Matthew 13:3-8 “What do you make of this? A farmer planted seed. As she scattered the seed, some of it fell on the road, and birds ate it. Some fell in the gravel; it sprouted quickly but didn’t put down roots, so when the sun came up it withered just as quickly. Some fell in the weeds; as it came up, it was strangled by the weeds. Some fell on good earth, and produced a harvest beyond his wildest dreams.
Clergy can work under the illusion that they are the farmer. That it’s up to them to till the soil, sow the seeds, and enjoy the harvest. The people in the pews often will also carry around this idea – judging a leader on the fruits of their salaries – looking for the pay-off. Especially in hard times, when money gets tight, there’s a growing desperation for the fruits to ripen.
We live in a culture separated from the seasons and the challenges of growing a crop. I’m three generations off the farm. I grew up thinking food comes from grocery stores. In my lifetime there has been an increasing proliferation of fruits and veggies and all things good (and bad for me) on the shelves. I can go and pick fruit any day of the year. I can go and get greens 24 hrs a day.
The weather to us - the rains and the sun and wind - are all about whether or not my plans to travel, or picnic, or walk not run are affected. How often do I connect the amount rain and sun in a season with the hunger in my belly?
Talk about living in an illusion!
It’s a mass illusion, perhaps the greatest of lies spun ever. Our entire mainstream culture is in tow behind an oil tanker. Our lifestyles bob in the wake of that tanker. We only briefly become aware of this connection when disaster strikes and the tanker spills.
The spill – we all can conjure the images of oil-soaked wildlife and shores – is in fact an image of the western world. We are all oil-soaked, living beneath a thick coating of oil. We just don’t see it.
The Matrix we live within shines and gleams with glass, chrome and shiny waxed fruit. We don’t see that it is all a result of the umbilical cord connected - not to the soil - but to what we suck from deep beneath the soil.
This addiction, this dependency, this global conspiracy of a fruitfulness generated – not by the Maker who we’ve thanked and begged for sustenance from the start – but by the hungry machinery of humanity’s quest for freedom.
To be free from the vagaries of the weather-gods.
To be free from having to pray our way thru flood and drought and famine.
To be free from a god who silently watches while our children starve.
This freedom is the quest of humanity’s angry fist-shaking shout at the heavens.
The technological progress fueled in the last 100 short years has swept the globe. The science of soil and seed has created the monster Monsanto. When Jesus told them “you can’t serve both God and Mammon” it was the multi-headed, all-consuming serpent that surrounds the planet with tentacles both minute and mighty that he was talking about. This beast drinks oil and nurses us all.
In my opinion.
So what does this quaint little story about a farmer from the third world have to tell us? What could a farmer without a tractor teach us about how god grows goodness? What could farmers with only a bit of ancestral land - now leased back from those who bought the land from under them with the debts they grew buying seed and feed from the company store – what could such farmers tell us about god’s fruitfulness?
If faith is not about certainty – but about confidence – then what might this farmer (likely a woman) tell us about trust and hope - and where the love of god is found?
We think this story is about growing a church. And it is. But it ain’t about a church you need a car to get to. It ain’t about a church you need to fundraise to sustain. It ain’t about a church filled with the décor of luxury and priviledge. And this story is definitely not about seducing people into the illusions of the status quo. Did Jesus tell this story to give comfort to those with lifestyles that depend upon the hungry desperation of faceless farmers working fingers to the bone so that we can have bananas in January?
Church-ianity is an amazing and powerful force for good in this world. Churches do so much good for people, for community, for families and for the world.
Christianity is an amazing and powerful force for good in this world. Christians do so much good for people, for community, for families and for the world.
But neither are what Jesus was talking about.
What’s in a seed?
A seed is an untold story.
a hope unspoken
an unborn saviour
a kingdom not yet seen
Found in the season when things fall apart,
it is the hard lesson learned
it is the sweet perfection tasted and gone
- gathered and carefully kept
until the time for new beginnings comes.
A seed is planted as an invitation
to a harvest meal.
It might be put there by hands with great intentions
in soil carefully prepared.
It might be tossed to the wind with a prayer
trusting god to find the way and
those to come to scrounge it from the wilderness.
And it might be dropped by a bird
in a random who-gives-a-shit kinda way.
There is nothing more potent than a seed.
containing all of yesterday’s essence traced to before beginnings
containing all of the destinies to come that even god doesn’t yet see
contained in the circle’s shell
the one thing all life needs
the one thing that interconnects it all
the one uncontrollable, uncontainable, unknowable, unstoppable hope
while the farmer sleeps it does its thing
while the children die and the mothers cry
while the greedy gobble and the humble wait
while the violent take and call it won
that one thing silently sees and hears and hums
can you hear its ancient song?
feel its rhythm’s pull?
will you attune your soul’s desire
and your day’s destiny
see it or not
thank it or curse it
listen for it or let it be deafened
and always will be.