Branches and Bread

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My church family is reading through the Bible together.  We’re reading from cover to cover with an Old Testament passage and a New Testament passage each week day.  Our pastor also encourages us to use SOAP:  Scripture, Observation, Application, Prayer.  Of course, there’s nothing holy or Scriptural about SOAP but I’ve personally found it valuable in these ways:

1. Gives my heart and mind a vision to be looking for something that stands out each day.  Our pastor calls it a “speed bump”.
2. Gives me a reason to pause and consider the speed bump whereas I’d usually just keep reading.
3. Gives me a written record of my faith journey.
4. Gives me a common study passage with my church family so we can chat and share about the things God is showing us.

I don’t always do SOAP.  Most days I read the passages and share thoughts with my church family by tweeting about the something that stands out to me.  Today 140 characters wasn’t enough.  It was a big speed bump.

Here’s my SOAP for today.  It’s not intended to be a teaching or a divine message of any kind.  I’m simply sharing my thoughts and journey.  Some of you are my long-time friends and family and you know I love to share my faith walk.  For those who don’t know me in-person, this post is basically an excerpt from my personal journal.

SCRIPTURE: Luke 13:18-21

Then Jesus said, “What is the Kingdom of God like? How can I illustrate it? It is like a tiny mustard seed that a man planted in a garden; it grows and becomes a tree, and the birds make nests in its branches.” 
He also asked, “What else is the Kingdom of God like? It is like the yeast a woman used in making bread. Even though she put only a little yeast in three measures of flour, it permeated every part of the dough.”  (Luke 13:18-21)

OBSERVATION: Branches and Bread

This is a different use of mustard seeds and yeast.  On other occasions Jesus used the seed to talk about faith and the yeast to talk about ungodliness.  As I read these verses stuck out to me.  What is Jesus saying?  Why are these parables paired together?  Is He talking about His life and Kingdom only?  Or could this also be applicable to my life and unique role in His Kingdom?  This was a speed bump that made me want to take the time to SOAP.

My first thought is these parables are talking about the power of God’s Kingdom and His work in and through Believers and the effect we should be having in this world.  Is the testimony of my life that from small beginnings God has transformed me into a strong tree that is a haven and strength for people to find home in?  Is the influence of my life causing transformation and change to the community I live in?

Time to pull out my dear Strong’s Concordance and do some digging in greek.

“Kingdom” = basileia = Royal power, kingship, dominion, rule,the royal power of Jesus as Messiah, the royal power conferred on Christians in the Messiah’s kingdom.
Ok. Cool. This is talking about the full “Kingdom” of Jesus and also something that I personally should be embodying.

“Mustard seed” = sinapi = a thing which grows to a remarkable size.
“Grow” = auxano = to grow, increase, become greater.
Yep. That’s what I expected.  Growing into something big.

“Birds” = peteinon = flying, or winged animals, birds of the heaven, i.e. flying in the heaven.
“Of the air” = ouranos = the expanse of the sky, the universe, the world, the aerial heavens, the region where thunder and lightning are produced, … where God dwells and other heavenly beings.
Woah. The branches of our lives are a resting place for the physical realm AND the spiritual realm??  That’s weighty.  TO BE CLEAR, this is not something I would ever construct a core belief around… but this is an interesting thing for me to pray about.  Do I consider my life to be of any consequence in the spiritual realm?  Jesus’ life definitely was.

“Nest” = kataskenoo = to pitch one’s tent, to fix one’s abode, to dwell
I want to paint this image.  So beautiful and good.  I crave to have my nest in God.  But what does this look like for my life if I apply this on a personal level as being a tree?

“Also” = palin = further, moreover
These two illustrations go together.  Both are needed to see the fullness Jesus was giving.

“Put” = krupto = to hide, conceal, to be hid, escape notice, metaph. to conceal (that it may not become known)
Hmm. Reminds me of Luke 2:19 when Mary kept things to herself (suntereo). So often I think of the importance of being forthright about the Kingdom of God.  What I love about this yeast illustration is that it speaks of the power of leaven to affect the whole loaf whether or not the leaven can be seen or not.

“Every part” = holos = all, whole, completely
Everything is changed by the Love of God.

Application: God’s work in me.  God’s worth through me.

First, can I see the effects of the Kingdom of God in me?  Am I a loaf of bread that is leavened by the Kingdom of God?  Am I transformed by His power in me?  Am I changed?  Am I a bird that has nested in Him?

Secondly, can I see the power of the Kingdom of God through me?  Am I a seed growing?  Are my branches becoming strong?  As I walk through life, do I bring His Love and power to “every part” (holos) around me?  Not by being a verbal blatent marketing agent… but through the “hidden” (krupto) power of God?

I can’t help but think about passages about the person and work of the Holy Spirit we’ve been studying in our “The Forgotten God” study.  I want to re-read the passages with these parables in mind.  Jesus is using these image to open our minds to see the Kingdom of God.  The speed bump I encountered today feels worth considering more.

Prayer:

Father God, what is the Kingdom of God like? Show me more about these words that Jesus is speaking to me today. Holy Spirit open my eyes and ears to understanding. I am hesitant but compelled to ask for You to make my life truly like a mustard tree with branches of nests and like powerful leaven hidden in bread. I trust Your Love and Goodness. You said to pray this way… may Your Kingdom come and Your Will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

Want to read through the Bible with me?  Today’s readings are Psalm 26; Luke 13:1-35

How do you read your Bible? Do you have a way to chat about and share your Bible reading and studying with your friends and church family? Have you noticed speed bumps as you read?  Would love to hear how you read and study God’s Word.

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