THE MIRACLE AND MYSTERY OF SEED AND SOIL WORKING TOGETHER
READ: Mark 4: 26-29
“Jesus taught, ‘This is the nature of the realm of God. A farmer scatters seed on the land. Night and day, while the farmer is asleep and while the farmer is awake, the seed is sprouting and growing in ways that the farmer may not fully understand. Of its own accord, the land produces first the sprout, then the stalk, and then the full grain. And when the crop is ready, the farmer immediately begins to reap, for the harvest has come.’ “ – Mark 4:26-29
When Jesus likened the coming realm of God to the life of the wheat farmer, He spoke of both the seed and the land. And when the seed and the land came together, the potential in both came to life, and in this common enterprise of seed and soil, a bountiful harvest eventually came into being. The seed is the Spirit and Truth of the Divine Word; the land is the tangible soil of our human experience; and both seed and land were each created with a divinely endowed potentiality.
Christian discipleship is the process by which the Word of God transforms an empty field into a harvest of wheat. Christian discipleship is about preparing the land and the planting of seed, then bringing that seed into its maturity. Christian discipleship is thus about both endowed potential and faithful process. Christian discipleship is about planting and harvesting with a long season of patience and faithfulness in between.
Brother Alphonse always invites the preschoolers from the nearby preschool to come each year and help plant the seeds in our vegetable garden here at Greyfriars’ Abbey. In preparation for their coming, Brother Alphonse tills the small parcel of land, first plowing it under, then harrowing it loose, then raking it level and finally hoeing in the lines for the seeds. He sets out the small stakes that will mark each labeled row. He then gathers the packages of seed, having sorted them by kind. Then Brother Alphonse, with his hearty hospitality that is filled with smiles and laughter, welcomes the children, placing on each child a farmer’s straw hat, much like the ones we use here at the Abbey. He gives his instruction about how God has given us gifts of seed and soil, and how we are then to bring them together as God’s gardeners. And then a demonstration is given on the skill of planting of seeds. Each child is first given a try to see if they have mastered the skill. And when Brother Alphonse feels confident with his helpers, he send them to farming. With loads of encouragement, the children plant the seeds … in good faith that one day, a garden will appear. This children’s day slows down Brother Alphonse’s planting time, to be sure. But when the children return at harvest time, the wonder that comes upon the children’s faces makes it all worthwhile. For you see … with the help of God and Brother Alphonse, the children’s faithful planting always – every year – yields a bumper crop, some to take home to Mom, and of course, some for the old men who live here.
‘Tis much like the miraculous way in which Christian disciples are transformed, and, I do also believe,earthly ways are transformed into Divine realms. Both the seed and the land, both the Word and the Soul, have been created to bring forth life when they come together. And as they grow in their mutual, cooperative way, the abundance of life grows as well. When the Spirit of the Lord is welcomed into our lives,,planted within this human soil of ours, both the seed and the soil begin to grow. And when they are allowed their necessary time and given their necessary care … an empty soul eventually becomes a harvest of Christ-likeness and Kingdom Life.
The Realm of God and the Christian disciples within that Realm are not manufactured, they are rather grown over time, allowing the Divine and the human the time and process to grow together into a full harvest, mature and bountiful… allowing, as Jesus described it, the land to produce first the sprout, then the stalk and then, in time, the full harvest.
My Loved Ones, the Benedictine approach to becoming a mature and fruitful Christian disciple is in trusting the slow processes of daily faithfulness. Each and every day, we tend to the garden, reading, praying, serving, forgiving, nurturing, sharing and loving, always trusting that faithfulness over time will bring us to harvest. And as we attempt in little ways each day to do God’s Will, we are also, at the very same time, growing in ways which we may not fully understand.
Brother Anthony of the Cross