A beautiful princess was going out for a walk when she met a talking frog.
“I’m not really a frog”, says the frog. “I’ve been turned into a frog by the wicked witch. Really I’m the incredibly handsome son of the local farmer. All I need is a kiss from a beautiful young woman like you and I’ll turn back into the handsome farmer and we’ll get married and live happily ever after.”
“Really”, says the young woman, picking up the frog and putting it in her pocket, “the way things are with farming, I’ll settle for a talking frog.”
In case you hadn’t noticed, it’s Harvest Festival, and I want to think about seeds this morning.
We heard Jesus telling a story about someone scattering seeds. He was speaking to a small group of Galilean fishermen, and they must have wondered how they could ever really make an impact on the world. When Mark and Matthew and Luke first told the story of the seeds being scattered, they were writing to small persecuted churches trying to survive the might of an often hostile Roman Empire in the 80s and 90s, about fifty or sixty years after Jesus died.
In that situation of persecution, remembering the point of Easter, which is that however bleak things look, never underestimate what God can do, would have been important to those hearing this story, and so the seeds are not just seeds, but each seed is a reminder of the future potential that God knows.
George Bernard Shaw played the “What If” game shortly before he died. “Mr. Shaw,” asked a reporter, “if you could live your life over again, and be anybody you’ve know, or any person from history, who would you be?”
“I would choose,” replied Shaw “to be the man George Bernard Shaw could have been, but never was.”
In God, we have a potential, and there is always time to find better soil to help the seeds within us grow more.
16-year old Eliza married the 20-year old tailor working in her father’s shop. He had never been to school. Others might have written his education off as a lost cause, but Eliza didn’t. She taught him to read, write, and spell. It wasn’t easy, but he proved to be a fast learner. In fact, he learned so well that years later he, Andrew Johnson, was elected 17th President of the United States.
Seeds of potential are all around us. Woe betide anyone who underestimates what God can do.
We all know that on a practical level, every seed has within it enormous potential. A seed can bear fruit 30x, 60x, 100x. Each rice seed, each mustard seed, each ear of corn, each pumpkin seed, tiny and inert as it seems, has within it the potential to become a plant that provides an abundant harvest. We sometimes think of our partners through Commitment for Life in Israel and Palestine. Even such a desperate place has the potential to be peaceful and productive. Each child born in those lands has within them the potential to be a loving and peaceful adult.
Like Jesus’ hearers, we live in an often harsh and brutal world. The horrific events in Syria could lead us to despair about human nature, the good seeming to be trampled mercilessly underfoot; but Jesus says, keep sowing, keep sowing the seeds of hope and peace and love and justice in the world. Yes some seeds will be trampled and choked, sometimes our seeds of love and hope just seems to be trampled underfoot by brutal regimes, blown away by callous terrorists, or simply withered and scorched by the selfish indifference of so called respectable people.
But keep on sowing! Trust the seed of God’s love. Believe in the Harvest!
American artist James Whistler, not best known for his modesty, was once advised that a shipment of blank canvases he had ordered had been lost in the post. When asked if the canvases were of any great value, Whistler remarked, “not yet, not yet.”
I’m told that the composer Irving Berlin only had two years of formal schooling, and never learned how to read music. When he composed his songs, he would hum the melody and a musical secretary would write down the notes. He became one of the greatest songwriters of the twentieth century.
God’s potential is everywhere. We sow seeds, we also seek to nurture and care for the fragile seeds of love and hope sown by ourselves and others. For seeds to reach their potential, they need the right conditions to thrive and flourish. In this parable of the sower, the seeds that were not planted in the right conditions, or nurtured and tended, withered and perished. Life, particularly in its early stages, is fragile. Plants need the right care and attention to bear fruit. Babies need love and nurture to grow. Farmers around Britain need our support as they grow and produce our food, but so do farmers around the world, all competing in a global market, need our support.
Let us do what we can to provide good soil, a good growing environment, of love, peace and justice, that seeds may grow. There are many ways in which we can try to do our bit to help the seeds grow:
make ethical choices when we go shopping, both for goods produced in the UK and abroad;
support the foodbank, which is trying to sow seeds of God’s potential in our own community;
campaign against systems of international trade which are biased to the rich;
above all, we can pray, and flowing from our prayers, sow many small acts of love and peace and justice.
These are the seeds of the Spirit which can be nurtured to produce the great harvest of God’s Kingdom.
May this harvest festival be for all of us, a time of new planting and new hope.
Oscar Romero, Archbishop of El Salvador, martyred in 1980 said that:
One person plants a seed in the soil. Another waters it.
We plant seeds that one day will grow.
We water seeds already planted knowing that they hold future promise.
We lay foundations that will need further development.
(what we do) may be incomplete, but is a beginning,
a step along the way, an opportunity for God’s grace to enter and do the rest.
We may never see the end results,
but that is the difference between the Master Builder and the worker.
We are workers, not master builders;
ministers, not messiahs.
We are prophets of a future not our own.
So let us sow the seed
and trust God for the Harvest!
I end with a meditation:
Lord, help me to sow,
good seeds everyday
seeds of faith and trust
as I travel life’s pathway.
Help me to walk upright,
on the narrow road
keep me from following
after that which will corrode.
Lord, help me to sow,
seeds of love and grace
so the things of this world
my heart won’t embrace.
Help me to be wise,
keep my path holy
so that I will not join
others in their folly.
Lord, Help me to see,
there are no shortcuts
for with You there are no
if’s, and’s or but’s!