Beloved St. John’s community,
There is much that is confusing in this world, much that is nuanced, much that one cannot say for certain: this is how things are and there is no other way. Yet there are a few things that are sure. One of them is this: things can change. Another is this: never doubt that your small acts, words, gestures and thoughts, though seemingly invisible to all the cosmos, do matter and have an impact far beyond anything you can imagine.
Yesterday, we saw Joe Biden take his oath as President, and we saw Kamala Harris take her oath as Vice-President, the first woman, first black person, first Asian person in this office. We saw for the first time the National Youth Poet Laureate, Amanda Gorman, speak words of light and cadence and beauty to an eager nation. We heard stories about many people who in the last year have done courageous, selfless things for the good of others.
These were extraordinary events, but they were the result of countless, slow, often solitary, invisible choices, practices, and attitudes by many people over long years.
In today’s gospel lectionary text, Jesus says this: “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.” (Mark 4:30-32). Seeds, like all of life, are a miracle. We put them in the ground and then, by a process utterly beyond our control, they germinate, sprout and grow. A mustard seed is many times smaller than a pea. Yet it becomes a huge tree, slowly, patiently, over years of the slow growth God’s Spirit empowers and that the sun and earth and water support.
People can do extraordinary things. Runners run ultramarathons after years of patiently putting one foot in front of the other. Joe Biden was one of the youngest Senators ever elected at age 30, and is the oldest man ever to be elected President. Jesus prepared for thirty invisible years before his public ministry shone with an incandescence that still illuminates millions all over the world. And God’s Spirit is active within each of us.
As you read this, where are you, and what have you been doing today? What are the seeds God is planting in you, and what seeds are you planting in the world around you? What are the tiny choices you are making today?
Let one of them be a willingness to open yourself to the presence and power of God, to listen and to watch and to expect signs of God’s life around and within you.
Let one of them be a willingness to choose a gracious integrity, rather than an integrity shaded with anger, bitterness or contempt.
Let one of them be to observe another human being with curious loving wonder, and to contribute without being asked to their wellbeing.
In the end, let your attitudes, choices and words revolve around two simple things: prayer and love.1 On the inbreath, prayer; surrendering to the life and presence of God, to a power greater than yourself; and on the outbreath, love. Not a feeing, but an action bathed in justice and goodness and resolve, and in God’s mercy.
And thus will we ourselves be seeds planted in God’s kingdom, for a future we can dimly glimpse, a future that is bright with the promise of Beloved Community, God’s dream for the world.
Faithfully, in Christ’s love,
1Bishop Craig Loya spoke a brief homily about these two things—prayer and love—in yesterday’s inauguration day morning prayer. This was a seed he planted in my awareness that is already sprouting. May it grow in you also.