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Sunday 16 June 2024 Trinity 3, Eleventh in Ordinary time, Proper 6

A seed in God’s garden

Mark 4:26-34

By Andrew Dart

Methodist Superintendent Minister

Context: a Sunday morning service at a large multicultural church in the London Borough of Lambeth

Aim: to remind people that God’s purpose is within them

The tall Saguaro cactus, which you may have seen in cowboy films, grows only in Arizona and can live for up to 200 years. It produces about a million seeds each year, yet only 1% of these might produce a new plant. That is a lot of wasted seeds! In the Gospels Jesus is shown to be someone who is conversant with agricultural practice, and he tells various parables around the theme of seeds and growth. We heard two of them today. Both, in different ways, are about abundance and mystery. Farmers sow seeds and miraculously new crops appear. In the parable of the mustard tree, a seed does not just produce new life but produces new life on a scale that seems impossible.

ABUNDANCE

Jesus’ times are of course very different to our own and in many parts of the world agriculture is now a far more scientific and highly engineered process. Seeds are drilled into the earth by complex machines that plant them precisely to the right depth and with the correct spacing. They are watered, given extra nutrients and protection from pests, and the whole process is designed to maximise the output whilst reducing the number of inputs to the minimum. Like with much of modern life the key word is efficiency and resource management. Yet, when Jesus likens the Kingdom of God to seeds his clear message is that of abundance. Seeds are scattered without a thought as to where they might land. Seeds are in an abundant supply. The farmer is not anxious about running out, and God is never going to come to an end of love and care for God’s people.

It is a wonderful image of God who is generous beyond compare and who will never stop pouring out concern for us. It is also a different image of God than we can find ourselves being tempted with - our image of God might not be so generous. Our idea of God’s love might be restricted to people like us. Our God might first show disapproval before demonstrating compassion or mercy.

POTENTIAL

Jesus can be so fulsome with his depiction of God because he understands that behind God’s generosity is God’s undying belief in the potential of creation. Every seed, even the smallest, has the capability of growing into something glorious. Seeds might fall into the earth and be buried for years yet still hold within them the potential for new life. Jesus talks of a tiny mustard seed being the smallest of all, yet when it germinates it can grow into a huge shrub and put out large branches. Some commentators regard the parable of the mustard seed as a witty joke for of course mustard plants are not trees, but Jesus wants to make the point that God can make them so if God desires and in turn God can do things with us that we may not yet believe possible.

So, if we liken God to the farmer and seeds to God’s people then we realise that the potential is within us. We understand that God has faith in you and me to become good and faithful people. We may feel dead, barren, without purpose; we may be weighed down by anxiety; we may be encumbered by illness or disease. Yet God still sees the potential within us. God is not dictating our growth but rather releasing us, empowering, and equipping us, to be the best version of ourselves.

FINDING OUR PURPOSE

I was reading in the Oxfam magazine the story of a young man called Perk who lives in Accra in Ghana. Angered by the effects of climate change on his country, Perk has become an activist and supported environmental campaigns, including one to stop the building of a new coal fired power plant. Yet being angry was not enough. He wanted to also do something positive and creative, so he developed his own garden and now grows some of his own food and has reduced his own carbon footprint. At the beginning he lost all his plants to disease and had to start all over again. But as he harvested each tomato, okra, and cucumber, they became symbols of a new future.

We are not just symbols but actual evidence of God’s new future. Within us is the potential for love, justice making and community building. God has sown us in the garden; now our responsibility is to help one another grow from tiny seeds into mustard trees.

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