Sunday, June 28, 2009

God is like a weed

When I go to church, my favorite sermons are the ones that give an interpretation of God that I'd never considered before, or that help me see a Bible story in a new way. Two weeks ago, Bill Tully's sermon at St. Bart's ( did just that. The Old Testament reading was Ezekiel 17:22-24, which reads in part: "Thus says the Lord God: I myself will take a sprig from the lofty top of a cedar; I will set it out...I will plant it on a high and lofty order that it may produce boughs and bear fruit, and become a noble cedar."

The Gospel reading was from Mark 4:26-35, the "mustard seed" passage: "[Jesus] said, 'With what can we compare the Kingdom of God...It is like a mustard seed, which, when sown upon the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth; yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes the greatest of all shrubs, and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nest in its shade.'"

Rev. Tully compared and contrasted the two passages, pointing out that mustard wasn't considered imperial and noble like the mighty cedar. Mustard was a weed. So Jesus was actually doing something pretty radical here: comparing the Kingdom of God to a weed! It was messy and invasive. It got into things. Once planted, you couldn't stop it. Weeds just grow and grow, and you don't even fully understand how. "There is something about how life turns out that we can't control," Rev. Tully said. But what we do know is that life is growth -- in all its messy, uncontrollable glory.


  1. Was Rev. Tully making perhaps two simultaneous analogies: one that life follows its own sometimes intractable course, and the other that perhaps Christianity spreads randomly rather than in an orderly fashion?

    Regarding the former, one of my favorite quotations was from the Divine Secrets of the Ya Ya Sisterhood: "Life is a beast; you cannot control it. You just grab it by the horns and hang on."

  2. Thanks for your comment, Waitress -- love the "Ya Ya" quote -- it's so true! Yeah, in the same sermon Rev. Tully also quoted from this study of men from Harvard who have been followed since age 20 -- they're now in their late 80s -- and apparently some of the men they considered most promising at age 20 ended up having their lives derailed by various circumstances, alcoholism, etc., while some of the men who seemed really neurotic as college kids ended up much happier as adults. Sometimes we don't know what life has in store for us, but we can choose how to react to it, and Rev. Tully seemed to be saying that if we have some sort of spiritual practice and are part of a spiritual community, it makes things easier, and even more fulfilling. God is like a weed in that once spirituality starts growing in you, it can be hard to stop....

  3. Though-provoking. I love seeing things from a new perspective.