Ep.140: Mustard Seed and Yeast.

Hello, I’m Daniel Westfall on the channel “Pray With Me”.  

In Matthew 13, Jesus explained his kingdom with word pictures when he said, 

“The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed. Though it is the smallest of all seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest garden plant and becomes a tree, so that the birds perch in its branches” (Mat 13:31-32).

When I was growing up, we used soupy-smooth bright yellow mustard for sandwiches and finely ground dry mustard in recipes. Today, we’re more adventurous–we have a small bottle of hot mustard, some smooth dijon mustard, and a plastic squeeze bottle of grainy dijon. The grains in the dijon are crushed seeds–certainly not the smallest seeds in a modern garden–but small enough to make a point. 

Jesus’ point is the marvelous discrepancy between the smallness of the seeds when they are sown and the large plants that result. Tomato seeds are also small. Put one in your mouth sometime and try to crush the slippery thing. Then think about what tomato seeds become in summer–large tomato plants supported on stakes or trellises, growing a harvest of cherry or heirloom or beefsteak tomatoes.  

Jesus says that’s what the kingdom of heaven is like. It starts small and powerless, almost invisible, and grows into a lush and fruitful plant. When we pray, “Your kingdom come”, we ask that God’s kingdom which today seems small and invisible and ineffective, will grow as Jesus promised into something large and world-conquering.

Jesus also said, “The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman mixed into sixty pounds of flour until it worked all through the dough” (Mat 13:33).

This woman is not your average home chef making a loaf or two of bread. She’s a serious baker, starting with three twenty-pound bags of flour! 

My wife made ciabatta buns recently, but she didn’t start by sending me to Costco for twenty pound bags of flour. She used three cups of flour in a no-knead recipe. The other three ingredients were: a cup-and-a-half of cold water, a teaspoon-and-a-half of salt, and one quarter teaspoon of yeast. After mixing the ingredients at 3:00 one afternoon, she let the dough rise on the counter for 19 hours. At ten the next morning, it was properly risen, and soon we had fresh buns for snacks and supper.

Jesus’ point is that the kingdom of heaven looks like it’s lost itself in the dough of the world. But in fact it is the controlling ingredient. It is present and active in the whole batch–the whole world– preparing it for the great bake-off when the doughy mess will become a feast of bread.

Let’s pray. 

Our father, we pray “Your kingdom come”. But we don’t see much evidence that your kingdom is on its way. Is your kingdom still at the mustard seed stage? Growing silently and unobserved toward its final form? Getting ready for an unscheduled but certain harvest? 

Is your kingdom like the leaven, already permeating the whole world, silently and invisibly preparing it for the day of your return? 

O Jesus, you are the bread of life. Take the small leaven of your kingdom we hold in our hearts, take the small mustard seed of our faith. Let it work in us and in the world, until you, the king, come out of hiding and reveal the kingdom you have built.


I’m Daniel on the channel “Pray with Me”.

Ep.138: Hidden Treasure.

Hello, I’m Daniel Westfall on the channel “Pray With Me”.  

In Matthew 13, Jesus uses stories and metaphors to explain the kingdom of heaven. He doesn’t tell us where God’s kingdom is or how to find it, he doesn’t explain how to become a citizen or tell us what the laws are or how to vote. 

So what does Jesus tell us in his stories? I think he tells us to understand the kingdom of heaven by participating in it, not by defining it. 

Much religion in Jesus’ time and in ours is concerned with defining things. What are the right beliefs? If you have the wrong beliefs, will God let you into heaven? 

This is right-brain thinking like my GPS unit does when I drive to Calgary. It computes the route and says, “You will arrive in 2 hours and 59 minutes.” But the unit doesn’t know I need a mid-trip bio break, complete with coffee and Pringles.

Jesus doesn’t provide a GPS-type map of the kingdom of God. Instead he tells us that God’s kingdom is hidden, and that God works in mysterious and circuitous ways. His processes are organic, not linear; the results are relationships not products. 

Here are three stories Jesus told to draw us into the kingdom of God. 

Jesus said, “The kingdom of God is like a man who plants corn. Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how. All by itself the soil produces corn – first the stalk, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear.  As soon as the corn is ripe, he harvests it” (Mark 4:26-29). 

Again Jesus said, “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it he sold all he had and bought that field” (Mat. 13:44).

And again, “The kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he sold everything he had and bought it” (Mat. 13:45). 

The stories are simple, the pictures vivid. But what do they mean? I think Jesus is inviting us to reflect on life-long issues like these:

– The farmer planted his fields, then spent the summer doing absolutely nothing while the corn grew to a harvest. That’s not how many pastors tell people to live the Christian life. They say God’s kingdom will grow in your life if you attend church and pray and give money and get involved in church programs. Why aren’t their stories like Jesus’ story?

– The man who found the best pearl ever and the one who found treasure in a field sold everything to acquire it. I certainly haven’t sold everything I own to get a piece of God’s kingdom. In what way does Jesus want me to sell everything? 

Let’s pray. 

Our father, thank you that your kingdom is not just another human project we schedule and manage and implement. It grows organically while we sit and watch. Grow your kingdom in our hearts and lives, in our churches, in our world. 

We thank you for the great value of your kingdom. We look for hidden treasure in the lottery and antique shops and attics filled with junk. Show us your hidden kingdom, God, and help us to sell all we have to buy it. 


I’m Daniel on the channel “Pray with Me”.

Ep.136: Weeds Among the Wheat.

Hello, I’m Daniel Westfall on the channel “Pray With Me”.  

In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus’ second parable is about wheat and weeds. 

Here’s the story. 

Jesus said that the kingdom of heaven is like a farmer who planted wheat. But soon the farmhands reported, “Your wheatfield is full of weeds. How did that happen?” 

“My enemy must have sowed the weeds,” he replied. 

“Shall we pull them up?” asked the helpers. 

“No don’t do it,” replied the farmer. “If you pull the weeds, you’ll damage the wheat. Let the weeds and wheat grow together until harvest. Then we can separate the weeds and burn them, and gather the wheat into the barn.” 

Here are three questions about this parable.
– Jesus used the story to teach about the kingdom of heaven. So what is the kingdom of heaven?
– Second, where did the enemy come from? and finally
– How does this parable teach us to deal with evil? 

Let’s start by looking at what Matthew calls “the kingdom of heaven”. Mark and Luke call it “the kingdom of God”. Clearly, God is king, but he’s invisible. Jesus is his man, but he was hung on a cross. The church is his people, but we are a squabbling, divisive, disorganized crew. I am an agent in God’s kingdom, but my loyalties are conflicted and my behavior inconsistent. Is God really king over all this chaos? Jesus’ answer is, “Yes, he is. But he doesn’t express his kingship with incessant tweets or military parades or displays power. He expresses his kingship with simple, unremarkable strategies like sowing seed and watching it grow.” 

Meanwhile, God’s enemy is also sowing seeds in the world. Where did this enemy come from? If God created everything that exists, and if he created it all good, where did something go bad? Who invented the weeds? Jesus, like the rest of the Bible, never gives a clear answer to this question. The answer implied in this parable is,  “Look at the world you live in. Clearly, there’s lots of good crops sown by God and lots of bad stuff sown by someone else. It’s God’s enemy who works in weeds and disease and war and chaos.” 

So, what to do about the evil in the world? In Jesus’ wheat-and-weeds parable, the farmhands want to rip out the weeds and destroy the evil. Perhaps a drone strike will fix the weeds. Or spray them with lethal chemicals. Get right on the problem before it gets worse! But Jesus says, “No, don’t do it. If you try to identify and uproot all the evil, you’ll destroy most of the good along with it. Let the good and the evil grow together, and we’ll sort it out at harvest time.” 

Let’s pray. 

Jesus, you were born into a world with a long history of cruel kingdoms and relentless warfare and monstrous disasters and disease. But it is also a history marked with human love and creativity and beauty. And you announced that this world is God’s kingdom. And that the good seeds God planted in this field called “Earth” are growing inevitably into a harvest. 

On good days, we see and believe this, Lord. But on bad days, the weeds of evil fill our vision, and we fear the strong enemy who sows chaos. We live among the weeds of pandemic and economic crisis, and we grow our own weeds of fear and isolation. But through it all your good seed grows along with the evil, in communities that share their goods instead of hoarding, in the medical staff that risk their lives to heal the sick, in the governments that pass aid packages to help people through crises, and in our hearts when we trust that you care for us. 

O God, watch over your good seed as it grows in fields of disease and violence. Help us watch patiently as the good and the evil grow around us. Bring your harvest quickly, when you will burn the weeds and gather the wheat forever.


I’m Daniel on the channel “Pray with Me”.

Ep.134: The Farmer and the Seeds.

Hello, I’m Daniel Westfall on the channel “Pray With Me”.  

Today, we look at Jesus’ parable of the sower. Here’s the story. When a farmer sowed his field, some seeds fell on the path and the birds ate them. Some fell on rocky ground where they grew quickly, but soon the sun scorched the new growth. Some seeds fell among thorns, but the thorns choked the young plants. And some fell on good ground and produced a generous crop. 

When the disciples were alone with Jesus, they said, “What was that all about?” 

Jesus explained that the seed is the word of God, it is the message Jesus brings, which gets different responses from different people. When people don’t understand the message, the evil one snatches it from them, like birds pecking seeds on the path. Some people, like seeds on rocky ground, receive Jesus’ message gladly and believe for a little while, but something else attracts their attention and they move on to other interests. Some people, like the seeds falling among thorns, receive Jesus’ words; but the weeds of worry and riches and pleasures choke the little plants. Finally, the seeds on good ground are those with a “noble and good heart, who hear Jesus’ message, retain it, and by persevering, produce a crop” (Luke 8:15).  

Here are three observations on this parable: 

First, some people want to change the title from the “Parable of the Sower” to the “Parable of the Soils” because they say the point of the story is in the different types of soil. In this view, we need to take soil samples in our life, and create conditions in which Jesus’ word will grow in us. I agree that this is one of the points of the parable. But another important point is the sower’s point of view: when people preach Jesus’ message, what sort of responses should they expect? As for the title, since in Matthew’s gospel Jesus called his story the “Parable of the Sower”, I stick with his title. 

Second, the parable demonstrates that Jesus’ words are not always powerful in themselves. In the creation story, when God spoke his word, the universe sprang into being. This makes us think, “God’s word is powerful. It can do anything. Jesus’ words should be the same!”

But the parable of the sower doesn’t teach it that way. The word of God Jesus teaches does not automatically take root in your life and create something new and amazing. 
When I was in seminary, one of the students asked, “Why aren’t people’s lives changed when they hear God’s word preached every Sunday?” I commented to him that Jesus expected his words to be eaten by birds and stolen by the evil one and scorched by the sun and choked by thorns. He anticipated that only some of his words would be received, that only some would find good soil to grow in. 

My last observation is that if you want Jesus’ message to change your life, it requires some cooperation and effort on your part. Let bits of the word settle like seeds into the soil of your life, water the seeds and protect them from the scorching sun, and pull the weeds, until the message matures into a harvest. 

Let’s pray. 

Our father, what kind of soil are we? I suspect most of us are a mixed landscape. Some places in our lives are rocky soil where your word doesn’t grow. Some places are overgrown with weeds that choke your word. And some places are rich soil where we love your word and let it grow in us and change us. 

We ask you to increase the good soil in our lives. Pull up the weeds, pick out the rocks, protect the tender plants that take root, and help us mature in the warm sunshine of your love.


I’m Daniel on the channel “Pray with Me”.