From a Small Seed, June 13

From a Small Seed

1 Samuel 15:34-16:13; Psalm 20; 2 Corinthians 5:6-10, 14-17; Mark 4:26-34

Rev. Catherine E. Schuyler

Catskill United Methodist Church; June 13, 2021


30 He also said, ‘With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable will we use for it? 31It is like a mustard seed, which, when sown upon the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth; 32yet 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.’


This week marks fifty years since the ordination of Rev. Rick Edwards, my beloved husband.  Fifty years of focused Christian service in the United Methodist church is the large shrub of the kingdom of God I will build my sermon around today.  Over the course of fifty years, many birds in need of shelter and wisdom, visits and leadership have found a place in Rick’s ministry to call home.  His ordained service began in journalism focused on justice and has been manifest in the past year in technological assistance to put worship online.  For most of his fifty years of ordination, Rick served as a pastor to United Methodist churches – in Poughkeepsie, in Port Ewen and Rifton and Esopus, in Woodstock, in New Paltz, on Long Island and Connecticut and Minnesota.  He preached thousands of sermons, celebrated communion hundreds of times, baptized babies, taught Disciple Bible Study, and visited hundreds of people in hospitals.  He has blessed cars and dogs, homes and ashes, agates and school buildings, and he became a veritable expert at mashing mounds of potatoes for the Black Diamond dinner.  Fifty years of ordained ministry appears to the world as a large bush of care, with broad branches, just like the mustard bush Jesus mentions in today’s parable.


This afternoon the New York Annual Conference will celebrate the ordination of seven elders and one deacon to full connection in the conference.  It will be a big service, though not full of people, with many songs and mentors and families present, and the bishop will carry his shepherd’s staff.  Fancy liturgical stuff.  We can all watch it online; the link is on the NY Conference website.  The service of ordination is not small like a mustard seed. So, Pastor Cathy, your metaphor falls apart.  Rick was ordained in a big service, too, fifty years ago.  But I submit to you that his call to ministry, his ministry itself, didn’t begin at his ordination.  It began long before that.


Rick grew up in Alabama in the middle of the last century, in a very white family, with parents who were willing to talk about race and about the injustice of the racism that they saw all around them.  Conversations around the dinner table, with aunts and uncles and cousins, too, opened Rick’s eyes and ears to the injustice in the world, and specifically to the unjust ways people of color were treated in Alabama.  A mustard seed of awareness, beginning shoots of ministry and call.  Last fall, Rick did work for the US Census, interviewing neighbors in Catskill village and throughout Greene County.  Seventy years before that he went with his mother to interview people in Auburn, Alabama, for the 1950 US Census.  In those visits he caught a glimpse of poverty in his hometown that he never knew existed.  Another small seed of awareness, of a need for caring and justice.


Rick grew up in the Methodist Church; he went to Sunday School and Sunday night worship.  He went to church camp and heard guest speakers witness to living out their faith in their ordinary lives – teachers and undertakers, business owners and scientists.  He was active with the YMCA at college, participating in the Civil Rights movement, building friendships across color lines, standing up for the truth that all God’s children are loved and called and worthy of dignity and respect.  The small seeds of childhood began to grow deep roots and to sprout healthy green leaves. 


Rick came to New York for seminary, stepped away from school to spend two years in the Peace Corps in Colombia.  There he saw strength and beauty and wisdom of communities.  There, too, he noticed area of deep need and poverty.  He considered law school or international relations when he returned to the U.S., but the Holy Spirit led him back to seminary, to ordination, and eventually to ministry in local churches.  The shrub was growing, filling out, reaching out to include connections with church members, community members, colleagues.  Cross-racial conversations and friendships in the Hempstead United Methodist Church, especially, saw growth and blossoms from the seeds of anti-racism planted around the dining room table in Auburn, Alabama.  Even after formal retirement, Rick’s ministry has continued.  He served a church in Moose Lake, Minnesota post-retirement, and from that church he led four mission trips to Colombia to work with the Iglesia Colombiana Metodista, building clinics and school classrooms.  When we came back to New York five years ago, he was determined to really be retired, happy to simply tend his gardens and write down his best stories.  Nope. He’s added live-streaming worship to his repertoire.  The shrub of his ministry is indeed large, and hasn’t ceased its growth over the years.  The small seeds grew abundantly, just as Jesus described.


Maybe your life is like Rick’s – beginning with plantings of small seeds from a young age, growing steadily, year by year.  Maybe your soil was covered with rocks early on and only recently has been sown with seed.  Maybe there were beautiful flowers in your garden for a season or two, but now you feel as if your life is fallow, lacking growth and energy.  The small seeds from which we grow aren’t always neatly placed in rich soil, or even visible until some time has gone by.  Youngest son David didn’t know that Samuel was looking for him to anoint; he didn’t even show up for the gathering.  But there was a seed of leadership and charisma in his shepherd’s heart.  Jesus’ story of the mustard seed, a tiny dot on one’s fingertip, that grows huge and offers shade and shelter, reminds us of the importance of each of the people in church – from the tiniest child to the tiniest older person who can’t get out at night anymore, but is still worthy of Christ’s love and of our love.  Are we encouraging kids to go to church camp, to have the opportunity to look at the world anew, to find fresh ways to encounter God’s love?  Are we talking to young people, and to each other, about what it looks like and feels like to live your life focused on serving Christ in whatever way you serve the world?  I believe that God plants seeds of hope, seeds of possibility, seeds of a call to do justice and love kindness, in all of our lives.  And we know that even small seeds can grow huge and healthy and generous.  Open your eyes wide to the growth that is happening in your life; figure out how to speak about it, and offer your testimony that others might hear and notice their own seeds and growth.  Behold, says God, I am making all things new in Christ.  New things emerging from small seeds of awareness. 


I celebrate Rick this morning.  I give thanks to God for Rick’s witness among us, and I give thanks to God for the small seeds of love and justice, awareness and caring and service God has planted in your life, in my life, and in the life of this church.  As you plan to welcome Pastor Mina in July, remember the goodness of Paul’s word about growth: 17So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!  Because of that newness, we needn’t fear change, because Christ is in and a part of the new things that are happening.  As we go into the future, we are confident that there will be newness and growth and abundant love and grace in this place, in Jesus’ name.  Amen.



1 Samuel 15:34 - 16:13


34 Then Samuel went to Ramah; and Saul went up to his house in Gibeah of Saul. 35Samuel did not see Saul again until the day of his death, but Samuel grieved over Saul. And the Lord was sorry that he had made Saul king over Israel.


16The Lord said to Samuel, ‘How long will you grieve over Saul? I have rejected him from being king over Israel. Fill your horn with oil and set out; I will send you to Jesse the Bethlehemite, for I have provided for myself a king among his sons.’ 2Samuel said, ‘How can I go? If Saul hears of it, he will kill me.’ And the Lord said, ‘Take a heifer with you, and say, “I have come to sacrifice to the Lord.” 3Invite Jesse to the sacrifice, and I will show you what you shall do; and you shall anoint for me the one whom I name to you.’ 4Samuel did what the Lord commanded, and came to Bethlehem. The elders of the city came to meet him trembling, and said, ‘Do you come peaceably?’ 5He said, ‘Peaceably; I have come to sacrifice to the Lord; sanctify yourselves and come with me to the sacrifice.’ And he sanctified Jesse and his sons and invited them to the sacrifice.


6 When they came, he looked on Eliab and thought, ‘Surely the Lord’s anointed is now before the Lord.’* 7But the Lord said to Samuel, ‘Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for the Lord does not see as mortals see; they look on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.’ 8Then Jesse called Abinadab, and made him pass before Samuel. He said, ‘Neither has the Lord chosen this one.’ 9Then Jesse made Shammah pass by. And he said, ‘Neither has the Lord chosen this one.’ 10Jesse made seven of his sons pass before Samuel, and Samuel said to Jesse, ‘The Lord has not chosen any of these.’ 11Samuel said to Jesse, ‘Are all your sons here?’ And he said, ‘There remains yet the youngest, but he is keeping the sheep.’ And Samuel said to Jesse, ‘Send and bring him; for we will not sit down until he comes here.’ 12He sent and brought him in. Now he was ruddy, and had beautiful eyes, and was handsome. The Lord said, ‘Rise and anoint him; for this is the one.’ 13Then Samuel took the horn of oil, and anointed him in the presence of his brothers; and the spirit of the Lord came mightily upon David from that day forward. Samuel then set out and went to Ramah.



Psalm 20



1The Lord answer you in the day of trouble!

The name of the God of Jacob protect you!

2May he send you help from the sanctuary,

   and give you support from Zion. 


3May he remember all your offerings,

   and regard with favor your burnt sacrifices.

4May he grant you your heart’s desire,

   and fulfill all your plans.

5May we shout for joy over your victory,

   and in the name of our God set up our banners.

May the Lord fulfill all your petitions. 


6Now I know that the Lord will help his anointed;

he will answer him from his holy heaven

   with mighty victories by his right hand.

7Some take pride in chariots, and some in horses,

   but our pride is in the name of the Lord our God.

8They will collapse and fall,

     but we shall rise and stand upright.

9Give victory to the king, O Lord;

answer us when we call. 


2 Corinthians 5:6-10, 14-17


6 So we are always confident; even though we know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord— 7for we walk by faith, not by sight. 8Yes, we do have confidence, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord. 9So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him. 10For all of us must appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each may receive recompense for what has been done in the body, whether good or evil….


14For the love of Christ urges us on, because we are convinced that one has died for all; therefore all have died. 15And he died for all, so that those who live might live no longer for themselves, but for him who died and was raised for them.


16 From now on, therefore, we regard no one from a human point of view;* even though we once knew Christ from a human point of view,* we know him no longer in that way. 17So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!


Mark 4:26-34

26 He also said, ‘The kingdom of God is as if someone would scatter seed on the ground, 27and would sleep and rise night and day, and the seed would sprout and grow, he does not know how. 28The earth produces of itself, first the stalk, then the head, then the full grain in the head. 29But when the grain is ripe, at once he goes in with his sickle, because the harvest has come.’


30 He also said, ‘With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable will we use for it? 31It is like a mustard seed, which, when sown upon the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth; 32yet 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.’


33 With many such parables he spoke the word to them, as they were able to hear it; 34he did not speak to them except in parables, but he explained everything in private to his disciples.




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