On these cold mornings it can be difficult to get out of bed. It is so cosy under the duvet. I can reach for my iPad and read the newspapers and check the weather and my bank balance and so many other things, while still being toasty warm.
There can be lots of other reasons besides the weather for not getting out of bed. Maybe the coming day shouts gloom at you. Either because there is so much to do, or because there are unpleasant people or situations that you can’t bear the thought of facing. Maybe life just seems too much to take, so the easier option is to stay in bed.
It is not too difficult to find plenty of reasons for having a negative view of life. If I believe that no one can be trusted, I will soon find enough evidence. If I believe the world is falling to pieces, I’ll see it everywhere. My vision is easily distorted from what is healthy and hopeful.
Part of the problem is that we carry so much baggage from our past. We allow all of our past hurts, wounds, slights and disappointments to colour our vision. We have carried them with us rather than let go of them. As a consequence, our glass is half empty rather than half full. Our outlook has become a prison which saps our energy. We spend our days pouring cold water on any hope in the future. We can become bitter, cynical and depressed. Our joy is gone. We cannot reach our God-given potential.
Jesus lived his life from a perspective that was very different from most of the people with whom he came in contact. He invited people to view everything in the light of a different reality, which he called the kingdom of God.
Jesus could see beyond the appearance to the possibility. He viewed others, not so much in terms of what they were, but in terms of what they could be as a result of the liberating power of God's love. Peter, an ordinary fisherman, could become the rock on which the universal church would be built. Matthew a tax collector (which was a notoriously dishonest profession) could become a trusted friend and disciple, and maybe even write the gospel named after him. The ritually unclean such as lepers, forced to live outside their villages, could be restored to their families. The hopelessly ill could be made well again. Paul, an angry Pharisee who was a persecutor of the church, could become God’s messenger to the nations.
People who heard and believed the good news Jesus offered were freed from their prisons of negativity. In its place Jesus gave them hope, hope is grounded in the power and love of God.
Jesus invites us to look at the world with new eyes when he says that the kingdom of God is like a mustard seed which grows to become a huge tree. God is like a sower who scatters seeds. The seeds may be tiny and invisible to the naked eye. Yet when the seed is planted, it grows into a shrub that provides shelter for many creatures. The Kingdom of God is like this. The initial evidence may be very small, but the ultimate results will be awesome.
If we believe that this is how God does things, then what will we do? We will begin to look for the mustard seeds. We will look for the first signs of this kingdom with faith and expectancy. We will not be too quick to dismiss the small and insignificant. We will not give up on ourselves. We will not give up on other people. We will not give up on the church, or on the world, just because we see many signs of sin and brokenness in them. Instead, we will believe in God's possibilities, even if the evidence is as tiny as a mustard seed.
To believe this is to receive the gift of a new way of seeing the world. Your faith may be no larger than a grain of mustard seed, but if you take it seriously and use it, then you can move mountains. You can do great things for God if you are willing to offer yourself to the one who has planted in you the tiny seeds of love, generosity, mercy, justice and kindness.
On the other hand, it is possible to become so hardened in our living, that these seeds find no good ground in our lives. As I begin to think about what to do with my garden at this time of year, I’ve realised I’ve more to learn about clay soil. On the internet I have discovered that clay soil contains lots of nutrients. The problem is that it’s so tightly packed together that growing things like seeds cannot penetrate it. And so they are soon starved and die. When people tightly packed in the prison of negativity, they will never be able to receive the seeds of God’s love.
Our baptism says we are a somebody, a child of God. We aren’t nobodies. We are rejecting God’s will if we live as if we have no hope for the future. If we are trapped in negative thinking, then it is important to ask ourselves why. We may have a need to repent of that point of view.
To believe that you are a child of God will lead you to believe what Paul did when he wrote to the Philippian Christians. He said, "I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and want. I can do all things in him who strengthens me." When Paul became a disciple of Jesus Christ, he lost his old vision and received the gift of a new perspective.
There is a story told about Mother Teresa of Calcutta, how she began her orphanage in India with the new way of seeing that she had received through faith. She told her superiors, "I have three pennies and a dream from God to build an orphanage." A dream and three pennies were her mustard seeds. Her superiors gently replied, "Mother Teresa, you cannot build an orphanage with three pennies...with three pennies you can't do anything." "I know," she said, "but with God and three pennies I can do anything."
The parable of the mustard seed reminds us that God's beginnings may be small, but his results are great. Our task is to look for the signs of the kingdom which may be no larger than a mustard seed.
Jesus calls us to live and love with a new perspective. He wants us to offer that new perspective to people caught in the bondage of disappointment about life, people who are in prisons of negative thinking.
Jesus has called us to be his learners (which is what disciple means in the New Testament). No matter what our situation or condition, he has something important for us to learn, and then to act on what we have learned. Believe in the hope that God gives, and it will change how we think and how we live in the world. Believe in God’s promises, and we are promised to receive a new enthusiasm for life. Believe in the reality of the kingdom of God, and we and the world will be different.