Signs of the Kingdom

Mark 4:26-34

The Jesus we see in Mark’s gospel is Jesus as herald of the kingdom of God. In fact, the very first words Jesus utters in Mark’s gospel informs the audience of the purpose of his coming into the world: Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.’ [1] It should come as no surprise then, that references to the kingdom of God should pepper the gospel, and shape Jesus’ ministry throughout. Which is where we find ourselves today.

The kingdom of God is as if, Jesus tells us today, someone would scatter seed on the ground….[2] The kingdom of God can be compared to mustard seed,[3] he says, a few verses later.

What is significant here in not just that Jesus is using agricultural images, which would have been familiar to his audience, but that he is using ordinary, and even insignificant things to point to the kingdom of God. While this is true in other places, and other gospels, it is especially true in Mark’s gospel. Here in Mark the kingdom is not compared to a treasure,[4] or pearl,[5]a royal banquet,[6] but ordinary, and even insignificant seed, and indeed the most insignificant of seeds, the tiny mustard seed.

We remind ourselves in the Rule that [by] our vow [of poverty] we reaffirm our baptismal renunciations and pledge ourselves to seek out the mystery of divine grace present in places and experiences that seem insignificant, dark or empty.[7] It is there, we tell ourselves, in places and experiences that seem insignificant, dark, or empty, that not only will we find grace, but we will find the kingdom.

For the last ten months we have been living in a dark, and even empty place, yet this place is not devoid of signs of the kingdom. If we are truly attuned to the words of Jesus, we can see the kingdom of God breaking in all around us. Just as he pointed to something as small and insignificant as a mustard seed, as a sign of the breaking in of God’s kingdom, so too is life in a time of pandemic and lockdown full of kingdom moments.

Our temptation is to look only for kingdom signs in grand and great and wonderous actions. But today we are reminded that the work of the kingdom can also be seen in the insignificant, dark, and empty places of our lives.

If Jesus can compare the kingdom of God to a mustard seed, to what shall you compare it today?


Lectionary Year and Proper: Year 1, Friday of Third Sunday after Epiphany

Solemnity or Major Feast Day: Feria

[1] Mark 1: 14 – 15

[2] Mark 4: 26

[3] Mark 4: 31

[4] Matthew 13: 44

[5] Matthew 13: 45

[6] Matthew 22: 2

[7] SSJE, Rule of Life, Engaging with Poverty, chapter 8, page 16.

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3 Comments

  1. Bill B on January 22, 2022 at 18:33

    James,
    Thank you for a wonderful talk/sermon. Your words almost always speak to me. I just read a short piece in the New York Times on the Buddhist Monk Thich Nhat Hanh, who recently died at age 95, and was struck by the similarity of what you both said. It’s always here around us. We need to find some quiet and see heaven around us. Two different traditions but so much in agreement. Peace. Love to you and all the brothers of SSJE.

  2. Constance Hammond on January 22, 2022 at 18:17

    Thanks to all of you for your comments, your wisdom and your prayers for all of us and the global needs of our brothers and sisters and planet earth itself. I was so sorry to learn about Covid having entered your monastery walls and wanted you to be reminded that I, and I imagine all of the associates, hold each of you in our hearts and prayers. Be well as soon as is possible. Be open to our visits as soon as is possible. In the meantime from near and from far we hold you as you hold us in prayers. Blessings, Constance Hammond

  3. Elizabeth Hardy on January 22, 2022 at 11:26

    Thank you Br. James. This gives me such a hopeful and fresh look at the ‘dark places’ we all associate with anything BUT the kingdom and re-orients my thinking. Elizabeth Hardy+

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