Thursday, February 10, 2011

The Kingdom of God and the Mustard Seed

Jesus said, "With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable will we use for it? It is like a mustard seed, which, when sown upon the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth; yet 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."
                                       Mark 4:30-32

A few years ago, when I was guiding a group of 3-6 year olds in the Good Shepherd Atrium an interesting phenomenon developed. First, one of the children would walk over to the kingdom parable shelves and pull out the tiny container filled with mustard seeds. Almost immediately another child would notice, and would drop whatever work he or she was doing to go and take a look at the seeds. Before long, the entire group would be gathered! Now this is not something we encourage in the atrium - our desire is for each child to work without interruption. But for a very long time, the draw of the mustard seeds was irresistible and awe inspiring. The children just loved looking at those tiny seeds! And I loved hearing their comments:  "They are so small!  How can they grow into that huge tree?  There is a great power in those seeds." and even "God has given the power to them."

The Mustard Seed is the first parable the children learn in the atrium, and it speaks so deeply to them that they return to it again and again. There is a profound movement in the children's understanding of this parable that illustrates the parable itself! It is a movement from something small to something great! At age three, children marvel at the small seed that can grow into such a great shrub.  Over time they realize that it is a power within the seed itself that allows it to grow, and they perceive God as the giver of this great gift. As they revisit this parable, they perceive this power, not only in the mustard seed, but in countless seeds, flowers, trees and bushes all around them. Before long they discover that this great power from God is at work throughout the world - and even in their own bodies! With each realization we ponder together what Jesus said - the kingdom of God is like this!

In the True Vine Atrium, with the 6-9 year olds, I often hear, "It's just like the mustard seed!" This movement to the "more" is very real for them and they easily connect it to other parts of the Bible, the spiritual life, their daily lives, and the life of the world. I've said it before, but I just love sharing parables with the children! So few words and such great discoveries!

Check out my last post to learn more about parables in the atrium!


  1. Leslie,
    Those are the smallest mustard seeds I've ever seen! Where did you find those? I've been thinking about sharing this parable with my class, but I haven't seen any this tiny.

  2. Hi again Montessorisunday!
    They are incredibly tiny, aren't they? The mustard seeds we have in the atrium were given to me by the National Association of the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd (, when renewing my membership. They give the seeds to members as a thank you gift - not every years but periodically. The seeds come from Israel and the association must have some great source! I'm not sure where to find them. If you email me, I'm sure I could figure out a way to send you a few! My email is
    Thanks for your comment!

  3. Leslie,
    That would be wonderful!!! Thank you for your generosity! I just sent you an email. The children will be amazed!


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