God's Saboteurs

Have you ever considered yourself as a saboteur or someone whose purpose is to subvert the world? The truth is that Christianity is subversive...

by Father Lee Davis on June 10, 2024

Subversive Christianity

Jesus said, “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.”

He also said, “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.”

With many such parables he spoke the word to them, as they were able to hear it; he did not speak to them except in parables, but he explained everything in private to his disciples. (Mark 4:26-34)

Have you ever considered yourself as a saboteur or someone whose purpose is to subvert the world? The truth is that Christianity is subversive, and in a sense, Christians are called to work with God in undermining what seems to be unquestionable foundations in the world and aligning them with God’s reign.

In the Gospel for this Sunday, Jesus compares the Kingdom of God to a mustard seed. Most of us have probably read the parable of the mustard seed and understood the meaning to imply that big things often have small beginnings. But there is more to the comparison than that. In ancient Judea, the planting of crops was regulated. There were laws about what seeds could be planted, where, and even some that were prohibited. While mustard seeds were not banned, they were regulated as to where they could be planted because the mustard plant was invasive and could easily take over fields and destroy other harvests. This suggests that Jesus is saying that God’s Kingdom grows in unexpected, uncontrollable ways, challenges the status quo, and redefines what is important in the world.

We need to remember that Jesus was speaking to people who were oppressed by the Roman Empire. The Roman Empire was based on power, conquest, and visible grandeur. Jesus' comparison of the Kingdom of God to a mustard seed is an implicit criticism of this imperial model. The Kingdom of God grows quietly and persistently, undermining the foundations of worldly empires not through violence or ostentatious displays of power, but through small acts of faith, compassion, and inclusion. This presents a radical challenge to the political order of Jesus' time.

The religious leaders in Jesus' time often linked the Kingdom of God to strict observance of the law and purity codes. However, Jesus used the example of the mustard seed to shift the focus from legalism to inner transformation and growth. He emphasized that it's not the carefully cultivated plant, but the wild and unpredictable mustard plant that reflects God's work, often growing in unexpected places.

The Parable of the Mustard Seed has a subversive nature that still resonates today. It challenges us to reconsider our notions of success, power, and inclusion. In a world that often values size, visibility, and immediate results, this parable reminds us that real change often begins small, grows silently, and creates space for everyone.

It calls us to look for the Kingdom of God not in the grand and powerful, but in the small acts of kindness, the overlooked and marginalized, and the unexpected places. It invites us to be part of a kingdom that grows through love, inclusion, and persistent hope, subverting the values of a world obsessed with power and prestige.

The mustard seed teaches us to live out the subversive and transformative values of the Kingdom of God in our daily lives. This fosters a world where the small, the ordinary, and the overlooked are the very agents of God's revolutionary love.

So go out and be subversive! Love all people, find joy in sacrifice, be stunningly generous, stand with the marginalized, befriend the friendless, uplift all people, and know that as you do this, the Holy Spirit is smiling.

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