And Then a Miracle Happens…
Jesus also said, “The kingdom of God is as if someone would scatter seed on the ground, and would sleep and rise night and day, and the seed would sprout and grow, he does not know how. The earth produces of itself, first the stalk, then the head, then the full grain in the head. But when the grain is ripe, at once he goes in with his sickle, because the harvest has come.” (Mark 4:26-29)
Open a seed and what’s inside? Certainly not an itsy-bitsy plant all ready to just expand when water is added! There is nothing inside the seed for us to see which indicates even what the plant will look like. Who looks at an acorn and can find anything that shows the oak tree it will become? Look at a mustard seed outside or inside. Who sees the plant it will grow into? Same thing with critters. Who, looking at a sperm and ovum, can imagine what they will combine to create?
This is the miracle of God’s creation. The seed sprouts and grows and we don’t know how. Oh, I know that scientists can explain all the genetics and the scientific processes necessary for the growth. But no scientist can explain the wherefore and why of what actually generates that growth. We can study everything, create the best (or worst) conditions, and plan and plot for the best harvest ever. But making something grow, we cannot do. Yes, sometimes the conditions of the world stunt or stop growth. Sometimes things just never sprout. Yet, in the realm of God, in the grand scheme of life, God’s miracle generates growth enough for us to harvest.
Also, we do not dig up the seed every day to see if it’s growing. We do not squeeze it to try to make the plant come out of it. We plant and tend, God generates new life, and eventually we harvest the fruits of God’s miracles and our labor together.
There are two parts to this story (although this is only one way of reading and interpreting this parable from Jesus). Inside the seed of this story, is the mysterious, creative, life-giving miracle of God. The outer shell of this story is about us, about our part, our tasks. We plant and tend – one side of the shell; we harvest – the other side of the shell. The rest, Jesus teaches, is up to God.
The part of making growth happen is NOT our work. I know, I know… you already know this. Yet. What about the ministry and work we do? Do we live our lives in the same ways we are taught to scatter seeds in our gardens in this parable? How often do we plan our lives, gather the seeds for what we are doing, plant the seeds to the best of our understanding and knowledge, then work and work and work and work to make everything come together and grow? How often do we try to squeeze productivity and fruitfulness out of our labors? How often do we assume that it is all up to us (or others)?
Yes, we have our part, our work to do in the miracle of life. Then we are encouraged to let go and trust God’s grace and providence. This is not to say we just throw the seeds wherever they may fall and do not care about wise planting. Our task is to take the time and care and labor to plan and plant the best seeds we have in the most fruitful ways we know how. Our task is to plan and prepare our lives, our ministries, our work and communities and theology and politics and relationships, in the most caring, generous, grateful, faithful, fruitful ways we are able. Then we sleep and rise night and day (continuing our labors of love and life) and watch for and expect the miracle of God’s life and love to grow and flourish. Then a miracle happens – the seed sprouts, first the stalk, then the head then the full grain in the head – and harvest comes with plenty for all and enough left over to plant and tend again.
Life-creating God, thank you for this miracle of your generative grace and love. You give us the seeds to plant, this life to live, and the fruitful harvest that comes. Give us the vision and strength to scatter, plant and tend your gifts in the fulness of your blessings. Help us to live in trust and faith in your miracle of life. We pray in the name and spirit of Jesus. Amen.