It's like a mustard seed

Christians love revival. Ask any pastor about revival and, depending on their tradition, they will wax lyrical about Wesley, Whitfield, Edwards or Graham. The great power of these men! Their prayer lives! Their rigorous study! Their innovative thinking!

It’s almost as if heaven touched earth briefly when these guys were doing their thing.

But how many people have such prayer lives as Wesley? Known to spend hours on his knees each morning?

It is more than you think. Because such people rarely boast of such things.

We love revival and we are convinced that doing as Wesley or Edwards did will bring it. We desire the rush of those lost sinners coming to repentance. We want to have our pews filled and our Bible studies attended.

Or maybe we are kidding ourselves. Maybe we just want to have a bit of success in the world. Is it too much to ask from God? The Church must fight for her existence in this world. She must crucify herself each day that she would reflect Jesus to the world and receive his grace. Surly there must be a point to it all?

Revival! All the hard labour! All the prayer and seeking! It comes to an end – there is a point!

This is a shallow view, of course. These revivals don’t last. Within a generation, or three at most, the roaring flames of the church are smouldering embers. The scorched pages of history alone remind us of the Great Visitation. The charred souls clinging to the pews in dozens of empty churches mourn bitterly for the days when the chapels were filled with hundreds of newly saved people declaring their praises to their one Saviour.

And so people return to praying for hours on end in hopes that once again, perhaps even in their generation there will be a revival once again. That fire and life would rush across the land. A nobel request.

Marked with hidden motives?

Perhaps when desiring such things, we really desire the prestige of the Church, that she might be honoured again and thus we would be honoured again.

Now, I am not one to question the motives of hearts. I can scarcely see to the bottom of my own!

Perhaps I’m a little bit too “gen Y” to believe in revival. I should probably deal with that. Undoubtably miracles have happened which alter the course of entire nations when a generation is impacted by God’s power.

I am not going to deny that Billy Graham’s ministry will echo the voice of Christ through the ages. These great preachers have shaped the culture of our world over generations.

Now, Jesus was the greatest preacher of all time. He was God and everything he said was divine. I can only help people to understand what he said, I can’t add to it.

So Jesus had a heated discussion with a Pharisee. He had many such discussions but on this particular occasion (Luke 13:10-17) he had an audience.

After healing a women – Jesus specifically referred to this healing as a defeat of Satan himself – the Pharisee was indignant that Jesus should do such a work on the Sabbath. Jesus points out the absurdity of this complaint. If it’s right to care for animals on the Sabbath, why shouldn’t it be better still to bring new life and healing to God’s chosen people?

In response to this, “all his adversaries were put to shame and all the people rejoiced at all the glorious things that were done by him” (Luke 13:17).

Revival. Success. Victory.

Jesus then tells a story. He describes the Kingdom of God like a mustard seed, the tiny thing which spawns a sprawling bush (Luke 13:18-19). Tiny beginnings but expansive growth, study and safe enough that birds would fine a home in it.

He goes on to describe the Kingdom as yeast in a batch of bread. A large one at that. (Luke 13:20-21). I don’t imagine 1st Century Palestinians had the baking technology of our age, and so heating enough bread for 100 people – thats the ‘three measures’ of flour – would have taken quite some time.

So what had Jesus said about the Kingdom of God?

Small beginnings and a long time coming.

Thats hard to hear.

When the church your grandfather helped found closes down

When the roof leaks because you can’t afford to get it repaired

When the wear and grooves and on the pews are decades old, because there aren’t enough people to give them fresh scratches and scuffs.

Small beginnings and a long time coming.

Fondly, Christians remember the days when “all the people rejoiced at all the glorious things” Jesus did.

I wonder, though, if perhaps Jesus had something a little different in mind.

If only my young and impulsive mind could understand that.

Small beginnings and a long time coming.

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2 Comments

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  1. is/was this a sermon?

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