Mustard Seed

Jesus proposed a parable to the crowds.

“The Kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed

that a person took and sowed in a field.

It is the smallest of all the seeds,

yet when full-grown it is the largest of plants.

It becomes a large bush,

and the birds of the sky come and dwell in its branches.”

Matthew 13:31-32
Come sow in me your mustard seed;
I have no room for more.
My little field is full of weeds
and clogged and choked with thorns.

Send down your sunlight and your rain,
your healing darkness, too:
Perhaps, though I had killed the grain,
this seed will grow for you.

If it should sprout, then make a way
among the tangled vines
for shoots to here unfurl by day
and safely rest by night.

Clear out the weeds; tear deadwood down
that will bear fruit no more,
and let new branches test the bounds
I had set long before.

So day by day and week by week,
by season and by year,
Lord, grow in me the good I seek
in spaces you have cleared.

Send branches up to greet the sky;
let brand-new leaves unfold,
that birds may see me and alight
to shelter in my soul.
An etching by Jan Luyken illustrating Mark 4:30-32 in the Bowyer Bible, Bolton, England. By Phillip Medhurst – Photo by Harry Kossuth, FAL, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=7549966

The Mustard Tree (In the Branches of the Vine)

“To what shall we compare the kingdom of God,

or what parable can we use for it?

It is like a mustard seed that, when it is sown in the ground,

is the smallest of all the seeds on the earth.

But once it is sown, it springs up and becomes the largest of plants

and puts forth large branches,

so that the birds of the sky can dwell in its shade.”

Mark 4:26-34

Another one based on Sunday’s readings, to the tune ODE TO JOY.

In the arms of Christ the savior,
in the branches of the vine,
build your nest in shade and safety;
rest and shelter you shall find.
Heaven's manna you shall savor,
scattered by his hand divine:
Gather it in grace and favor;
in his Temple, rest and dine.

There is room for every sparrow
in the echo of his Word,
hawk as swift as any arrow,
ruby-throated hummingbird.
Swallows following the harrow
sing the promise they have heard:
Enter, though the gates are narrow,
when they rise to greet the Lord,

Come, the kingdom bids you enter;
come, the savior calls you in.
Come when autumn turns to winter;
come out of the storm and wind.
Here find shade from summer's swelter;
here find mercy for your sins.
Here within his heart find shelter:
Here eternal spring begins!

Female ruby-throated hummingbird feeding on nectar from scarlet beebalm (Monarda didyma) By Joe Schneid, Louisville, Kentucky – Own work, CC BY 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=6691558

Parables (For All the Times)

A man had two sons.

He came to the first and said,

‘Son, go out and work in the vineyard today.’

He said in reply, ‘I will not, ‘

but afterwards changed his mind and went.

The man came to the other son and gave the same order.

He said in reply, ‘Yes, sir, ‘but did not go.

Which of the two did his father’s will?

Matthew 21:28-32

To the tune SINE NOMINE (“For All the Saints”):

For all the times when we have told you, “Yes,”
then gone our ways, encased in callousness,
but in our pride still sure that you would bless,
oh, Lord, forgive us! Oh, Lord, forgive us!

For all the times we passed on th'other side
and turned from your own image, though you cried,
but still proclaimed a love that for us died,
oh, Lord, forgive us! Oh, Lord, forgive us!

For all the times we squandered what you gave
not on the poor but on the goods we crave,
though none of those come with us to the grave,
oh, Lord, forgive us! Oh, Lord, forgive us!

For all the times our gifts we would not yield,
though greater ones lay buried in the field,
and so our loves, our true selves we revealed,
oh, Lord, forgive us! Oh, Lord, forgive us!

For all the times your seed in us took root,
and merciless we plucked each sprouting shoot,
or choked the growth, or trampled on its fruit,
oh, Lord, forgive us! Oh, Lord, forgive us!

For all the times we hear you at the door
and do not welcome you, do not adore,
forgive us, Lord, and come to us once more!
Oh, Lord, forgive us! Oh, Lord, forgive us!
The good Samaritan, after Delacroix, 1890 By Vincent van Gogh – The Yorck Project (2002) 10.000 Meisterwerke der Malerei (DVD-ROM), distributed by DIRECTMEDIA Publishing GmbH. ISBN: 3936122202., Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=151850

Worker In the Vineyard

Jesus told his disciples this parable:

“The kingdom of heaven is like a landowner

who went out at dawn to hire laborers for his vineyard….

Matthew 20:1-16A

To the tune CONDITOR ALME SIDERUM (“Creator of the Stars of Night”):

I passed my days in idleness
until a voice said, “Come! Be mine,
and I will all your labors bless,”
and sent me out to tend his vine.

But now the night is drawing near,
and I so little work have done.
They who since dawn have labored here
have earned rewards while I have none.

And lo! He comes, the lord of all,
to pay the workers for their toil.
But I, so late to heed his call,
what have I given to the soil?

He takes my hand and hands me pay;
so overwhelming is his wealth
he gives me grace for all the day:
his life, his peace, his love, himself.

Oh, Savior, lord of earth and seed,
you see how little I can do
in service of the vineyard's need—
I give it, though, for love of you.

And when the sun has set at last,
bring all your workers, great and least,
the newly come with those long past,
to share together in your feast.
Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard: Workers on the field (down) and pay time (up), Byzantine Gospel of 11th century, BnF, Cod. gr. 74 By Unknown/Άγνωστος – Byzantine gospel. Paris, National Library., Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=9472307

Light and Wisdom

For this Sunday’s readings on wisdom and treasure. No tune.

When every other light goes out,
Lord, be the light within me still.
When other wisdoms topple down,
my mind with your own wisdom fill.
When I have dug in fruitless ground
and nothing found but empty fields,
take me where treasures still abound:
the riches of your word and will.

For I am poor, oh treasured Lord,
without your guidance and your grace,
until you open mercy's door
and heaven's rivers run in spate.
Then, in the eye--the holy storm--
what streams of love my heart embrace.
You are their source, oh Christ adored;
no price to have you is too great.

My wisdom and my treasure, too:
your word, more valuable than gold.
My light when shadow shrouds my view:
your radiance striking bright and bold.
Then here I give both old and new—
all that I have within my hold
is nothing, Lord, compared with you.
Take me and keep me in your fold!
Parable of the Hidden Treasure by Rembrandt (c. 1630). Photo by, Yelkrokoyade, 20/07/2011, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=17828757

Parable of the Weeds

For today’s Gospel reading (Matthew 13:24-30), to the tune AURELIA (“The Church’s One Foundation”):

The weeds and wheat together
drink in the sun and rain,
the nighttime's rest and shelter,
the noontime's gloried rays.
Their roots together tethered,
they sink into the clay;
they bear the wind and weather
alike 'til harvest day.

The harvesters are ready
and holding back their hands:
A love divine and steady
restrains th'angelic band.
They stand, their sickles whetting
'til Christ gives his command
that we, his judgment dreading,
must all before him stand.

Oh, master of the harvest,
who lets us grow 'til then,
'til all the scythes are sharpened
for foe as well as friend,
prepare us for your garners
where all shall say, “Amen!”
and grant us all your pardon
when growing time shall end.
The Harvesters, By Pieter Brueghel the Elder – PAH1oMZ5dGBkxg at Google Cultural Institute, zoom level maximum, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=22554956