He said therefore, “What is the kingdom of God like? And to what should I compare it? It is like a mustard seed that someone took and sowed in the garden; it grew and became a tree, and the birds of the air made nests in its branches.”
There are some folks who say “kin-dom of God” rather than “Kingdom of God.” This type of change in nomenclature challenges us to imagine that God’s dream for this world is something other than an idealistic Camelot characterized by top-down power. Instead, kin-dom encourages us to think about what it means to be family here on earth. As Christians, we readily say that we are adopted into the family of God. What incredible imagery! It is this type of imagery and kin-ship that made so many folks ready to respond to the aftermath of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) raids in Canton, Miss., just a few short weeks ago. From a faith perspective, the humanitarian crisis created by the raids is an assault on the kin-dom of God. Our family in Christ was, and are, fearful and hurting.
“What is the kingdom of God like?” Jesus asked. Much to our dismay, Jesus does not say what we wish he did. Jesus does not give us a fixed immigration policy, he does not give us infinite rent checks, nor does he even give us complete understanding of the complexity of our social systems. He does, however, give us a mustard seed. A tiny seed that grows into something very Mississippian…something hospitable.
Northside Baptist Church was able to respond to this crisis so comprehensively, humbly, and quickly because of a belief in mustard seed kin-dom. The call of Jesus to love our neighbors, even and especially when we don’t understand, is the seed of faith Northside chose to plant in its formation 50 years ago. The question immediately raised by members to the humanitarian crisis was not, “Are we going to do something?” The question was, “What are we going to do?” The mustard seed of faith has grown into a tree of hospitality where trust and faith build nests to dwell.
This initial response is only the beginning. Congregations across an ecumenical spectrum are strategizing and working to continue to meet the needs for assistance with rent, utilities, communication, etc., leading up to the first expected court dates of those detained in January 2020.
One Northside Church member commented: “When the ICE raid happened, there was no question in my mind that as Northsiders we would do whatever needed to be done to give to our brothers and sisters that were affected by the raids a sense of safety and family. That is what we do! Each day I volunteer at Sacred Heart Catholic Church I come out with an overwhelming feeling of humility and gratitude. Humility because I see the families and see their extraordinary courage and commitment to their own families and the sacrifices they have taken to provide a better life for their children. The gratitude comes from the idea that I am a part of a community of faith that is determined to be God’s hands and feet in making a difference in this time of crisis.”
What is the kin-dom of God like? It is like a tree—a tree of faith that will need to be nurtured by pruning and fertilization until it comes to full growth. May the Spirit of God continue to work in Northside and our neighboring congregations as we seek to grow into a tree that will provide safety and shelter for all God’s children.
Courtney Stamey is Senior Pastor of Northside Baptist Church in Clinton, Mississippi. She is a graduate of Gardner-Webb University and Wake Forest University School of Divinity.