Politics: “They wanted fireworks but what they got was a bloke talking about a mustard seed.”




In the ‘now’ culture, we often expect quick results. But real change, that lasts, takes time.

In my last job, I was praying about and preparing what I might say at a parliamentary launch, and the phrase, “They came expecting fireworks” dropped into my mind. It seemed appropriate for an event happening in the Houses of Parliament on the 5th of November! I resisted the temptation to arrive in a Guy Fawkes costume.

It’s in the nature of a launch – with a new website with thousands of hits, a storm of positive Twitter messages and huge amounts of enthusiasm (140 people squeezed into a room designed for half that) – to expect some fireworks and glitz. Energy was high.

So I pointed out that …

In first-century Palestine, they also came looking for fireworks. An oppressed people were looking for liberation and they wanted it now. They were hoping for a mighty explosion of energy and light to restore their status as God’s chosen people, back in charge of their own destiny. Some were looking for a military extravaganza. And it looked like this carpenter of Nazareth might just light the touchpaper.

They wanted fireworks, but what they got was a bloke talking about a mustard seed; a story about something practically invisible. He said, “This isn’t necessarily going to be fast. This might be slow.” He said, “This isn’t going to start huge; it’s going to start infinitesimally small.”

The Japanese theologian Kosuke Koyama wrote a book about this kingdom called Three Mile an Hour God. Our God seems to move slowly. For him ends never justify means. For him it is about people, and he cares as much about the journey as the destination. You could say that the ‘how’ is as important as the ‘what’. He wants people to get to know him, as well as for his ways to shape the structures of our world. That is why, in politics especially, we must be in it for the long haul ~ because we care about people, not just ideas.

We must not get sucked into the instant culture of the 21st century, where so much is about overnight sensations and the ‘next big thing’. We must be prepared to do the hard yards of building relationships. Change in political thinking and practice is rarely fast, but we must believe that the mustard seed will produce fruit. There is also something of sacrifice and death about that seed. We will not necessarily be lauded for what we do, but we can still prepare the ground.

Andy’s book Those Who Show Up is available online.

Main photo credit: Francesco Gallarotti via Unsplash

Andy Flannagan

Andy is executive director of christiansinpolitics.org.uk and takes the message of positive political engagement around the UK. His book, Those Who Show Up, has inspired many people to get involved in politics.

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