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Thursday, 1 January 2015

Planting the seed of ourselves

Most of the Bible was originally written to those living in an agrarian society, people familiar with working the land, managing livestock, and raising crops. Many of Jesus’ parables involve the farming life. Not surprisingly, then, the Bible contains many references to sowing and reaping. (

At the beginning of a New Year we can look forward to the seedtime in the Spring, when the earth is warm enough and moist enough from the early rains to best guarantee the "sprouting" of the seed once it is planted in the ground, and also to the Harvest, when we reap what has been sown. The Bible encourages us, when it comes to our giving, that the more seed that is planted, the more fruit will be harvested. In other words, those who sow generously will reap more than those who don’t. But Jesus also speaks of multiplication; of seed sown that brings forth “a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.” A single grain produces many grains, the smallest seed grows into the largest tree, and the seeds which fell in good soil bore one hundred grains each. We are to sow generously and trust to God to bring about the multiplication.

Jesus said in Matthew 17. 20, “if you have faith as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you.” When we face a lack of harvest, and that is what the mountain here represents, our first reaction is often to look at the lack. We think about the lack, rehearse the lack, talk about the lack, sometimes at great length. Jesus says, in effect, ‘don’t start with the lack, instead start with the seed. Imagine a farmer needs a thousand bushels of corn. He does not start with what he doesn’t have. He starts by sowing seed in the field, because the corn he wants will grow from the seed he plants.

When we face a lack of harvest in some area of life, instead of first trying to deal with the lack, consider first planting the seed. If, for example, we were lacking friendship would it help to lament the fact of being alone? It would be much better to try planting a seed of a smile or a helping hand.

What is the seed that we plant? Jesus said that many of his parables involving sowing and reaping were told to show us what the Kingdom of God is like. The most famous of his parables involving sowing and reaping is the Parable of the Sower in which Jesus identifies the seed as being the word of God. This is usually interpreted as meaning either the Bible or the Gospel but, if we take account of our Bible reading tonight (John 12. 20 - 26) where Jesus identifies himself as the seed, we can see that this also makes sense of the Parable of the Sower too, as John 1 tells us that Jesus is the Word of God. On this basis God the Father is the farmer who sows Jesus, his Son, into the world as the seed which is buried before bringing into being the Kingdom of God. So what is sown is life; the life of Jesus.

The great American writer Frederick Buechner has written about this focus on the life of Jesus. He notes that when Jesus says, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life," “he does not say the church is the way”: “He does not say his teachings are the way, or what people for centuries have taught about him. He does not say religion is the way, not even the religion that bears his name. He says he himself is the way. And he says that the truth is not words, neither his words nor anyone else's words. It is the truth of being truly human as he was truly human and thus at the same time truly God's. And the life we are dazzled by in him, haunted by in him, nourished by in him is a life so full of aliveness and light that not even the darkness of death could prevail against it.”

Jesus lived a life of generosity by living life for others and, ultimately, by dying for others. Jesus offered himself, his life, to come alive in hundreds and then in thousands and then in millions of others. His words were a prophecy in His death his life “will burst forth, and grow up, and multiply itself in the great spiritual harvest of the world.” “The history of all that is best, and truest, and noblest in the life of eighteen centuries comes to us as the fulfilment. Hearts hardened, sinful, dead, that have been led to think of His death, and in thoughts of it have felt germs of life springing up and bursting the husks of their former prison, and growing up into living powers which have changed their whole being” (Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers). But first he had to die and if we, his followers, are going to pass on his life then we too will have to learn the pattern of life through death. The Jesus way is what we are called to emulate. That is what we are to plant, the life of Jesus in the world, because it is what God the Father originally planted in order to bring the Kingdom of God into being.

Sowing seeds of God in the world is not primarily about teachings or words, instead it is primarily about living life the Jesus way - the truth of being truly human as Jesus was truly human and thus at the same time truly God's. Think of it like this, if God the Father gave for a specific harvest by sowing Jesus into our world, who are we to do any different. Jesus said in John 5:19 “the Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He sees the Father do; for whatever He does, the Son also does in like manner.” We can do no better than Jesus. He did as He saw the Father do, and we should now do the same. (

So, the seed that we plant is our self; our life lived the Jesus way. Jesus lived a life of self-sacrifice, of service, and of love. That is what we should seek to sow, as generously as possible, through our lives. Jesus came to give a new view of life. We look on glory as conquest, the acquisition of power, the right to rule. He looked on it as a cross. He taught us three amazing paradoxes: that only by death comes life; that only by spending life do we retain it; that only by service comes greatness. And the extraordinary thing is that when we come to think of it, Christ’s paradoxes are nothing other than the truth of common sense; the truth of the natural cycle of seedtime and harvest.

Those who were at tonight's Watchnight Service at St John's Seven Kings took the seeds they were given as they arrived in order to reflect on them as we prayed, then they took them home to plant as a reminder that their life is to be a seed planted and grown by God: Fruitful God, bring growth to the seeds we sow that we may be a haven to those we seek to serve. Faithful God, take our mustard seeds of faith and move away mountains that our work may grow. Amen


Tears for Fears - Sowing The Seeds Of Love.

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