The Parable of the Mustard Seed

"He put before them another parable: "The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that someone took and 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 rest in its branches." -Matthew 13:31-32
Jesus' parables are one of the ways Jesus trains his disciples. The parables, like the sermon on the mount, have always been crucial for the church to imagine the kind of community it is called to be. We discover again and again that Jesus' parables significance points to everyday life. The parables are meant to be lived.
The original audience may have been perplexed by this story. They would have known that no-one would intentionally plant a mustard shrub. In fact, the Jewish Mishnah forbade the growing of mustard seeds in the garden because they were 'useless annoying weeds'. In the Hebrew Scriptures the "birds of the air" can be a reference to Gentiles/Non-Jews, the foreigner. This parable suggests that the kingdom of heaven is available to everyone. Even those who may be considered outsiders or not "Worthy". Jesus is calling us to see the significance in the insignificant. The parables of the kingdom of heaven make clear that the kingdom of heaven is not "up there". Through the parables Jesus is teaching us to "be for the world the material reality of the kingdom of heaven brought down to earth." As Jesus is himself the parable of the father so the church is meant to be the parable of Christ. A people in space and time welcoming the outcast, the foreigner, and the stranger. These kind of communities will look like unwanted weeds to the world, or even to other christians. However, this may be exactly the church Jesus is asking us to embody.
All of the birds in this icon are native to the Holy Land. Birds in the icon: Palestine Sunbird, Scrub Warbler, Common Rosefinch, Laughing dove, Barn Swallow, House Sparrow, Fire-Fronted Serin, Red- Rumped Swallow, Rufous-tailed Scrub Robin, Woodchat Shrike, European Greenfinch, Tree Pipit, Nubian Nightjar, Northern Wheatear, Green Bee Eater, Eurasian Golden Oriole, European Roller, Eurasian Jay, Hooded Crow, Eurasian Blackbird, Common Chiffchaff, Rock Bunting, Crested Lark, and White Spectacled Bulbul. 

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