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."
He also said, "With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable will we use for it? It is like a mustard seed, which, when sown upon the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth; yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes the greatest of all shrubs, and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade." With many such parables he spoke the word to them, as they were able to hear it; he did not speak to them except in parables, but he explained everything in private to his disciples." Mark 4
Scattered and sown---these verbs describe how the Kingdom of God moves into our lives. Sowing is a bit more intentional than scattering, though they have the same effect, right? Some sort of growth, reproduction, multiplication, and maturation. Tiny, buried seeds germinate and grow into visible plants that grow and produce fruit and habitat and more seeds! Germination takes time. One waits to see if the seeds that were sown or scattered will emerge. And then they do. With water, soil, sun, and a little time.
IN my garden the first plants to emerge this year were pumpkin plants, all over the garden. As if I’d tossed pumpkin seeds everywhere. Countless pumpkin sprouts popped up. Thing is, I didn’t plant them. I didn’t sow or scatter them, really. What we did was toss our pumpkins onto the garden in the Fall. We toss yard autumn leaves and other yard waste in there for composting. So, in a sense I did scatter seeds. As the pumpkins rotted, the seeds fell into the ground and spent a harsh winter there. Dormant. Lifeless. And then, the spring sun and rains came. I cleaned up the composted garden, removed the remaining pumpkins and added soil. That’s all it took. Now they grow. We’re letting them grow. Maybe this year we’ll grow our own pumpkin patch. Right now they seem to be growing better than anything else we planted. Scattered seeds will grow without intention, without work, without assistance. It is the way of things. Death and resurrection. Burial and growth. Seed and fruit. The scattering of the seeds indiscriminately leads to a future harvest.
Tiny seeds in the right conditions become plants with the DNA to mature and reproduce. Mustard plants are not the tiniest, nor are they the biggest shrubs. But they do spread. Mustard spreads in a field, like mint. Though we planted mint in our 4 X 4 raised beds, they jumped out and spread everywhere, invading the larger garden area, too. You can’t control it. It’s everywhere. Mustard plants grow and spread and persist. It’s hard to kill. Just keeps on growing and moving.
The Kingdom of God is like this. It’s not an institution or a program or an organization with a board of directors. It is not managed. Jesus suggests that His work ,words, and ways are being sown and scattered in a way that cannot be controlled or undone. It’s already out there, like the pumpkin seeds in my garden. His healing, his teachings, his powerful forgiveness are already being sown into the hearts and minds of people like you and me, who scatter and sow with our own lives, our own words and actions. The church is like a farm or a garden plot or garden box. It has good soil, starter seeds, a history of growth and reproduction. But it is not the only place the seeds grow. And, contrary to what so many are saying about the church, it is not dying. Containers do not die. The church is a container. That's all. And sometimes not a very good container. The church is not itself the Kingdom of God or the Word of God. It is, at best, vessel, instrument, container garden of faith. 2,000 years of the Spirit wind blowing the seeds of faith around the globe. It’s not everywhere, though. So the wind continues to blow. This week I was a sower of Kingdom seeds in the lives of a family or two. I told them about God’s love for them, God’s promised provision for them, God’s desire for them to be part of the family of God. I listened to their story with empathy and compassion. They were grateful. And I believe the kingdom of God broke into that household this week, the kingdom of God invaded the untilled soil of their broken hearts. They emailed me a note saying that out encounter may have restored some faith. I don’t know how or when germination might take place. I don’t know if I’ll see them to water the seeds. But I trust the power of the Word to take root and grow in places we do not expect, with people who have never been in church or have left church behind. So the good news is the growth of the church or the kingdom of God is not all up to us. You can have great soil and a nice container for it, but without the seeds you have nothing. So wasting efforts on the church building makes no sense if the seeds of Christ’s teachings are not planted there.
Sown and scattered. God has planted the DNA of the kingdom in you; they are the gifts of the spirit, faith and hope and love. You are the seeds scattered and sown. You are sown into a neighborhood, a school, a retirement community. We have bee sown onto main Street in Akron. God intends for you to visibly embody the life of Jesus where you live. And scattered, the places you travel, the people you meet along the way, every journey and resting place is a place to scatter the seeds of faith. May you be scattered and sown as the seeds of Christ’s love and may you plant the seed in others. Amen.
Lord Jesus, your kingdom moves and grows and multiplies around us, through us, within us, in spite of us, and for us. We see it and feel it and taste your forgiveness. Scatter us like seeds that we might sow the word of salvation, the word of love and compassion every where we go. Amen.