Random and not so random musings from a 5th generation NE Missourian who became a 1st generation Episcopalian. Let the good times roll!

Luke 17:5-10

5The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!” 6The Lord replied, “If you had faith the size of a mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you. 7“Who among you would say to your slave who has just come in from plowing or tending sheep in the field, ‘Come here at once and take your place at the table’? 8Would you not rather say to him, ‘Prepare supper for me, put on your apron and serve me while I eat and drink; later you may eat and drink’? 9Do you thank the slave for doing what was commanded? 10So you also, when you have done all that you were ordered to do, say, ‘We are worthless slaves; we have done only what we ought to have done!’”

Ah, yes, the veritable mustard seed. Carrol got to do the sermon at Trinity this week, since Wallace was on vacation, and I bet she was happy she landed on a "classic" week in the lectionary! But she brought up some good observations about mustard seeds in general. She had bought a little container of them at Hy-Vee in the hopes they would inspire her. By her account, mustard seeds are not very inspirational when you look at them at first glance.

First of all, they're small. Second of all, they're all a little uneven; some are round, some are flatter, some are darker, some are broken open. She made a good point in her sermon...that one mustard seed isn't much, but when you put them all together, they make something, and that is, in a way, what the church is all about.

I got to thinking about that, and my mind added to it. Someone asked at coffee hour, "What do you do with mustard seeds besides make mustard?" and I answered, "I use them in barbecue." Then, on the way home, I got to thinking about the concept of mustard seeds and barbecue. Here in the midwest, people are more into the "red" BBQ sauces. When I barbecue, I like to do a little more of the "Southeast seaboard" tricks. If you ever ate real South Carolina barbecue, it's not a "red sauce" at all; it's a more mustard based sauce. I tend to baste my meat in beer and vinegar with a tad of crushed mustard seed thrown in, then top it off when it's done with a "red" sauce.

That got me to thinking of the power of those little mustard seeds. Just a few seeds change the whole character of the marinade. I challenge anyone to find the little boogers after they've been thrown in the marinade. You could look and look all day and never find them...yet you can taste them. You perceive their presence.

That's a good thing to remember when my faith is flagging and feels almost nonexistent. Maybe at that moment, to me, that faith is a tiny bit of nothing...but when you throw it in the marinade, you know it's there. Its presence is tasted--not just by you, but everyone who's tasting the barbecue. You may not even know who might be tasting it, but they know it's there, too.

Then I got to thinking about another barbecue fact about those little mustard seeds. If you really want the full flavor of them, you have to crush them, you have to break their little hulls to get all the flavor out of them. A thought flashed through my mind: Can we really open our hearts to another, can we really open our hearts to God, unless our own hearts have been crushed? Does the full flavor of our goodness maximally enhance the flavor of that marinade unless our own hearts have been broken open? The more I thought about it, the more I realized, probably not.

One of the things I'm starting to realize as I grow spiritually is that I have to shed the fear of my heart being broken open. I spent a good portion of my formative years and young adulthood "learning not to feel." Being dispassionate is a great protective device. Learning not to feel things, learning to "opt out" of some of your emotional matrix can keep a lot of hurt off your doorstep. But this imperviousness comes at a great price--because the barrier of dispassionateness keeps out the good as well as the bad. It also keeps away the more intense feelings of goodness.

I remember telling someone a few years ago, "I learned a long time ago to stop trying to be happy. I learned to settle for being pleasantly satisfied." I am finding myself eating those words. I am slowly discovering that, (at least in a relatively safe, quiet environment) that if I allow myself the luxury of vulnerability, I can at least experience fleeting, but intense moments of pure joy. The price, of course, is the pain of feeling your heart break open, and that comes with equally intense (but mercifully fleeting) moments of pain and helplessness. But perhaps those moments flavor the barbecue, too. The best tasting barbecue always has a sweet, deep flavor buried within overtones of hot and sour.

I confess I do not like the unpredictable nature of all this...but I'm starting to be a little more willing to take the risk to get to taste a sauce that good.


But in your case, you've got several mustard seeds, the other ingredients of the marinade, the meat, the grill, the home in a stable society in which to barbecue; in effect, everything you need. No outside help necessary. One mustard seed by itself is absolutely worthless. The simple and true faith that you have nothing, and that Jesus has everything else, should be sufficient to accomplish anything. However, this isn't the case. Miracles do not occur, Divine help never comes, obstacles remain unconquered, until people decide to rely upon themselves, face their troubles, and by their own strength and the help of other people, they manage to best the obstacle as best they can. The unfortunate part is when these people, if they are religious, then fool themselves by believing that their own accomplishment is the act of their God.



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Kirksville, Missouri, United States
I'm a longtime area resident of that quirky and wonderful place called Kirksville, MO and am wondering what God has hiding round the next corner in my life.

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