“Listen! A farmer went out to sow his seed” (Mark 4:3).
Two weekends ago was ‘planting season’ around our house.
We made our way to our local do-it-yourself mega store where everything we needed was arranged under a large greenhouse type attachment at one end of the building. It’s all right there: gloves and garden tools alongside bags of mulch, fertilizer, and even soil. Yes, sometimes urbanites who yearn to get their hands in the dirt have to go to a store and purchase the dirt.
And then, of course, there are plants. Rows and rows of cinderblock and ply-wood tables full of plants. My job was to navigate the flatbed cart while my wife selected what would go in the ground. Our planting season seems a little bit like cheating. What we ‘plant’ is already visible and growing. We brought home various flowers housed in small plastic cubes as well a few other large plants in plastic buckets. I would dig a hole and Marnie would pull the plant from its plastic home, roots and all. After a short while the yard looked different.
There is something immediately gratifying about placing a small plant in the ground. Of course, there is no guarantee that the plant itself will thrive, but for a short while the labor of planting is rewarded. You can see difference your work makes.
Not so with seed. A seed is buried in the earth. Something is anticipated but not seen. With seeds, those who plant must labor and wait. After the work and the waiting there emerges the slightest sign of life, a sprig of something green. A sprout.
When Jesus wanted to explain to people how God’s active presence in the world works, he often used the image of seed. “Listen! A farmer went out to sow his seed.” This was a word picture that everyone could understand. While most of us don’t farm, we can understand it too. Seeds do now just what they did back then – and they provided Jesus a favorite image for describing the Kingdom of God, or the work of God in the world.
For the next couple of weeks we’ll be thinking about seed. Our daily reflections will aimed at training us to see God’s work in the world around us. More than that, we’ll be looking for ways to sow the seeds of God’s presence in the very places where we live and work.
What is true of God’s work in the world is true of your own life. Like seed pressed into the hiddenness of the earth, God is at work in ways that you cannot see right now. The Spirit’s work is unseen, but steady. Growth is not usually something you can feel. You won’t find evidence of life by constantly checking on the seed. Instead you engage in the repeated daily labors of tending to what has been planted. Soon the sprout of life appears.
These daily reflections are simply a tool for the work of cultivating what God wants to do in and around you. It’s planting season. Be diligent and patient – and look for the sprout.
Gracious God, we sometimes live through seasons in which our souls seem dormant and lifeless. Help us in the coming days to cultivate the soil of our heart so that we might be your people in the world, sowing seeds of your grace wherever we might be. Remind us that you are at work in unseen but steady ways, even as we go through this day, we pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.