“The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that someone sowed in his field; it is the smallest of seeds, but when it has grown it is the greatest of shrubs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches.” – Matthew 13:31-32 (NRSV)
When I came home from college Christmas break my freshman year, I was smarter and wiser than when I’d left home three months earlier. It was amazing how much more sophisticated I’d become.
My parents weren’t as impressed when I launched into a passionate speech at dinner about the system and the culpable complicity of bourgeois people like us in All Bad Things Everywhere. I said “us,” but I meant them. They felt it.
My father argued heatedly, point by point. That was his way. I got it from him. My mother was quiet, but I could tell she wanted it to stop. Which proved my point. They’d never get the big picture. They had their heads in the sand.
When it was over, I could feel my face burning. Part righteous indignation. Part … I don’t know, shame?
My father left for the backyard. A kid he’d coached in cross country years earlier was coming to see him. He’d show up at our house whenever he was in trouble. Bad family situation, struggles with school and purpose. He wasn’t the only one. Dad gave them time.
My mother made up a plate for the old lady next door, for whom she was unofficial caretaker, doing her shopping, schlepping her to the doctor’s, the library, the bank. This was the third old lady on our block she’d seen through their later lives, especially the hardest years at the end.
I went back to school to keep reading about how to save the world.
Good Jesus, save me and save the world, small seed by small seed, backyard talk by backyard talk, plate by offered plate. Amen.
Mary Luti is a long time seminary educator and pastor, author of Teresa of Avila’s Way and numerous articles, and founding member of The Daughters of Abraham, a national network of interfaith women’s book groups.