The Mustard Seed

Preacher: Kate Hendrix
Date: February 9, 2020

(No audio is available.)

Good morning. My name is Kate Hendrix. I have been a member of United Parish for almost six years and a member of the Church Council, serving as the United Parish clerk, for nearly three years.

When I heard that the story of the mustard seed was going to be part of today’s service, I sent Kent an email about how that story had a lot of significance for me as a kid and what I told him seemed a fitting offertory for today.

Back in middle school, when I was struggling with the rather rigid thinking of the church in the community where I grew up, there came the Sunday school class where they told the story of the mustard seed. Now I grew up in rural Ohio; mustard, to me, was something that came in a yellow bottle. As I listened to the story, I kept wondering why Jesus chose a mustard seed. It seemed like it must have been pretty important if Jesus took the trouble to mention it by name. So I asked my Sunday school teacher what was so special about a mustard seed. And was it true? Could something as small as a mustard seed really move a mountain? Her answer was that Jesus just picked a really tiny seed and it was the point of the story that was important and please stop interrupting with silly questions. Well, Jesus seemed much more purposeful to me than that. So, me being me, I stopped asking questions of adults and tried to figure it out myself. I had an older brother who was taking physics at the time so he helped me understand how to calculate energy. And here’s what I worked out.

I looked up mustard seeds in the encyclopedia (for those of you under 30, that was our internet) and discovered that a mustard seed one of the tiniest and also one of the very densest seeds on earth. In trying to figure out how to understand the power in a mustard seed, I used the numbers in the encyclopedia to calculate its mass. Once I had the mass, I could use Einstein’s e = mc squared to calculate the potential energy inside a mustard seed and, in proportion to it’s tiny size, its energy is enormous. Specifically, I got 1.06 x 1012 Joules.

Then for the mountain. I had to figure out how heavy a mountain would be. I used an atlas (another one of those things we used before the internet) to check out the topography of the mountains in Israel. They looked about elliptical so I got the dimensions from the map so I could figure out the volume. Then I went out to backyard and filled a pail with dirt so that I could weigh it. Once I knew how much dirt weighted, I could figure out approximately how much a mountain in Israel weighed.

So to figure out if a mustard seed could move a mountain, I divided the potential energy of the mustard seed by the weight of the mountain. By my calculations, it turned out that the incredibly dense energy in a mustard seed is enough to lift a mountain like Jesus would have seen, approximately 8.237 centimeters off the ground. That kind of solidified for me that Jesus really knew what he was talking about. And if faith worked like that, it must be extraordinarily powerful.