Shrubs and Kingdoms

a divided line drawing. On the left, a person plants a seed. On the right, birds in a large shrub. “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that someone took and sowed in his field; it is the smallest of all the seeds, but when it has grown it is the greatest of shrubs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches.” — Matthew 13:31-33

It has often been pointed out that when Jesus compares the kingdom of God to a shrub, he is having a bit of fun with us. But finding the humor in the Bible isn’t something we overly-serious modern readers are very good at. We’re more likely to treat parables like this one as if they were folk-wisdom formulas for personal or group success. Think about sermons you’ve heard on finances (“your small gift, sown in faith, will produce a big return!”) or church growth (“if we’re faithful, God will make us grow!”). Read more

Telephones and What is Good for Us

David Kline is an Amish man. He insists that Amish people are not understood. Amish people are maligned for being against all forms of modern technology. That is not true, he says. Rather, the Amish use only those technologies that, in their best judgment, do not harm their community life.

For example, lanterns are not allowed on their farm field equipment. With lanterns they would be tempted to work into the night hours. And working in the fields past sunset would weaken their family life and would overwork their horses.

Several years ago the question came up about whether David Kline’s community would use telephones. Everyone in the church—the community—met and discussed it a number of times. It took all summer for them to decide whether they would have phones. They finally decided against it. And they had two reasons. Read more