Third Sunday after Pentecost: Proper 6, Year B – Mark 4:26-34, the Parable of the Growing Seed.
When you look at your life today, what’s different compared to your life a year ago, three, five, twenty years ago?
I’m not asking about circumstances or events. I am asking about you. In what ways have you changed? Have your values changed, the things that guide and direct your life? Are your priorities different? Has your spirituality changed? Your concerns for the world and others? What troubles your soul and breaks your heart these days? Are you loving in a new way? How has your self-image changed or the way you view the world? What seeds have germinated and taken root in you? What new sprouts are coming up in you? Where is growth taking place and what does that look like?
And how did any of that happen?
When I look back on my life I can see qualitative changes in my marriage – for the better – but I can’t point to any thing in particular that made that happen. My life of prayer today is very different from a few years ago and I’m not really sure when or how it changed but I know it has. My passion for justice, peace, and the well being of others has grown in ways I can’t explain.
My guess is that each of you could say similar things about aspects of your life. And that is not to suggest that any of our lives have been a straight line of progression. We both know better than that. That’s not how growth works.
But the reality, as Jesus describes it in the parable of the growing seed (Mark 4:26-34), is that there is a dynamism about our lives, a spirit moving within us. Every one of us has been seeded and something is growing within us. Sometimes we don’t see it, believe it, or trust it. But it’s there. Sometimes we wait years hoping, looking, and wondering when, and then one day we see the first green blade rise up. Other times we wake up one day and are surprised by what has changed within us. How did that happen? When did it happen? I don’t know but Jesus says it’s always been there. It is not dependent upon us but we participate in it.
This parable Jesus tells is not about gardening or farming. Jesus is using images from gardening or farming to talk about your life and my life. His parable is a metaphor for the way God works in our lives. It’s meant to be an encouragement and to offer hope.
Our lives are like a garden that has been planted with seeds. And you know how that works. It takes time. And a lot happens underground, hidden within the soil of our lives. There’s a lot of waiting. And then one day something sprouts and begins to grow, “first the stalk, then the head, then the full grain in the head.” We are always in process, living into our completion.
“It is as if someone would scatter seed on the ground,” Jesus says. And I wonder, who are those someones in your life? Who has scattered seeds on the ground of your life? And what were those seeds? Who are the people that have loved and encouraged you, offered wisdom and guidance for your life, spoke difficult truths that changed your life? Who are the ones that gave you hope, stood by you, helped you find yourself? In what ways did he or she offer you a place to put down roots, find stability, and get your life in order? Who has awakened you and opened your eyes to see the world, others, and yourself differently? Who has inspired and mentored you? Who has called forth from you more than you thought you had? In what ways did someone grow you up and call you into your better self?
Those are seeds scattered in your life by someone. Who is doing that for you today? What seeds is she or he scattering?
And what if you and I are to be seed scatterers in the lives of others, for the life of the world? Have you ever forgiven and reconciled with another, or asked someone’s forgiveness? When have you put another’s interest before your own? Who have you encouraged, loved, reached out to in compassion? When have you sat with someone in his or her grief and said, “I’ll be here for you?” When have you spoken out and worked for justice? When have you shared with someone else the seed that you are? In what ways are you doing that today?
What barren ground is waiting to be seeded and planted with your life, gifts, passions, presence, and concerns? Maybe it’s the barren ground of racism, violence, poverty. Maybe it’s the barren ground across which migrant families walk seeking a better life. Maybe it’s the barren ground of loneliness, fear, or despair. Maybe it’s the barren ground of grief, pain, or heartbreak. How might you scatter seeds in those places and a thousand others like them?
What is sprouting and growing in your life today? What is flourishing and blossoming? Where is there new growth? What does that growth look like? Is it in your faith journey, marriage, parenting? Maybe it’s your concern for what is happening in our world today? Maybe there’s a growing compassion for those in need. Maybe you have a new vision for who you are and how you want to live your life. Maybe it’s a dream or vision for your life that is coming to fruition. Maybe your heart is softening and there’s a new tenderness in your relationships.
What do you wish was growing in the garden of your life? What colors or fragrances are missing? Where have weeds taken over? What needs attention?
I’m well aware that I have asked you more questions than I’ve given you answers. I have no answers, and Jesus offers none in today’s parable. Parables don’t offer answers they ask us better questions. They give us our work to do. They offer a different lens through which to see ourselves, others, and the world. And maybe seeing differently is the beginning of being different. What is this parable showing you about your life and the world? What do you see today?
Just like I said last week, what you see is just information. Don’t turn it into a judgment or conclusion. It’s information for us to do something with.
What will you do with what you see? Celebrate and give thanks? Water, fertilize, prune, pull some weeds? Make some changes?
Meister Eckhart, a 14th century German monk, says this about the seeds we’ve been talking about:
The seed of God is in us.
Given an intelligent and hard-working farmer,
it will thrive and grow up to God, whose seed it is;
and accordingly its fruits will be God-nature.
Pear seeds grow into pear trees,
nut seeds into nut trees,
and a God seed into God.