There is something wonderfully subversive about smallness! Jesus compares the Kingdom to a mustard seed, an exceedingly small seed indeed. A mustard plant does not grow up like an oak to tower over society and cast its shadow over the culture. The mustard plant is equal parts above and below the ground. It is one of the most difficult plants to uproot because of its tenacious root system which stubbornly stay rooted. If we were looking for a more impressive metaphor we might try “The Kingdom is like a towering Redwood or like an Amazon Jungle” but these are not the picture Jesus paints.
I jokingly said I was giving up grandiosity for Lent and I was doing really well. I wish, though that I really could so easily give up striving for bigness in this world. God, who is almighty after all, chooses a rag-tag nation to be his people. He chooses a young virgin to bear the seed which becomes the only begotten Son. He chooses the foolish to confound the wise. He chooses the small mustard plant rather than grander vegetation for his metaphor. He continually chooses smallness over grandness and yet we so often want to change his way to the way of this fallen world.
I was reminded of the power of smallness this week. One day this week only one person came to our Study and Prayer time. I was initially disappointed and wondered why my friends had abandoned me, but I was later to rejoice. The fellow who came wanted to talk! He had just hit what he called ‘rock bottom’. He wanted to stop ‘fooling around’ with God and completely surrender. In that exceedingly small group something wonderful happened. We had a candid conversation about sin and shame and surrender. At the start I was lamenting that we were so small but soon I realised the dynamic power of simply being open to God moving through smallness.
I had another lesson in smallness. Wednesday nights after a community supper Out Flow Ministry has begun to have a communion service. Most of the people bolt out after eating. Linda and I, like salmon going upstream, enter as most leave and we join with a small group who gather to worship and celebrate together. There is real power in the smallness of this diverse group. Together we are a picture of the Church. We experience the manifest presence of God in ways that elude me in the larger assemblies I find myself in.
On Easter a small group of us got together for dinner. An eclectic little group of us gathered and I marvelled that a group which would not otherwise have met had become friends. We laughed and joked and sang and prayed. This unlikely little group partied and worshipped. We were small and without worldly influence but no mega event experienced God more deeply!
In our desire to be people of influence we may sometimes despise the small but it is the small rudder that turns the big ship. No amount of brute force will have the impact that effective smallness will. I was reminded this week of the mustard seed call of God to a smallness which relies solely on the dynamic power only God provides. Mega may only give the illusion of dynamism.