Unsurprising, I’ve been thinking about Seedtime and Harvest. While searching for material for our worship, I came across a quiz which asked you to match the seed to the plant it would grow into. I’m bad enough at identifying plants, but hopeless at knowing which seed is which.
A seed isn’t like a small version of what it will grow into. The seed has to ‘die’ in the soil and it brings to life something different, something hidden and extraordinary.
It’s wonderful to see the joy and wonder that young children have in planting seeds and watching things grow. I know that many of you still have this child-like joy when you grow things in your garden or in pots on your windowsill.
Planting seeds is a metaphor for a process we all can relate to. We can sow seeds of doubt or hope or discord, of rebellion or of reconciliation. We may reap the rewards of our hard work or we may sow the seeds of our own destruction.
History is constantly looking to understand why events happen, and will always find the seeds of some future war or disaster, or political victory sowed many years before. The seeds of the First World War, or the Second World War, or Brexit, or the election of Donald Trump were all sowed over many years leading up to those events.
The thing there always is (much to the frustration of young children watching and waiting for carrots or sweet peas to grow in the school plot), is a time lag between sowing the seed and harvesting the crop.
And sometimes that time lag is a long time. Some seeds grow very slowly, and some can lie dormant for a long time. It takes a long time to grow an oak tree or an apple tree but it’s still vital to sow those seeds.
We are planting seeds in the lives of our children. At home. In school. Some seeds (for me everything in Physics and Chemistry and Geography!) will simply die through lack of use. Other seeds will be planted sparingly and with tears in the few moments of genuine communication with our grunting teenagers. But how often in later life we find out that those seeds have borne fruit and didn’t all die in the heat of those withering looks or the frosts of disdain!
A good question always is: what seeds are we now sowing? We are not going to set the world to rights tomorrow or even the day after tomorrow – but what seeds are we sowing that may bear fruit in their (God’s) time? The truth may be that we often don’t know. But asking the question, thinking about it and taking the long-term view is a good start.
It’s a good question because it doesn’t expect immediate results and that can be freeing as well as frustrating. We see the value of positive inputs that may be buried, covered in manure, but trust that the seeds will have their time.
But for me the BEST question now is: what seeds are God sowing? Seeds that will not bear fruit tomorrow but will have their time and will ensure that truth and beauty have their place replenished in a garden that could be overgrown with selfishness, greed and injustice. And not crowded out by the seeds of self-destruction that our world seems to love so much.
We know what most of the seeds are, don’t we? Every act of love. Every comforting word. Every appreciation of the good efforts of others. Every step to care for and advocate care for our environment. Every challenge to racial prejudice. Every effort to listen to God and to our neighbour. The just reward of labour. And so on.
Sowing seeds is sometimes a sacrifice. In many countries and sometimes even in our own, the seed we sow is from what we would otherwise eat. Perhaps that’s one reason why the sower may sow in tears. There are many reasons for those tears – we know some of them today only too well. And we know of other tears shed in situations we can scarcely imagine – both nearby and far away.
I’ve been deeply moved by Psalm 126. It’s written from the point of view of a people who sow in tears. They look back to God’s saving help in times of exile and remember the long-ago feelings of homecoming, of laughter and of joy.
Imagine a long pilgrimage to Jerusalem in hard times. The hungry crowd have done their best to cheer each other up along the weary way by telling stories of how God had helped them in days gone past. As they walk expectantly up the hill to the Temple the words of welcome fly on eagles’ wings into their hearts:
Those who sow in tears shall reap with songs of joy.
Those who go out weeping, carrying seed to sow,
will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with them.
I think these are the words of hope we need right now. For ourselves and all on our hearts. Hang in there!
With my love and prayers.
A song of ascents.
1 When the Lord restored the fortunes of[a] Zion,
we were like those who dreamed.[b]
2 Our mouths were filled with laughter,
our tongues with songs of joy.
Then it was said among the nations,
‘The Lord has done great things for them.’
3 The Lord has done great things for us,
and we are filled with joy.
4 Restore our fortunes,[c] Lord,
like streams in the Negev.
5 Those who sow with tears
will reap with songs of joy.
6 Those who go out weeping,
carrying seed to sow,
will return with songs of joy,
carrying sheaves with them.