“Sow The Seed, Trust The Promise”
When I was about seven years old my mom and dad gave me a View-Master. If you are a little older you probably remember that the View-Master was a device that allowed you to view stereo slides of many stories and places across the world. One of the first set of slides I was given was of historic and scenic places in the United States. I got to see pictures from the Statue of Liberty in New York City to the Redwood trees of California, and with each image I wanted to go see them for myself. Over the years, I have visited many of the places I viewed: The Statue of Liberty, the Empire State Building, Mount Rushmore, Yellowstone, and The Grand Canyon, but one place that I still I not seen is the Redwoods in California.
To me these giants of the forest are truly amazing. Redwood trees can live for 2000 years, grow over 350 feet tall (being the largest trees on the planet) and are resistant to fire and every kind of bug or insect. The Redwoods first appeared around the end of age of the dinosaurs, and once covered larger parts of what is now the United States. In Yellowstone National Park there is an example of a petrified tree that was at one time a Redwood. These amazing trees that can grow from a seed that comes out of an average looking pinecone. In effect you can pick up one of these pinecones and probably be holding a hundred Redwoods in the palm of your hand. In many ways if you think about it enough you must be impressed by the miracle of life. How is it that so much can come from so little? How can something rather miraculous come from something that seems so ordinary? Should we not pause to consider that God has been, and is up to something within life, yes, because the Redwood grows?
I use this as an example because Jesus pondered upon the same thoughts. Jesus used to ask, “What can I compare the Kingdom of God to?” One day he said the Kingdom of God is as if a person goes and scatters seed. This was the average way crops were planted in Jesus’ day. The seed was broadcast in handfuls over a plowed field. The farmer then sleeps at night and rises in the day, and the seed simply grows. Where there was once an empty field, now there is a field filled with wheat or barley or corn. This image is strengthened by the progressive nature of the growth. Jesus detailed, first there is the stalk, and then the head and the full grain in the head. When the grain is ripe the farmer comes with the sickle; for the harvest has come. Jesus says this is like the Kingdom of God.
The image is so ordinary that it is hard to understand what Jesus is getting at, but Jesus was also the person that told us to consider the lilies of the field and the birds of the air. To understand this parable, we have to reconnect ourselves to the childlike amazement of growth, and just ponder the question, where does it all come from? I remember when I traveled out West many years ago and it was just during the time when the wheat was beginning to ripen. I was fascinated and impressed by the amber waves of grain. There spread throughout the rolling fields of Kansas were miles of wheat covering the land. I suppose to the person who lives there such a reality might seem overly common, but to me it was amazing. I had never seen so much wheat growing in one place before. This is how Jesus wants us to see the nature of the growth of the seed in the farmer’s field. Consider if you will the mustard seed. In Jesus words this was one of the tiniest of all seeds and yet from it came one of the most significant of bushes; large enough that even the birds of the air would build their nest in its branches. You see this is all amazing. The earth brings forth the crops from which people benefit. Likewise, the mustard seed returns a large bush; all of this even without human effort.
Jesus is seeing us within the Kingdom of God, surrounded by a world of free-flowing grace. There is a presence of God’s grace and glory, and a plan that takes shape within life and within people’s lives. In God’s presence, in the Holy Spirit’s shadow, we are wrapped up in a life giving, God created mystery each and every day. We are surrounded by wonders that we often may take for granted –the benefits of the wind, the beauty of the lake shore, the joy of a gentle rain and the beauty of a rainbow, or the growth of a seed. Children they appreciate these things probably more than many. I think maybe Jesus never missed them.
Jesus seemed to always remind his hears and us that intrinsic to the ordinary nature of life is the mystery, and the wonder of God’s grace. Richly embedded in the seed is not just the DNA and the evolved traits of a plant that produces an eatable and live sustaining grain, but the very grace of God that says when the seed is planted, it will grow and there will be a harvest.
The farmer plants the seed with full faith that the likely outcome will be the eventual harvest of his or her efforts. The farmer knows that he can sow the seed and trust the promise. Life is a gift that continues by grace and by God’s design. Within the seed we are reminded that it is God who gives the growth –to the seed, to life, within our spirits. God is involved, and this is both a miracle and a mystery of which we are a part.
There is something extraordinary in the ordinary. Nothing could be truer for life and for the church. Today we live in an age of concern. Many churches are dealing with declining numbers and are being pushed financially. We are not all getting any younger, and our health does not get any better with the years. As our church has been active for a number of decades, we hope that it should be a living faith community in the decades to come. Although sometimes perhaps we worry about the future. Maybe we become a bit fearful. We ask, “What can we do?” We wonder “What must we do?” Such questions are valid and real, but also, I think Jesus would remind us simply to have trust in him. Sow the good seed of spiritual truth and faith in your life and in the lives of those around you and trust the promise.
When I think about some of the most memorable moments in church, I remember the simplest of things. Having my mom as my Sunday school teacher one year, spending time in a Vacation Bible School making a craft, asking Christ into my life during a skit put one by our church youth group, a moment of hearing the church filled with people singing “Blessed Assurance” during a special service, One man offering a prayer to God with such a sincerity and heart that you felt sure God was listening, hearing a person standing up front of a small church singing Higher Ground, listening to the eighty year old pianist of one church playing “Ring those Golden Bells” and knowing that I will probably never hear it played better. I think every gift given that I remember effected and changed my life in small and big ways and probably most if not all of those who added something to my life and faith probably had no idea that they played a small or large part in my life. Mostly they were just sharing what God had enabled them to do. There are seeds of Faith that God gave them to share. The truth is that each of us is the same. God does not necessary need massive amounts of effort or the large works of a large church to accomplish mighty things. All God needs is the small seeds that you have to share in who God has made you to be. From small gifts grow great things. This is the real church.
Remember that it is God who gives the growth, and we need to trust God for the growth. Jesus creates an interesting point in this parable by reminding us that the farmer plants the seed and then he goes to sleep. Jesus could have emphasized all the hard work of the farmer: breaking up the hardened ground, making the soil ready, fertilizing the field, watering the field, clearing the weeds, protecting the crop from weather and vermin, but he did not. The farmer is pictured as enjoying life, awake in the day and sleeping at night. The farmer doesn’t loose any sleep worrying about the seed in Jesus’ parable, and even while the farmer sleeps the seed matures; first comes the blade, then the stock and soon the ripened ear, and the grain in the ear. All of this happens and most of it the farmer did nothing to cause. The emphasis of the parable is on the understanding that the growth of the seed is what God has done. This is a great reassurance in life for us to hear. God makes the seed grow while the farmer slept. The kingdom of God is like that. The farmer does not have to be a workaholic, but simply trust in God; to trust in the promise.
A preacher once described the opposite image to this story as that of a farmer that plants the seed and then gets up at midnight and in the moonlight kneels down close to the ground and blows on the seed saying grow, grow. That is a rather absurd and comical image, when you think about it. One does not have to work in that manner to make the seed grow. The growth is promised. We simply must do our part and wait for the extraordinary and miraculous that God has already placed within life.
God meant for the church to be a place of worship, and a place of fellowship, service, and evangelism growing out that sense of worship. Our love and expression of love for God is at the very foundation and heart of everything we are and hope to be. Keep your eyes on Jesus. Matthew 6:33 (RSV) “… seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things shall be yours as well.” You do not have to make the good seed grow, and you do not have to know how it grows. We can experience the mystery of that growth and it will grow, because that is God’s promise and plan.
The wonder of it will be that is was God’s doing and not ours. Therefore, sow the seed and trust the promise, and in due time the harvest will come. Amen