The readings for today include two of Jesus’ parables about sowing
and reaping. Since I grew up on a farm and do agricultural research,
these stories are of great interest to me. They illustrate the life
of a farmer, but they aren’t about farmers. Jesus used examples of
everyday life so all of us could understand something much more complex than
growing food. Everyone knows that seeds need to be buried in
the ground in order to grow. That is how we need to understand our
lives in order to grow. We need to die to this world in order to preserve
it for eternal life.
The challenge of the lessons for today is that for us to die to this world
and still live in it means that we are called to be unselfish and to rid
ourselves of our self-centeredness. In other words, we are not to live
for ourselves, but for others. We are to sow the seeds of graciousness
generously so that we may reap the fruit of the spirit for those in need.
We are to do what God commands cheerfully, steadfastly, and without fear.
And if we do that, God will bless us and give us everything we need.
But that is not easy to do.
In reflecting on this challenge, I think about an old hymn I learned at an
interfaith retreat for church leaders in agricultural communities a few years
ago. It was taught to us by a Methodist pastor who said he learned
it from a group of old farmers in a community that learned to sacrifice for
each other. Here is some of what I remember: It was sung to an
early American spiritual tune.
The seeds that I’ve sown in the spring time with weeping
And watered with tears and with dew from on high
Another will shout at the harvest time reaping
And gather my grain in the sweet by and by.
By and by, by and by,
By and by, by and by,
The tears of the sower and the songs of the reaper
Shall mingle together in joy by and by.
Then crowns of victory,
And palms of glory,
I shall wear.
The pastor of that church said that whenever the members of the congregation
got to arguing about things like expanding the ministry or the church budget,
someone would start singing that song and they would all resolve their differences.
I think those old farmers understood what Jesus was telling them in the parables
about seeds. It’s not about getting what we deserve for our hard work
on this earth; it is about doing what needs to be done for the kingdom.
I think it means that we have to give this life all we’ve got for the good
of the community, trusting that there will always be enough for us.
Jesus promises us honor and glory if we trust and follow him as servants