Ezekiel when God promises to restore the Royal House of David. So they take the parable further, believing Jesus was actually being subversive and counter cultural to the powers of Rome and of Israel and even to the powers we deal with today. The kingdom of God is not like a Cedar tree, the noble symbol of empire and power but like a pungent weed that spreads, totally out of control. And which attracts the birds of the air to nest, seen as undesirable in a cultivated area.

The parable is not about what the kingdom will be like, but how we get there, how it works. And it works from the ground up.

There are amazing people who do amazing things for those seen as undesirable in our world - someone like leading human rights barrister Julian Burnside, who has produced a new documentary called Border Politics, naming the failures of our political leaders regarding refugees, not just here but in the west generally. He challenges empire and the empire`s way of looking at things in a very public way.

But sometimes I think we forget that ordinary people were listening to Jesus, like us, who live and raise families and work. What did they and what can we take from the parable to help us be faithful followers of Jesus. At a time when hope of change is hard to find.

It says to us, we are to be the mustard seeds, that through acts of kindness, and generosity, and compassion, we can act for the kingdom. In a quiet and subversive way. Like weeds, we work in the world for the world as best we can, questioning the status quo and those that hold power, to make change, little by little, one person at a time. By our actions.

As Barbara Reid says, `The reign of God does not have to be imported from far away, nor does it come with an impressive power. Rather it is found in every back yard, erupting out of unpretentious ventures of faith by unimportant people.`

Unpretentious ventures and unimportant people . . .

Who spend their Saturdays preparing meals for the hungry

Who spend their holidays with disadvantaged kids

Who repair homes for our poorest brothers and sisters

Who care for broken, hurting and diseased bodies

Who calm troubled minds

Who risk their lives to protect the vulnerable

Who come together to care for the earth

Who speak truth to power by treating all people with dignity, compassion and respect.

Unpretentious ventures and unimportant people . . .

So we take our choice. Reign of God equals mighty tree or pungent weed. The contrast is stark. The parable is challenging us to make a choice, a choice on how we should live and who we should live with.

Perhaps I can see my mess in more positive ways after this!


130 Calais Road, (crnr of Minibah Street)
Wembley Downs, Western Australia.
Phone 08 9245 2882

Ten kilometres northwest of Perth city centre,
set amongst the suburbs of City Beach, Churchlands,
Scarborough, Wembley Downs and Woodlands