Gospel reading: St Mark 4:26-34
If you were around during Lent this year you will remember the seeds we were sent through the post, mustard or cress, to plant indoors and watch grow, remembering Jesus’ words, ‘unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies it remains a single grain; but if it dies it bears much fruit.’ So I put some of my seeds in a saucer on the kitchen windowsill, and they grew well. After Easter I realised that I had some mustard seeds left so I sewed them on the ground in a sunny corner of the garden. Now I find that the plants are comparatively enormous with large crinkled leaves, stems as thick as my thumb and little curls of flowers getting ready to open.
At this time of the year the natural world shows most obviously that it does what it is meant to do – it grows, generously, and spreads and makes new versions of itself to live into the future. Creation was set up to do this, it is its nature to grow and change, and in today’s Gospel Jesus uses this as an illustration of one aspect of what the kingdom of God is like – it is made to grow, generously.
The sower of seed in this parable is someone who will watch the seed sprout and mature until it produces its crop, but he doesn’t know how this happens, only that it will. The sower sows, then waits and watches (more carefully than I did) with a firm hope that everything develops as it should, ready for that moment when the crop is ready to be harvested. And then he takes the sickle and gathers the grain.
The nature of God’s kingdom is that it wants to be shared, to grow, to be known everywhere. St Paul describes all creation as groaning in the expectation of all things being brought to fulfilment, all that God has made including the members of the Body of Christ (Romans 8:22-25). God’s purpose is for all things to be brought to completion in Jesus; the death and resurrection of Jesus made reconciliation with God possible, made it possible for us to see the world as it is, made and loved by God but broken and longing for wholeness. Our longing for wholeness, our knowing that the world is not as it should be, marred by hate and pain and separation, this is a sharing and reflection of God’s deep longing that all that is made should be reconciled to him, that the Kingdom, the rule of God should move, and grow, and flower in the lives of everyone.
And what of the sewing the seeds that begin this growth? We are invited to share with God in the coming of the Kingdom, but, do we sew the seeds that we reap from or are we reaping the harvest from what others have sewn? I think it must be both. So, what seeds willweplant by our words and actions, on purpose, or by accident, or even in ways that we will never know? This example came to mind.
Many years ago in 1940s South Africa a priest from the UK called Trevor Huddleston was serving the community in Sophiatown. He walked past a woman and her little son in the street and, as was his custom, he doffed his hat to the mother as he passed. This puzzled and shocked the boy, Desmond, as no white man had shown such ordinary respect to his mother, a black South African, Mrs Tutu, before. A seed of curiosity and inspiration was sewn, and Desmond Tutu grew and eventually became Archbishop of Cape Town, a major player in the ending of apartheid and one of the architects of the truth and reconciliation process that sought to make a new community out of the hurts and bitterness of that country’s history. And that began with Father Trevor doffing his hat to a black woman in the street because, in the way he had come to see the world, everyone was worthy of respect because everyone is made in God’s image. A seed was sewn, growth began, the love and grace of God’s new creation was recognised and welcomed.
The seeds of the kingdom are sewn all the time, making astounding growth, making tiny growth that may be hard to see, but it is still there. We often don’t understand or recognise God’s love and grace in our own lives and the lives of others until we look back on it and see the fruit, the harvest that has been produced. And we often don’t realise that we have sown seeds of God’s love and grace in the lives of others. We may not see the final result, others may reap that crop, but we can be sure that the kingdom of God is moving and active. It will not stop its work until all is gathered in, into true fulfilment, as God intends. New creation has begun, is here, is on its way – all at once. This is what Paul calls seeing the world with God’s eyes, our calling too as we follow the paths where his love leads, trusting his grace to give us hope. I am indebted again to Archbishop Tutu for putting it simply and beautifully: a vision of the world as God sees it, and as we can too.
Goodness is stronger than evil
Love is stronger than hate
Light is stronger than darkness
Life is stronger than death.
Victory is ours, victory is ours
Through him who loved us.