Sermon: “The Day We Met Mustard Seed” by Reverend Linwood Cook

Reverend Linwood Cook shared his sermon he preached today with me. Once again, my heart has been touched and I would like to share his sermon with you.

Sermon: “The Day We Met Mustard Seed”
Mark 4:31-32 and Matthew 13:31-32

Last Monday would be a very special day. Brenda I would finally have a chance to meet “Mustard Seed” or better known as Steve Claxton.

Ronnie and Betty Dillon, both very active in The Friends of Barnabas Foundation, met us at Penhook Church and we drove to Daleville Virginia, which is about 20 minutes north of Roanoke.

There at a shopping center, in Daleville, at a coffee shop, only a quarter of a mile from the Appalachian Trail we met “Mustard Seed”. Here was a man with a big smile as if he had never met a stranger and with a sparkle in his eyes as if he loved life to its fullest. He is a soft spoken man who radiates his love for people. He was a bit sunburned from the last days of hiking. His photograph is on the back of today’s Prayer Page.

When anyone hikes the Appalachian Trail they do not use their real name but a trail name and Steve chose the name “Mustard Seed”.

In late February “Mustard Seed” began his walk north at Springer Mountain GA. Here the 2189 mile walk begins and does not stop until you get to Mount Katahdin Maine, which is the end of the famous Appalachian Trail.

On Monday we celebrated with him the accomplishment of walking 727 miles or 1/3 of the entire trail.

Steve has been hiking for the Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Western North Carolina, raising funds by pledges per mile from those who support this special ministry to young boys and girls.

As you remember we started our affiliation with the Appalachian Trail by supporting the hike of Kyle Kirby for The Friends of Barnabas Foundation. Kyle hiked over 100 miles, sometimes in 18 inches of snow. Kyle loves the children of the Central Mountains of Honduras and in the process Kyle injured his legs. Ronnie Dillon, a Mountain Medical Team Leader in April and the Maintenance Team Leader of November and December Team, then began to hike in Kyle’s place and added another 48 miles to the journey. It was then that Ronnie found our “Mustard Seed”, Steve Claxton.

We were able to track Kyle, Ronnie, and now “Mustard Seed” daily through a small GPS (Global Plotting System) device about as big as a deck of cards. It sends a signal to a satellite high in the sky and then the satellite sends a signal back to our computers. Every 10 minutes we can see exactly where “Mustard Seed” is as he journeys toward the completion of his hike to Mount Katahdin Maine.

I was able to learn from another hiker that if you travel the 2189 miles you will take over 5 million steps, yes that’s 5,000,000 steps to complete your journey. I think it’s truly a heroic effort for anyone to attempt such a journey. Remember, his journey begin with just one step at Springer Mountain back in late February.
I feel as I read the “Mustard Seed” parable of Christ and his teaching of how, with faith, something very small becomes great in time – thinking about the efforts Steve was about to undertake. From his Robbinsville home they see some of the tallest of the Smoky Mountains every day. And when he was thinking about a “trail name”, remembered Matthew 17:20 “Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.”
However, over our dinner at Cracker Barrel, I learned that this was not the first great trip for Steve to attempt. He told me the story this way. “My mom was a dear lady; she taught school and coached two sports all her life at a Cherokee Nation School. She was loved by so many people. She was sick and in the hospital after she retired and I was with her. She asked me to help her to the bathroom and I did but as I was helping her…… she died in my arms”. I could tell this was a touching moment for Steve to relive in this conversation with Brenda the Dillon’s and me.
Steve said he wanted to do something to honor his mom and he came up with the idea to raise money for a scholarship, a scholarship to educate someone in need. He contacted as many students of his mother as he could find and asked them to support his ride across the US.

How could he do it? He decided to ride a bicycle all the way across America, over 3,000 miles and raise funds for a scholarship in his mother’s name. Averaging 85 miles a day. WOW!!!

In 35 days he peddled a bike across America and raised $75,000.00 to go into a Scholarship Endowment where its interest helps educate a student each year.

Again, I see a bit of the parable of my text coming to surface. In Oregon Steve made “one pedal on his bicycle” and look at what happened. A small start created something wonderful to honor his mother.

Let’s take another look at the parable of the mustard seed I choose for today and also parable gaven to Steve.
Matthew 13:31-32 (NIV)
The Parable of the Mustard Seed
31) He told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field. 32) 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 17:20 (NIV)
20b) Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.”
May God bless the reading, the hearing, and the believing of this His Holy Word. May God help the preacher. The Word of God for the people of God. “Thanks Be to God”

Jesus is so famous for teaching in parables. Remember a parable is when you have an “earthly story”, that anyone can understand, laid alongside a Kingdom Truth. Parables were Christ’s primary means of teaching a truth. He began this parable by seeming to search for an illustration of the Kingdom of God. His disciples may have held some imaginative ideas about the kingdom of God and what it was like.

Perhaps the disciples imagined the kingdom to be like a high mountain, above the world displaying the glory power and majesty of God. Maybe they imagined the kingdom of God as a mighty river that caries its life to far away places. Perhaps their minds picture the Kingdom is a massive oak tree standing tall and providing shade and shelter. I really don’t know what the disciples were thinking, but I’m sure they were surprised when Jesus shared this illustration with them.

Jesus simply compares the kingdom of God to that homely….. mustard seed.

Jesus uses something small to teach us about something larger than we can even comprehend.

The First Kingdom Truth is this: I think this parable is saying to us, never be daunted by small beginnings. It may seem that at the moment we can produce only a very small effect; but if that small effect is repeated and repeated it will become very great.

When I was making my notes for the sermon I wondered how small mustard seeds were. I begin to think of turnips seeds, kale seed, and even a tobacco seed. Then I remember the white clover seed that Hatcher, Matt and I had to sow on the farm about 2 months ago when it was very cold. That seed was so small.

Then, I discovered that in “one ounce” of Israel’s mustard seed there are 21,000 seeds. It was this small seed that in good soil can germinate and produce a very large shrub like plant that eventually grows to even resemble a tree. Some mustard plants have been known to grow as high as 15 feet tall. One early traveler remembers that a man riding a horse could pass under a mustard plant. Something so small with such a humble beginning can become something that is truly amazing to behold.

The Second Kingdom Truth: Christ parable speaks of the wonder of the Christian Church. We are now in the Christian Season of Easter Tide where we remember “Resurrected Jesus” is still relating to his rag tag followers. The fisherman, the revolutionary and some women meet Him in the beauty of resurrection. But in just a few weeks we will celebrate Pentecost and there would be a 120 people very willing to follow our Christ. And then something powerful happened that made us see that which started so small was truly going to grow. By the power of the Holy Spirit over 3000 came to be followers of Christ at Pentecost. One month later, 5000 are saved at one time. It was not long that the historians were saying the church in Jerusalem numbered over 50,000 believers.

The latest census of Christians in the world today makes the followers of Christ the world’s largest religious faith. With over 2.2 billion people who believe in the carpenter of Nazareth, raised from the dead and He has become the Savior to the world.

You can’t see a better illustration of something that begin so small to grow so large. In reality today, here we are at a Country Church On A Country Road and we all came from that same “Mustard Seed” beginning of one who loved the Lord God His Father and loved people enough to die and take us as believers to Heaven someday.

I’d like to get back to the “Mustard Seed” we all know today as Steve Claxton. He has taken 1,650,000 steps since he left Springer Mountain Georgia. But I want to talk about a step that he took last Saturday evening somewhere in the mountains to the west of Roanoke.

He talked about arriving at a shelter on the trail. The 3 shelters have only 3 sides and are positioned about every 10 to 15 miles for the hikers to be able to get out of the harsh whether that will quickly occur in the mountains.

My best memory, from our Cracker Barrel dinner conversation, “Mustard Seed” said that the shelter was full so he was going to pitch his tent and camp outside.

A lady had arrived earlier and they struck up a conversation and she shared how after 3 tours of duty in Afghanistan her husband suddenly died of a heart attack. She was very open and said she was searching for God!

She was very open with Steve and he began to share his faith. Steve shared how he was hiking for the Big Brothers and Big Sisters of West in North Carolina and for the children of Honduras.

She spoke and said, “I’m searching for God. I can’t find him. I’m searching for answers to my pain in my grief”. Somehow in the conversations at the shelter she learned that Steve’s trail name was “Mustard Seed” and asked him about his trail name. It was then that “Mustard Seed” had the opportunity to share Christ’s parable with her.

He went on to share that if she was searching for God that God can be found in many ways. God is found in prayer, in the witness of a friend, in reading God’s Word, the scriptures and in a “moment” when she can feel that God is truly with her.

Then she asked “Mustard Seed” a very direct question, “Could God be using you to speak to me right now?” Steve said he believed he could, and he simply shared is his faith with her and tried to meet her needs of searching for answers to the pain she knew.

Could God have used 1,650,000 steps to have “Mustard Seed” reach a grieving widow? Could God be in this man, who saw himself helping children, to now help this lady? I would say a definite yes!

There are “Mustard Seeds” in this Sanctuary today! “Mustard Seed” seed faith occurs as each of us plant that small seed of faith in our children, in a friend, in a neighbor, someone at school or the marketplace.

Just as “Mustard Seed” faith was planted in you long ago. That is what was happening in your life when you first asked the question about love, life, faith, hope and death. Can you name today, someone who planted that “Mustard Seed” in you today? Can you? Somebody please speak to me! Who was it? (Give people time to answer)

I’m going to close by telling you of 2 Mustard Seed people here today and what was envisioned by Brenda, Matt and me some 17 years ago when we founded The Friends of Barnabas Foundation. We began with just 3 people, Matt, our son, in his den of his home in Richmond, that became the Foundation’s office. We would grow in time to add those who would work hard, but it began so small 17 years ago as the 3 of us applied for a Non-Profit 501 (C) 3 Foundation IRS approval. We started with our 200 Christmas card mailing list and said simply, “Will you help us?”

I want to tell you of another man with a “Mustard Seed” faith. His name is Dave Jones who loves 2 things in this life. First helping people and second, fishing.. He sold a piece of land in Midlothian and it allowed us to purchase our first vehicle in Honduras. We had enough left to hire our first nurse. Next, we had the need for a dormitory to house the mothers of children when a “Heart Surgery Team” was working and also a dorm for the monthly Mountain Medical Teams. A good place to shower and rest, to eat and “Mustard Seed” Dave Jones said I’ve sold some stock and when he told us the amount it was exactly the amount to build the 3 story dorm.

Now, with the help of many “Mustard Seed” churches and so many people let me tell you what has grown from 3 people, a hard working staff in the US and Honduras and faithful Board of Directors and accomplished as of today with out cost to the poor of the Central Mountains of Honduras:

Since 2000, Friends of Barnabas has had 355,389 patient encounters.

We have provided 37,509 pairs of glasses.

We have provided 7,953 patients with dental care, with 6,682 children receiving fluoride treatments.

We have sent 3,096 missioners to Honduras, including Mountain Medical Teams, Surgical Teams, Youth, Maintenance, and other support teams.

We have provided 1,280 life-saving and life-changing surgeries for children free of charge. Since opening the first pediatric cardiac surgical ward in Honduras in 2015,

The New Little Hearts Project has provided 28 pediatric cardiac surgeries with an entirely local, Honduran medical team.

You at Swansonville have been a part of that since the beginning. Down in the Fellowship Hall is a plaque that says you are a “Barnabas Church”. A “Mustard Seed” Church for the poor children of Honduras, and because you were an early “Barnabas Church”, many years ago, you now know a man named “Mustard Seed”, Steve Claxton

Yes, I think this parable is saying to us, never be daunted by small beginnings. It may seem that at the moment we can produce only a very small effect; but if that small effect is repeated and repeated it will become very great.

Yes, now you know a man named Steve Claxton, who is known to all on the Appalachian Trail as “Mustard Seed”. This week he has taken more steps, he has shared his story, and believes he can make a difference in the lives of others just……….. by taking another step!
You keep praying for Steve and I’ll keep you posted on how he is doing!
Doug and Deedee help us sing our Hymn of Commitment, I Believe In Miracles, N0. 216 in the Living Praise Hymnal;

Steve Claxton's photo.


Blessed beyond words

Annette Parrish shared with me through a post she made about a message that Reverend Linwood Cook made in his sermon today. I cannot begin to explain or describe the number of times my heart has been touched during our journey along the Appalachian Trail, or to what impact each of you are providing to those who are following along each step of the way. I had the honor and privilege to meet Reverend Cook this past week and sit and discuss our journey over dinner at Cracker Barrel. He is one of the most humble of God’s servants I have ever met with a heart of gold! He discussed with me over dinner the title of his sermon that he was preparing for today, “The Day We Finally Met Mustard Seed.” I was most humbled as well as honored to even be a part of such a great man’s sermon. The trail has not only been a place to share so much of God’s splendor with each of you, but also a place to witness to those along the trail who may be searching for God and all that He stands for. Annette, thank you for sharing the following post and my prayer is that WE ALL can do our part to continue to spread His word!!!

“Linwood told us this morning in the service at Swansonville UMC about meeting you, and related, through tears, your sharing God’s message on the trail with one searching for God. He inspired us to plant a ‘mustard seed’!”
Annette Parrish

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Steve Claxton's photo.
Steve Claxton's photo.