The seed of our very selves may be hidden underground, but from the roots up we will arise and grow, and bear fruit of great potential.
There are not one, but two parables in today’s Gospel reading:
‘”The kingdom of God is as if someone would scatter seed on the ground, and would sleep and rise night and day, and the seed would sprout and grow, he does not know how. The earth produces of itself, first the stalk, then the head, then the full grain in the head. But when the grain is ripe, at once he goes in with his sickle, because the harvest has come.”
This first agricultural tale raises, for me, a question of outness. Whilst many LGBTQ+ people are out – open about our identities – many LGBTQ+ people are not out. There are many reasons for this, including a lack of safe enough spaces. And yet, even as we sleep and rise the seed sprouts and grows. Even as many of us live in hiding, in fear and oppression the seed of our identity sprouts and grows, from the roots up, into a plant that can feed many.
“With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable will we use for it? 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 nests in its shade.”
A classic reading of this parable is that it shows that no matter how small or insignificant you feel, you can become big, and do amazing things. And yet, I am drawn, today, to the reference to birds. This reading does not only start with a small thing – the mustard seed – it also ends with small things – birds. The purpose of the growth which the mustard seed goes through is that the birds can make nests in its shade. Hang on a second, don’t birds eat seeds? I wonder if there is something in this story about the fact that the very people who oppress and harm us are those who might be helped by our transformative potential. But the seed isn’t asked to stand up to the birds as it is. It is given time to grow.
So today you might be a seed buried deep in the ground, hiding, afraid. You might be growing roots, preparing to emerge from your hiding place. You might be a fresh shoot, just beginning to emerge. Or you might be a mustard tree, transformed into a place of both safety and challenge for other. Wherever you are today, you are loved, you are enough. May it be so. Amen.
Reading with an inclusive lens:
As we explore ‘Queering the Lectionary’, one of the areas of learning is inclusivity. You may not wish to focus, in worship leading or Bible study, entirely on the topics introduced in this resource. Nevertheless, you should consider inclusivity every time that you speak in church, especially if you are speaking ‘from the pulpit’. Each week, I will suggest some micro-aggressions (little hurts that can build up to cause great harm) that some LGBTQ+ people might experience when listening to people speaking about these texts.
This week’s micro-aggressions:
- Prioritising growth over authenticity: Many of us hide because we have good reason, because we are afraid. Sometimes it is ok to hide.
- The idea of sowing or pruning: This can be used to suggest that people aren’t good enough as they are.
- Over-revering one model of growth. Some of us grow sideways, or diagonal. Up isn’t always best! Numerical growth, in particular, is often over-rated in churches.
Reading with a queer lens:
Another area of learning is how we might apply a queer lens to each week’s readings. You may wish to focus, in worship leading or Bible study, on queering the text. Each week, I will draw out some topics that you may wish to consider:
- What is it like to be ‘in the closet’?
- How might we support people better?
- How might we create safer spaces?
One of the limitations in this resource is it’s focus on the Gospel. I am the first to admit that, as someone with a ministry that regularly involves speaking outside of the Christian ‘bubble’, it feels easier to focus on Jesus. Nevertheless, making connections between the Gospel and other readings in the lectionary can help when drawing out queering themes. Each week, I will point to text from other lectionary readings that connect to the possibilities which I raise above:
In his second letter to the Corinthians, Paul writes that ‘if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!’ How might you support others in their processes of recreation and transformation?