And he said, “With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable shall we use for it? It is like a grain of mustard seed, which, when sown on the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth, yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes larger than all the garden plants and puts out large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade.” Mark 4:30-32 ESV
We often hear of how Jesus said that the kingdom of God is like a mustard seed. But what is forgotten is that Jesus didn’t teach us that His kingdom was a small seed but that it could grow. In fact Jesus taught that His kingdom was like the smallest of seeds that grew into the largest plant in the garden. For those of us in nursing home ministry, Mustard Tree Faith calls for us as members of God’s kingdom to minister to the needs of the long term care community – residents, caregivers and family members. Our vision is that the kingdom of God – in both our personal lives and in our communities must grow. In order for our faith to grow according to God’s design we are called to follow the three simple steps Jesus gave us in both our daily lives and ministry.
First we must be planted. All of us who are Christians today come from the single seed of Jesus Christ planted on the hill of Golgotha. Because Jesus surrendered His life willingly on the cross we have the hope of eternal life. As followers of Jesus we must also give ourselves willingly and completely to serve where he has called us. Nursing home ministry is not just for special occasions, holidays or when we feel impelled by momentary pangs of guilt. We joyfully and consistently dedicate ourselves to sharing the hope of eternal life found only in the message of Jesus death, burial and resurrection.
And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. Romans 5:5 ESV
Second we dedicate to growth. Giving ourselves fully to God’s ministry does not mean being content to do our work without seeing any growth. The mustard seed Jesus talked about grew to be the largest plant in the garden. First we must grow down! In practical terms that may mean getting involved with special events being planned at our facilities, networking with the staff and going the extra mile in visiting those in need outside of regularly scheduled nursing home services. Our connections are not only to make our own ministry grow but they open the door so that others can come alongside of us in service. The needs in long term care are so deep and so many that no one person, no matter how dedicated gifted or energetic can possibly meet them all. Our roots give us stability and security so our outreach can branch outward. Do not be afraid to try new things. Doors that God opens are meant for us to go through. If our motivation is firmly based on the love of God people they will know it. There are times of loneliness, isolation and despair for residents, care givers and family members in long term care. Only Jesus Christ can meet them at their lowest points and give the assurance of faith they need. Our job is to faithfully show up and let God can arrange that meeting!
Third a mustard tree becomes a place of refuge. People will be able to come to us and find a place of rest, refreshment and safety. They will be able to “make their nest” or in other words, find a home. We are not just to skate in and out of our place of service like movie stars making guest appearances. We are called to be family members to those who sometimes have lost theirs or been forgotten. When we have been there through both good times and bad we will one day look around and discover that the mustard seed of faith God gave us has grown to be a tree!