My grandfather was an amazing storyteller. He was always a larger than life figure in my eyes as a boy and still is even as a grown man. He had this ability to mesmerize us grandkids with his stories of being a police officer in Atlanta, and the stories of his adventures with his friends. To this day, I have no idea if any of these stories he told actually happened! He was that good.
But storytelling is such a powerful gift. Since before recorded history, cultures that excelled in telling stories preserved their culture from one generation to another. Aesop’s Fables, ancient Greek myths, Southern ghost stories, war stories, romances, all these communication styles bear more to a people than mere entertainment. Stories are important.
No wonder Jesus used parables to communicate with the crowds. By the way, He did this for several reasons. He wanted to relate to the people so He used events and everyday situations to communicate deep truths. But He also used His parables as a spiritual diagnostic tool to see who had “ears to hear.” The people who “got” the moral of the story, of the parable, were those who were ready to hear His message. Those who “missed the point” were obviously not prepared to grasp the truth of His message.
Look at our Lesson today in Matthew 13:31-36:
The Lord said this parable, “The kingdom of heaven is like a grain of mustard seed which a man took and sowed in his field; it is the smallest of all seeds, but when it has grown it is the greatest of shrubs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches.” He told them another parable. “The kingdom of heaven is like leaven which a woman took and hid in three measures of flour, till it was all leavened.”
All this Jesus said to the crowds in parables; indeed he said nothing to them without a parable. This was to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet: “I will open my mouth in parables, I will utter what has been hidden since the foundation of the world.” Then he left the crowds and went into the house.
I remember having a small mustard seed used during a Sunday School class when I was a boy. It really was a very small seed. And, as usual, Jesus uses the stuff of His day to communicate the mystery of God and His love for His creation. But what I find most fascinating about this story of the Lord is how He compares this small seed to our Faith.
What a joy to learn that our faith doesn’t have to be massive to be embraced by God. Just the slightest turn toward Him causes Him to make up the distance between you and Him! Just the merest of gestures and God’s love is so great that He responds with all His power to our little faith. And this loving mercy of God provides a home for everyone who wants it! That sure encourages me today.
And then the Lord continues His story about the Kingdom of God and the leaven in bread. Just a little leaven causes the dough to rise. So is God’s grace and message of the Good News. It’s meant to start so small, but, in the end, it will spread through the whole earth!
Today, the kingdom of heaven is still the same. It is still growing in your heart and in the world. It is still meant to be the home for everyone. It is meant to spread through the whole earth, but also through your whole life. This story from our Lord today is meant to give you hope AND challenge you in your expectations. With just a little faith, with just a little leaven, we can see our daily lives transformed and we can understand why it’s so worth being Orthodox on Purpose!