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Garden Parables… Again

The text this week is Mark 4:26-34.  This sees Jesus teaching His followers with the use of agricultural and garden parables.  To those of us with brown thumbs this can get frustrating!  Yet, it is always good to remember that like any good preacher Jesus knows His audience.  Jesus knows how to connect to them in terms they will understand.  An always sound way to approach a text is to try to discover how those who first heard it would understand the message.  This gives us a good indication of what the message is saying, which we can then make it easier to translate into our time and place.

Jesus offers two garden parables in this text.  One is about scattering seeds and what becomes of this planting.  The other, much more famous is about comparing the Kingdom of God to a mustard seed (a very small seed), which grows into a large tree.  I wish to focus on the first, less famous parable.

We Are Scatterers

The parable in Verses 26-29 is about seed scattered on the ground, and someone watching would see the seed sprout and grow, slowly making its way out of the ground until it was ready to harvest.  The key is Verse 27 “The seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how”. 

Whether we realize it or not, we are all seed scatterers.  Everything we do spreads seeds out into God’s world.  That means the good and the bad.  How we react in response to God’s gifts of grace upon grace will determine what kind of seeds we scatter-good or bad.  Every act of forgiveness, kindness, and service sows good seeds among those God has placed in our lives.  Every act of exclusion or vengeance or mean-spiritedness, plants a bad seed which turns people away from a relationship with God. 

As Verse 27 points out, we do “not know how”.  In a literal sense we do know.  If you are rude or oft putting, you will turn people away.  If you are inviting and gracious you will attract people.  You may be oft putting without even realizing it if you come off as judgmental or present a checklist of dos and don’ts that people have to perform to get into the “club”.  This is not how God’s kingdom is supposed to work.  We simply believe and we then have Christ dwelling within us as the righteousness of God, and may be confident in our salvation.  That is all we need to communicate in our open invitation to all we meet.

On the other hand, in a broader sense we really do not know.  You never know what act will touch someone or how.  It may be an act of service at your church food pantry.  It may be from participation in a Habitat for Humanity build.  It may be a visit to someone at an elder care facility.  The seeds you scatter may come from hundreds of different acts performed daily.  Any one of these acts of openness and invitation, service and sacrifice may lead someone into the church.  There are many doors into the church.  You never know which open door will appeal to who, so open them all.

All of this strikes me as an 8th. Commandment issue.  We are not to bear false witness.  Most of us take this to mean don’t spread gossip or slander about others, and this is indeed part of it.  However, a Jewish Rabbi once commented that it is really about bearing true witness to God.  Thought of this way, we can see that scattering good seeds all about is bearing true and genuine witness to the Living God we follow.

We know how we are to act in any given interaction.  Think of this as our task of scattering good seeds everywhere, and realize that we will not know how they will sprout, just that they will.  Then think of the opposite.  What bad seeds will fail to sprout because we gave false witness of God’s love and redemption.  This makes our response to God’s gifts clear.  We all (me most especially) need to remember to joyfully scatter good seeds everywhere we go.  We do so trusting that they will sprout and produce a good harvest even if we do not know how, or when.  This is just an agricultural way of saying we are to believe, then obey.

Praise Be to God

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