We require that God be as we want Him: big, loud, efficient. Big and obvious, so that we can see Him and not have to walk by faith. Loud, so that we can hear Him and not be taxed by silence. Efficient, lest we have to endure any waiting. Our worship and culture follow suit. Indeed, few things are more obvious than our culture’s addiction to spectacles, noise, and instant gratification.
In contrast, our Lord gives us two parables about the Kingdom of God: the seed sown in the ground and the mustard seed. (Mk 4:26-34) These hit us where we live. They require us to detach from the big, loud, and efficient and to accustom ourselves to the hidden, silent, and slow.
The Kingdom has, first, a silent and hidden growth. It is like that seed scattered on the land that sprouts and grows of its own accord, and the sower knows not how. The growth is unheard and unseen, beyond our reach and control. It requires faith that He is indeed at work and trust that, in Romano Guardini’s words, “The silent forces are the strong forces.”
This Kingdom grows at its own pace, not the sower’s. It calls for patience. We cannot command it or set its schedule. Indeed, our schedule must yield to its pace. Further, the Kingdom is small – like that smallest of seeds that when sown, “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.” We prefer something more certain, something big and clearly powerful. But here we must trust in the fruitfulness of what appears entirely insufficient.