Reflection for Sunday – June 16, 2024

Readings: Ezekiel 17:22-24; 2 Corinthians 5:6-10; Mark 4:26-34 
Preacher: Suzanne Schnittman

This spring my backyard has beckoned me outside to play farmer—in the smallest way imaginable. I am not designing a dramatic landscape, nor am I planting a crop to feed my family. I am simply scattering grass seed around in two patches to cover some dirt.

I am in a way playing God. I am repairing a damaged lawn and replacing it with a material I have used in the past—successfully. I embarked on this short task with a great deal of optimism for just that reason: it worked last year and the year before. Albeit on a different part of my yard. But I had confidence that Scott’s “sun and shade grass seed” would produce my desired effects.

Past experience taught me that the seed is tiny, almost invisible, surrounded by mulch and fertilizer. In fact, when you open the bag you can’t tell which substance is which. I remembered how important it is to prepare the hard bare earth before planting. I must turn it into crumbly soft soil. I donned knee pads, grabbed my hand spade, and knelt down near the mud. I removed all the weeds and dry grass, then turned the soil over repeatedly.  I crushed the remaining clumps in my gloved hands, and smoothed out the surface. Satisfied, I began the easy, fun part. I shook up the bag of seed, mulch, and fertilizer, as instructed, and sprinkled it evenly over the surface. I watered thoroughly, as I would continue to do each day until it grew.

Task completed, I stretched my back and smiled in satisfaction. I felt hopeful. And I wondered, “Is this like playing God?”

I turned to Mark’s gospel for this weekend, which presents a parable with two symbols from the miracle of planting.  Jesus says, “In the kingdom of God, it is as if man were to scatter seed on the land and would sleep and rise night and day and through it all the seed would sprout and grow, he knows not how. Of its own accord the land yields fruit, first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear. And when the grain is ripe, he wields the sickle at once, for the harvest has come.”

And what more does Jesus suggest? That we “compare the kingdom of God to a mustard seed, that when it is grown in the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on the earth. But once it is sown, it springs up and becomes the largest of plants.”  

I held both images in my mind while I watched my seeds over two weeks. Unlike God, who knows the seeds eventually flourish, I worried when birds descended for daily snacks. Or when excessive winds blew. Or when deer snooped nearby. The seeds are so small, I fretted. How can they survive?

Finally, a green blade emerged. I rejoiced. When over the next few days green spread thinly over the soil, my pleasure expanded. Is this how God feels when God’s crops bloom?

I turned to the reading from Ezekiel to see how the theme continued.

Here God’s seeds mature beyond credibility. They become “tender shoots, which God takes from the crest of the cedar (Babylon, where the Jews had been exiled) to plant them on the mountain heights of Israel,” where they will bear fruit, “becoming the restored nation of Judah.” Furthermore, this cedar will “shelter birds of every kind, and all trees shall know of it,” which leads us back to Mark, who tells us, “the mustard seed puts forth large branches,” also to shelter the birds.

I turn to Corinthians, in which Paul tells us to be courageous, to walk by faith when we can’t see the Lord.

I look again at my maturing seeds. Most have become blades of grass. Indeed, they walked by faith.

I think about God’s enormous love for us, persisting in the nurturing.  God promises to keep watering us even when we dry out. Isn’t it our responsibility to possess the same hope for each other that God does for us? The hope that we hold for the tiny seeds we plant?

It’s true that sometimes the seeds wither, when we fail to care for our faith, or when we fail to remain courageous in the face of challenge.

But if my tiny invisible seeds can become lush green grass, surely other seeds that I touch, in myself and in others, can blossom beyond what they appear to be today. They hold infinite promise. 

Suzanne Schnittman
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