He told them another 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.” Matthew 13:31-32
In our public discourse there is a lot of noise, a lot of bombast.
In reaction to the noise some people keep turning up the volume,
while others bury their heads in the sand.
The Kingdom that Jesus speaks of often looks more like the latter,
but that couldn’t be further from the truth.
The Kingdom comes in hidden,
seemingly insignificant ways,
but it’s far from head burying,
or piously removing oneself from the fray.
The Kingdom operates in an entirely different mode.
With that in mind I would like to briefly tell the story of my friends at 1951 Coffee Company. 1951 (named after the year the UN created the official Refugee status), is the brainchild of Doug and Rachel.
Doug has been a committed member and servant at our church for a while,
and it has been a great pleasure to root him on.
Doug was working for a non-profit serving refugee’s in the East Bay (Oakland has been a sanctuary city for years and is one of the largest refugee resettlement areas on the West Coast). When the job became more about serving the organization than the population, Doug and Rachel started searching for something else to do.
Their idea, of combining their (and the Bay Area’s) love of coffee with job training, started to gain some traction.
The past year plus has been a wild ride of getting established as a 501c3, starting the training program, fundraising, and seeking a permanent space.
Our church cafe has served as the location for the training program. 25+ folks have been through a two week process and graduates have gone on to work in many local shops and cafes.
The organization found a great spot in Berkeley, started work on remodeling, and recently opened their cafe space.
And right after opening, the Executive Order effectively putting a hold on refugee admittance to the US came down. The timing could not have been better for business, and 1951 has been getting all sorts of great press.
I am grateful to have been witness to this journey,
and there are two things I especially love about this story:
- They did it. A lot of people (myself included) have great ideas that never come to fruition for a whole bunch of different reasons. It’s hard to see a vision through all the way to the end, and while they are far from done, 1951 crossed a significant finish line in January, a line many great ideas fail to reach.
- They haven’t ended persecution, stopped the mass-migration of peoples, or eradicated dictatorships, but they planted a mustard seed, and it is growing. As it’s branches grow, I’ve been amazed at how many people have been involved in the process. Many of these folks are from our church community, but all over the bay area and the world too. That’s the power of the growth of a kingdom seed.
In a world with a lot of noise,
I am, more and more,
looking for mustard seeds.
And I am looking for folks (myself included) willing to do the hard work,
the cultivating work,
for these seeds to grow.
I can find hot takes and big headlines without looking very hard.
But, I want good stories and better art, not more hot takes.
There is a lot of quiet good happening below the surface,
under the radar,
off the big grid.
Do we have the eyes to see it?