Mark Twain once wrote in The Guilded Age (1873), “Try the mustard – a man can’t know what turnips are in perfection without mustard.”
In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus tells his disciples, “For truly I tell you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you” (17:20).
(Image courtesy of thisweekfordinner.com)
Have you ever made you own mustard or watched someone else make it? My mother would make her own stone ground mustard as a condiment for her mini ham biscuits at Christmas time. It takes hundreds of mustard seeds to make a descent amount of mustard. While not everyone is a mustard person, I love it. I love it on soft pretzels, hotdogs, hamburgers, deli sandwiches, mixed as salad dressing, as a dipping sauce with honey. I love all the varieties: hot, mild, spicy, brown, yellow, stone ground, Dijon, you name it. I love that zest, the tang of the vinegar, that adds spice to my food.
The Church is just like that. The faith of so many gathered together, combined to make something wonderful that adds life to the community and the world. It flavors our lives and adds excitement to our day. But you can’t discover the richness of the mustard without going all in, letting yourself get mashed up with others. If you just sit in the pew each Sunday and then leave until next Sunday, you’ll never be a part of the richness that is the Body of Christ. For many of us, the image of being combined with others and the fear of being lost in the crowd is reason enough to keep from being immersed in Church life. However, we cannot let that keep us from doing what God calls us to, what Christ demands: letting our faith grow into something more.
Jesus has another saying about mustard seeds in the Gospel of Mark, “It is like a mustard seed, which, when sown upon the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth; yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes the greatest of all shrubs, and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade” (4:31-32). While preaching, Jesus explains what the Kingdom of Heaven is like and gives this metaphor. Our faith as individuals can be great and with it we can do mighty things in Christ’s name, but unless we plant our seed and let it grow into something bigger, our faith will never reach its fullest potential. Church is the place where God cultivated the field so that our seeds of faith can grow, not just into a single tree, but orchards of trees that cover the earth with hope and the truth of God’s love.
So try the mustard. Cultivate a palette for this unique and special flavor that is life in the Church. Sometimes it may be a little bitter, and other times too sweet, but you can always take comfort in knowing that you gave it your all in faith, and whatever grows forth will be a glorious gift to God.