For many years I have thought of myself as having a brown thumb. But in the past two years I have taken a real interest in my yard.
After years of just cutting the grass and letting the rest go, I started planting perennials in the yard. I made a pot garden on my patio for annuals. I even started taking better care of my grass.
It’s amazing what a little fertilizer will do.
I wanted to enjoy my yard and specifically I wanted to have flowers. When I started, I thought that all I had to do was plant the plants and take care of them and I would have flowers. But I have discovered that it is not so simple or certain. Last year I planted a climbing Jasmine but the winter killed much of it. I bought a hydrangea in the spring, thinking I would have flowers this year, but discovered that the flowers on the plant when I bought it were the only ones I would have this year.
But I have had successes. The day lilies in the front yard get lots of sun and are doing great. So is the crepe myrtle, which I finally learned to prune correctly. So my gardening has been a mixture. Some efforts have produced little or nothing while others have produced abundantly.
In the gospel of Matthew (Matthew 13:1-9), Jesus tells a parable that reminds me of my gardening. There was a sower who went out to sow seed. He sowed seed in many different places – along the path, on rocky ground, among thorns, and on rich soil. He didn’t discriminate where he scattered his seed. He invested in each area. But of the four areas, three failed to produce a harvest. Only the seed sowed on the good soil produced. But it didn’t just produce, it produced more abundantly than could be imagined – 30, 60 and 100 times the original seed.
In the first century, sowing was a common metaphor for teaching and preaching the word of God. As people heard Jesus’ story they would have thought of God’s efforts to share his life and love – his kingdom – with his people. The first disciples struggled with why everyone didn’t recognize Jesus as the Son of God – why everyone didn’t respond to the good news. This parable spoke to them. They realized that though some didn’t respond, God would produce the harvest needed. And that harvest would be abundant.
This parable continues to speak to us. As Jesus’ followers today, we are called to sow seeds for the Lord. We are called to do his ministry. We are called to share his life and love through our words and actions. Through our actions, we care for those in need. By our words, we tell others how Jesus has loved us. As we do, we sow seeds. As we do, the Lord uses us to grow his kingdom – to make his presence known in our world.
But sometimes the seed is sown on hard ground, or in rocky soil or among weeds. Sometimes we act generously only to have someone take advantage of us. Sometimes we decide to forgive only to meet one who refuses to forgive. Sometimes we courageously share our faith only to face ridicule.
Sometimes in these struggles we wonder if we should keep sowing. Maybe it’s better to give up. Maybe it’s better to stop making ourselves vulnerable. We may even face the temptation to give into the pressure to conform to the ways of others – to give up the ways of God’s kingdom. Sometimes the ways of the world seem so strong that we may wonder if God’s ways will ever produce any fruit.
But the harvest is not left up to us. It belongs to God. God will produce God’s harvest at the right place and in the right time. We are simply God’s assistants sent out to sow God’s seed. Sometimes we will see the harvest. Sometimes we won’t. But we can trust God to deal with the results.
In the end, in his time, he will produce an abundant harvest.
I’ve seen that harvest take many forms. I’ve seen a child learning to be generous by following her parent’s example. I’ve seen a community banding together to support those who grieve. I’ve seen a church coming together to feed those in need. Despite the struggles of life, God will produce his harvest and that harvest will be great.
The Rev. Sally Franklin is the Rector of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, 501 Pine St. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.