Between talk of global peace or how difficult this lifestyle of ours can be, it’s easy to be daunted by the idea of being a Dunker Punk and being part of this radical movement. We may look at this grand calling that we have received, and wonder, the more we think about it, “Jesus, why me?” Not with feelings of unwillingness, but with feelings of unworthiness. I know I’ve felt that way.
After all, we often have these grand visions of the kingdom of heaven- like the Cedars of Lebanon with eagles nesting in the branches, or a shining city upon a hill – and we are convinced that we are too small, too insignificant, too unqualified, to have any part of that.
In moments like that, I find it comforting to remember that Jesus was once a helpless baby in dirty manger. How small does that seem?
A lot of people in Jesus’ time had the same grand imagination of what the Kingdom of heaven would look like. And naturally they believed that the Messiah to usher in this kingdom would be just as magnificent. They imagined a warrior king, some hulking military champion or charismatic political leader who would deliver the Hebrew people from the clutches of the Roman Empire. So when this carpenter’s son from Nazareth came along, not many people quite got how significant he really was.
I imagine that a lot of us do the same thing to Jesus in our lives. Our lives are filled with small choices to let Jesus shine through. And we get so caught up in trying to imagine the big picture of what Jesus means to the world, that we risk losing sight of opportunities to actually get something done that displays Jesus’ glory.
Are you familiar with the term ordinary radicals? Not all of us can be the President, or occupy any position of real influence, but we can all be ordinary radicals. The term seems almost oxymoronic. Ordinary Radicals?
But given the context of Jesus’ life, it begins to make sense. Here’s this guy from Nazareth (can anything good come from there? – John 1:46), riding a donkey instead of a war horse, carrying a towel instead of a sword, and yet he turns out to be the most extraordinary, influential human being to have ever walked the earth. We can be ordinary, and still be radical. Radical first in how we behave, and ultimately in how we impact the world.
We Dunker Punks consider ourselves to be a movement within the “Mustard Seed Revolution.” What does that mean? Well, In Matthew 13:31, Jesus tells a parable:
The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field. Though it is the smallest of all seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds come and perch in its branches.
Jesus isn’t trying to say that this little itty-bitty seed will grow to be as magnificent as those Cedars of Lebanon. Instead, he’s saying that we’ve been getting things wrong all along. With this parable, he flips our expectations upside down.
We lack a little bit of cultural context to completely understand how radical Jesus’ words are. In Jesus’ time, Hebrew law actually forbade the planting of mustard in gardens. You see, mustard grows like a weed, and quickly takes over gardens. But in certain hands, it can be a potent, powerful, and valuable spice. So much so that it was often considered a symbol of status, wealth, and royalty. But if everybody plants mustard in their gardens, well then first of all there isn’t going to be room for anything else to grow, and second all those people who hoard their mustard as a sign of their wealth and status will find that having mustard doesn’t make them so exclusive anymore.
To back up this second point, Jesus then says that the mustard plant grows so much that birds come and flock to its shelter. Well, the anatomy of the mustard plant, which Jesus’ audience was certain to be more familiar with than we are today, would make it clear that high-soaring, glorious eagles aren’t exactly going to be able to build their nests there. No, the mustard plant grows far too low to the ground. Instead, the birds Jesus speaks of are fowl. Ground-dwelling birds. I think a term we would use is “bottom-feeders.”
So let’s take a moment to recap what Jesus has just said. He’s about to make a comparison: “The kingdom of Heaven is like…” – and at this point everyone in the crowd is conjuring images of Cedar trees stretching splendorously towards heaven – “a mustard seed”. As was often the case when Jesus spoke, especially in front of large crowds like on this occasion, there were most likely a lot of teachers of the law present, and they just got really uncomfortable, and the rest of people present just got really confused. And everyone’s probably whispering amongst themselves or thinking things like, “What does this guy mean, a mustard seed?”
And when everyone asks “What does this guy mean, a mustard seed?” It’s a lot like when we question, “Jesus, why me?”
Jesus doesn’t operate the way we expect him to. He certainly didn’t behave the way a proper messiah was supposed to behave. Since we are part of the Mustard Seed Revolution, Jesus wants us to understand that we don’t have to stretch up and up and up like solitary cedar trees. We may never grow so tall that eagles nest in our branches.
But when we act in nonviolent, nonconformist, radical ways, our actions spread, they take over from the ground up. This Dunker Punk movement isn’t about a few big whigs in the Church of the Brethren telling everyone else how to behave. It belongs to you. It’s in the hands of your passion and imagination. It’s about you guys stepping forward out of the crowd, working together, supporting one another, and letting Jesus guide your feet.
The Mustard Seed Revolution is all about the Kingdom of Heaven rising from the bottom up, being built here on earth, and spreading out, as irrepressible as a weed. And when we let Jesus ignite our imagination, when we choose to live like ordinary radicals, well we might not be the spitting image of traditional “majesty,” but we grow so thick, and work so well together, that we can bring shelter and love to those who haven’t received that kind of love before. And isn’t there something majestic about that?
Isn’t there majesty when we offers ourselves up to Jesus and to one another in service. Isn’t there majesty when we do the little things that make Jesus evident to those around us? Isn’t there majesty in the surprise on a homeless person’s face when you look them in eye and treat them with dignity, like a human being? Isn’t there majesty in the joy of a child, who through the love you show has just learned the definition of the word “community?” Isn’t there majesty in the good that can happen when you worry a little bit less about what you have, and a little bit more about what your neighbor has. I could on, but I don’t want to impede on your imagination. Remember, this movement belongs to you.
But you may still ask, “What about the big stuff?” Doesn’t global peace still matter? Shouldn’t we constantly strive to repair the entire world, so that it looks more like Jesus?
Of course it does. And of course we should. But it is only going to work from the ground up. If we don’t take care to emulate Jesus in our everyday lives, how can we ever expect the entire world to emulate Jesus? But if we plant that mustard seed by following Jesus radically and with disregard to every other influence, and we allow the Kingdom of Heaven to grow from the ground up, like a weed to take over the entire garden that we call Earth, well then, as any ancient Hebrew gardener can tell you, a tiny mustard seed can accomplish some pretty radical things.
Remember the parable. Remember what all those teachers of the law and skeptical crowd members were probably thinking when Jesus compared the Kingdom of Heaven to a mustard seed. About how nothing else can grow in a garden overwhelmed by mustard. When we truly follow Jesus, nothing else can grow in our lives but the Kingdom of Heaven.
Now imagine if every person who called themselves a Christian actually meant it. And imagine if everyone who said they follow Jesus actually did. Pretty soon, its not hard to imagine if every person who claimed to kill in the name of God realized how foolish that sounds. And eventually, everyone who clenches their first for any reason, can look right in front of their fist, and witness first hand how much better it feels to open their arms.
That’s the Mustard Seed Revolution. And that’s what it means to be part of the Dunker Punk movement. It belongs to us. It starts with us on the ground. And when we allow ourselves to become the image and vessel of Jesus’ love, then pretty soon this movement can accomplish some amazing things.