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HYMN FOR PENTECOST 9 The Mustard Seed

Text: Gracia Grindal Tune: João Wilson Faustini (1931-2023)

Farmer finding the hidden treasure Rembrandt

The Savior said to the multitudes:

“Behold, the Kingdom of Heaven

Is like a grain of a mustard seed,

The smallest seed that God has given.”


The mustard seed is the least of seeds

But when it grows, it’s the grandest,

The greatest plant; it’s a might tree

Where birds can nest within its branches.”


O Lord, my faith is a tiny seed;

Show me the kingdom of heaven.

I look to you to supply my needs;

Your word is life, a holy leaven.


Come raise in me, from this mustard seed,

A tree of faith that will flourish

And bring forth fruit in each word and deed.

You died so I will never perish.


Teach me to praise you with all my heart

For saving me from destruction;

Take me at last to your heav’nly home

When I can praise you with the angels.


REFLECTIONS

Each little parable in this lesson deserves its own sermon. I resist the idea of finding the theme for all of these little gems and then preaching on the theme—that takes away the sharp two-edged sword of the word. Themes are not Scripture, even if one can find them in Scripture.


At the same time, God does work with the small and out of the way things to save us. The entire story of our salvation is about the small and unexpected becoming the Savior of the World. Jesus compares himself to a seed in John 12 that “Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.”.


So Jesus is that grain of wheat, a seed. When I was writing my sonnets on Jesus, this was one of several themes that struck me as overpowering. So even the smallest part of his Word, entering into my soul through my ears is enough to grow into a great tree and become something more than I had ever expected.


Some of these small parables really show the hiddenness of the word and the power there is in the seed. From an almost invisible speck, suddenly a large productive plant.


So then we crave it. We search for the hidden treasure, we give up everything for the pearl of great price, because nothing else matters except Jesus’ living in us. It becomes like an obsession. And when it is achieved it is enough simply for the man to enjoy the pearl of great price rid of all his other treasures.


I know something about the obsession to acquire something in my own life, and the emptiness that comes when, having gotten what one is obsessed by, not being satisfied, but wanting more. I live with young children in the house. I am asked frequently to buy something on line that will satisfy all their longings, but it lasts only briefly. Then they are on to another request. William Blake’s cartoon "I want! I want!" seems a perfect parable for those feelings.


But to be filled, to be satisfied, as the Samaritan woman was, that is quite another thing. Like the satisfied farmer who has bought the field so he can enjoy the great treasure in it. We have no suspicion that he will ever weary of it and go on to something else. No, the kingdom of heaven slakes our thirst, and satisfies us completely.


It started out so grand, at creation, and then became so small, "infinity cloistered in a womb" John Donne said once, so we could know it. And now nothing can contain the joy our Lord gives us. Nothing. He is enough.


PARABLE OF THE MUSTARD SEED

The smallest seed becomes the largest plant In the garden. One for the books but workaday. A girl from a backwater in a little land Hears an angel. She wonders what to say— Then assents. A lily shudders. A dove descends. Beyond our grasp, the consequence breaks through. The egg in her womb grows. It will have no end. Its provenance unlikely, strange, but true. A boy is born in a stable. The family moves To Nazareth; he learns his Father’s trade, Healing the sick and hated for his love. He is crucified—died and buried—then raised. From the dead, he ascends. Now all the books in all The world cannot contain him. They are too small.


Matthew 13:31–32; John 21:25; 2 Peter 3:18

Poem by Gracia Grindal From Jesus the Harmony (Fortress Press, 2021)


HYMN INFO

This hymn is part of my Treasury of Faith hymn collection which includes all the texts, excluding the Psalms, in the Revised Common Lectionary. One day almost twenty years ago Wayne Leupold asked me if I would write a hymn on every text in the lectionary. I was about 60 and had felt the end of my writing career was nearing and then suddenly a door opened up and for the next 9 years every Saturday night I sat down by the fire when it was winter, studied the text, prayed and then started scribbling. The first line gave me a sense for the meter and I was on my way! over 750 hymns later, I went on toe write much more, the door opened wider and wider. Thanks be to God! It was my privilege to be able to work with composer, pastor, and musician Faustini. long time pastor, and church musician, who studied at Westminster Choir College and the Sacred Music Program at Union Seminary. After retirement he returned to his native Brazil where he was the most prolific composer of Portuguese hymns and church music in the world. He lived in New Jersey for many years, serving a Portuguese church there. He died this February. He was widely respected and loved wherever he worked as is evident from these videos below!


LINKS

I can't find a performance of this hymn, but there are many Youtube performances of Faustini's work. Here is one on Christ lives and a long concert of homage to him and his work in the Protestant Cathedral in São Paolo.


Christo Vive/Christ lives


Homage to Faustini/long choral program


Hosana


Ó Senhor, te agradecemos


















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