“The kingdom of God is like kudzu planted in a field.” Would Jesus have ever said such a thing? Yes, I think so. You see, he once compared God’s work in this world to a growing “mustard seed” and like “yeast mixed in with the dough.” Making the jump from mustard and yeast to kudzu is not as far a leap as you might think.
The mustard of first century Palestine overgrew and consumed everything around it. A farmer who planted mustard in her garden could not turn her back on it for very long. If she did, it would overrun every other vegetable or herb in the field. Yeast worked the same way. Mysteriously, inexplicably to those living before the understandings of microscopic science, yeast took over the bland, tasteless flour and transformed it.
Illustrated in the mustard seed and the yeast, Jesus makes clear that God can overwhelm and transform the very nature of this world with a steady, unstoppable, persistent, invasive force. Honestly, I don’t know much about mustard seeds or yeast fungi; but as a native of Georgia, I do know a little bit about kudzu.
Kudzu was introduced to North America on the United States’ hundredth birthday. The Asian plant was quickly loved by gardeners, what with its large green leaves and purple blooms, and nurseries began selling seedlings through the mail.
But it was the Dust Bowl years that really rooted kudzu in the American soil and psyche. The US government was seeking an effective way to conserve soil, and kudzu fit the bill perfectly. The vine was touted as a “wonder plant,” and the USDA used the Civilian Conservation Corps of the 1930s to distribute and plant the seeds everywhere – especially the South.
They thought, once the soil was healthfully restored, that farmers could just plow over it and return to planting cotton, soybean, or corn. Little did anyone know that the Southeastern United States was the perfect environment for kudzu to grow, and grow and grow and grow. Kudzu has now climbed, coiled, and slithered its way all over the Southeast, changing the landscape while becoming a central characteristic of Southern culture.
Kudzu overtakes the environments into which it is introduced. It transforms the landscape in which it is planted. From just a few little seedlings, a few sprouting vines, it explodes and cannot be stopped. Such is the kingdom of God and the rule of Christ in today’s world.
Let it have its start – in people’s hearts, in people’s lives, in the midst of this planet’s pain and suffering – and the world will in fact, change. It will be redeemed, as slowly and steadily the God Movement invades this world with the love of Christ.
Certainly we understand that people are still hungry. Wars are still fought. Injustice is still tolerated. There is suffering, anxiety, evil, and grief. But we believe that the kingdom is growing, inch by inch and foot by foot. This causes us to throw ourselves into a fractured world, not only because we care, but because we believe God isn’t finished with this world yet. He is making it new, making everything right, and he has chosen to do this through you and through me as we share his love.
No, we can’t take in every single orphan, but we could all take in one. Your Bible Study class can’t drill wells for every person dying for water in this world, but it could drill a well for one village. Your mission team can’t treat every AIDS patient in Africa, but it could provide medicine for a few of them. Your church can’t build a house for every homeless person, but it could go build at least one house. We can’t rescue every refugee or child of prostitution, but we can – we must – save some of them.
All these acts – and a million more just like them – make a real difference because we are not only helping people, but in Jesus’ name, we are joining God’s divine plot to revolutionize a society.