I laugh every time I read that “the reign of God is like a shrub.” Where we might want to envision God’s actions as fancy, powerful, or impressive, Jesus describes God’s love as scrappy and gritty. The description gets even better when we learn that in those days, a mustard plant was a nuisance – a weed, even! These tiny seeds would land in the soil and grow prolifically, like creeping Charlie or an invasive species. Not only that, but a mustard shrub could grow to be as big as a modern-day garage.
As Jesus talks, he compares the reign of God to an unintended shrub, one that grows and grows until it becomes a home for birds. It’s a playful, almost laughable image. And yet, isn’t this how it is with God’s work in this world? God’s work comes into being in ways we don’t always choose, disrupting our carefully planted rows of plans. Yet somehow it brings about life and joy, creating a space of safety and goodness for all creation.
This message is excerpted from the Bible study “Jesus and nature: teachers of faith” by Sara Olson-Smith in the September/October 2022 Gather magazine. Today we commemorate Jerome, translator, teacher, 420.
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