Insert text here.
We plant, but it is God who gives the increase to those who are ready and eager to work the harvest.
Jesus said, "The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed on the ground, and should sleep by night and rise by day, and the seed should sprout and grow, he does not know how. For the earth yields crops by itself: first the blade, then the head, after that the full grain in the head. But when the grain ripens, immediately he puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come."
Mark 4:26-29 NKJV, condensed
The kingdom of God is something like the flurry of activity in fields and gardens each spring as soon as the weather warms. It's played out using a variety of methods in millions of places around the world. Simply put, a farmer sows seed, then leaves the field and goes about other activities. There is nothing further the planter needs to do to coax the seed along, no magic way to push new life to the surface any sooner. In fact, the more you watch for new sprouts, the longer it seems to take.
Then, suddenly, after the required number of days, the first sign of life appears and pushes itself up from the soil. A little green promise-of-things-to-come sticks out of the ground. Those who notice, smile, and spread the word--all is well, the seeds were good. The miracle of the harvest is underway, not only in the ground but in the heart and mind of the sower as well.
The sprout continues to grow day by day and take the form of the plant from which it was taken. All this activity transpires in silence, much of it out of sight and underground. It really is a most amazing thing. Year after year the gardener plants and the exact same pattern occurs. We know not how or why. It just does.
The earth produces food in an orderly fashion. Always the same, predictable progression. First the tiny blade, which grows bigger and stronger every day, then the head appears, and finally the fruit ripens. Had the farmer gone away and totally ignored the field, the whole process would have continued without him. Nature takes charge. The sun rises. The sun sets. It rains some. There are storms, but mostly the sun just shines. Quietly, and without the aid of unnatural forces, the seed does its job and produces its share of grain.
At the end of the growing season, there's an even bigger flurry of activity in the cropland than at the beginning. Collecting the fruit of the field is hard work. The greater the abundance, the more hands that are needed. Time is of the essence; winter will soon be here. The harvest is the culmination of it all. It requires all of one's time and energies. Cutting it, breaking it down, storing it, preserving it, preventing loss and damage. Harvest is not complete till all the ripened fruit is protected from harm and decay.
Jesus told the story in much fewer words. (The people in his agrarian society could fill in the details better than we.) When you read this little parable, you may feel cheated. Nothing happened. It's all so ordinary. What is there to grasp and learn? How can the kingdom of almighty God be compared to the goings on in some insignificant farmer's field? Why would Jesus bother; why waste his breath on something so elementary!
Or you could live the story as you read. You might really look at that seed and feel a sense of reverence and awe when burying it in the ground, and ponder the process of its steady growth. You might be wowed by the abundance of the harvest, collect it in joy and thanksgiving, and share your bounty with friends and neighbors.
The kingdom of God is as complex and profound as the relationship between a farmer and his or her land. Those who sow seeds come in all shapes and sizes, from all races and creeds and all parts of the world. They may be young or old, rich or poor, wise or simple. Whether anyone thinks they deserve or don't deserve a harvest, it makes no difference. All who plant, put their hope in that little seed. It grows, they don't know how, yet when the fruit is fully ripe they go to their plot of ground and partake in the excitement of reaping what they have sown.
The kingdom of God is as basic and fundamental as that farmer who planted his crop, not knowing how it worked nor understanding the process, but believing it would produce what he needed to sustain his life. As he faithfully performed all things necessary on his part, God did the rest. At the end of the growing season, the farmer put in the sickle and reaped a harvest. Afterwards he will rejoice, eat for a year and have enough grain left over to plant the field again in the spring!
Jesus told lots of stories about seeds and planting. It makes me think it is always springtime in God's kingdom. Always the right time to come, enter in and believe in the mystery and the miracle of seedtime and harvest.
Use the following questions for small groups, journaling, further study or reflection.
Icebreaker: What is something you own which is both simple and profound?
Think of a time you were present when an abundance was shared and you received some of it. Where did the abundance come from? What did you do with what you received?Is there any parallel between that experience and the message of this parable?
To what extent does your food come from the hand of God or from the hand of your fellowmen and women?In this story of Jesus, who is to be thanked for the farmer having grain in his barn at the end of the season?
Is there anything awesome in the simple process of children growing sunflowers in a paper cup?
The farmer participated in the kingdom without understanding how it works. When has that been true for you? In your spiritual life, what makes you continue sowing seeds?
Jesus likened the kingdom of God to someone scattering seed without understanding how seeds grow, then doing nothing more until the grain was ready and quick action was needed to harvest the crop. How is that picture like the kingdom Jesus proclaimed? How many similarities do you see?
Is the concept of the kingdom of God as simple as partnering with God? In this parable, God didn't do it all, neither did the farmer do it all. Who was responsible for each part of the process? In what ways, and to what end, do you partner with God in your life?
At harvest time, like a gift from God, the grain ripened. But the farmer had to put a sickle to it and gather it up. What light does that shed on the nature of the kingdom of God?
Those who plant seeds, do so in faith that there will be a harvest even though they do not understand or control the process. What are some things you have faith in but do not understand? Have you planted any seeds in the kingdom of heaven? If so, when and where will you reap what you have sown?