“He also said, “The kingdom of God is as if someone would scatter seed on the ground, and would sleep and rise night and day, and the seed would sprout and grow, he does not know how. The earth produces of itself, first the stalk, then the head, then the full grain in the head. But when the grain is ripe, at once he goes in with his sickle, because the harvest has come.” [Mark 4:26-29]
In 1900, roughly 97% of the American economy was directly connected to agriculture and we produced 100% of our food needs. Today, that percentage has fallen to less than 3% and we produce 120% of our needs and more. How did that happen? Innovation, technology and science. Farmers still work hard but if they want to survive, they also have to have the means to work smarter.
What was considered a “bumper crop” would be a financial disaster today. No one saves wheat seeds from 1951 to plant in the spring of 2019. Instead, there are people who constantly and creatively test new hybrids that are more pest and weather resistant. They test the soil, apply chemicals as efficiently as possible and do everything they can to maximize their harvest.
And yet, given all of this, no one can make the rain fall or quit falling, the hail stay away or make a surprise visit. Agriculture, the most basic function of producing daily bread to sustain our lives, remains an exercise of faith. Mystery lies at the heart of the matter.
But Jesus wasn’t merely talking about wheat fields in his parable. He was also talking about the mysterious planting and growth of seeds of faith in our lives. People, events, moments all along the way plant those seeds in us. Word and sacrament, Christian community, people who love us and people who test us, the ebb and flow of life in a broken world—all of this is about planting seeds of faith in the mysterious movement of the Spirit in our lives.
Yet, given this mystery, how open are we as the people of God to rethink our ministry of planting and growing? How is it that congregations can still think that doing worship and congregational life just like they did in 1951 will still be effective in the lives of people today? Evidence tells us—in the experiences of those Christian communities that have been open to change and adaptation—that it takes new forms and new styles and new ways of thinking/being to connect the Gospel with new people today.
Are we here at Zion willing to go there? Are we first in line to rethink, to experiment, to work cooperatively with others, to try and test, all in the interest of connecting with new people, new fields, new missions? Or are we content to sit back, knowing that we’ll get plenty to eat, without a thought to those who have long since moved on to other fields?
There is great mystery in planting and growing. But there is also a call to work both harder and smarter to reach our God-given potential.
Let us pray: Thank you, gracious Lord, for those people and those moments in which you planted seeds of faith in our lives. Guide us, in our life together as your people, toward an openness to finding new ways to plant those same seeds in the lives of people today. In Jesus’ name. Amen
Living in God’s amazing grace, Pastor Stephen Blenkush
with the cross of Christ forever,