Mustard seeds

The Kingdom of God 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: 30-32

 Jesus used this and other agricultural images to speak of his work and how God makes it grow despite our small efforts.

Today we remember Bishop Maurice Dingman who had been the bishop of Des Moines, Iowa, who died on February 1, 1992. A beloved bishop I met him and heard him a few times; I was especially impressed by his simplicity. He was a great pastoral man who was also outspoken in his defense of the family farmer, especially in the 1980s when the farm crisis hit many families in Iowa. But he was also not afraid to speak out against war, in particular against nuclear weapons and against the US-sponsored wars in Central America.

In many ways he combined the prophetic and the pastoral in his ministry.

He was a man of vision:

 You are to look forward to the future. Make the work of the future your task. It is an immense task, and you do this in three ways: be a spark of light, a center of love, and a leaven in the world in which you live. We can’t do everything, but we can do something. All we really have to do is to open ourselves to these possibilities. I ask you to continue to search for truth. I urge you to continue your lives in a fashion so you can hear the word of God, put it into your own idiom, and then live it out.

May his inspiration move us to pray and work for peace with justice and  to be in solidarity with all the farmers of the world, especially those who struggle to make ends meet in order to feed their families.


One response to “Mustard seeds

  1. About every 10 years or so, the City of Des Moines asserts itself as the “leader to end homelessness” by developing yet another plan and brushing aside the effective systems that local homeless service and housing providers have implemented in the interim since the last time the city asserted itself. Because the issue is complex, the task is daunting and doesn’t hold the attention of our local political leaders for long.

    Over the last couple of years, we’ve been going through the latest rendition of “we are the leader to end homelessness”. I find this so frustrating for many reasons, chief among them, spending so much time participating in the city’s process only for them to do what they think best which is usually just a Band-Aid (i.e., one of those tiny rectangular ones), not a holistic response and not providing the financial resources to accomplish the end goal.

    I often find myself focusing on this frustration, spinning my wheels if you will, so Bishop Dingman’s statement, “We can’t do everything, but we can do something.” is a good reminder for me. The “something” I can do is continue to provide shelter for families experiencing homelessness in the spirit of hospitality that I would extend to a guest in my own home; be a “spark of light, a center of love, and a leaven…” to my staff, our guests and the over 1,000 volunteers who annually host our guest families at their congregation; and carry the story of our guest families’ success to foundations and corporations from whom we seek funds to make programmatic changes that are rooted in these successes.

    Also, by focusing on the “something” and not on my frustration, I will be better able “…to continue your lives in a fashion so you can hear the word of God, put it into your own idiom, and then live it out.”

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