26 He also said, “This is what the kingdom of God is like. A man scatters seed on the ground. 27 Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how. 28 All by itself the soil produces grain—first the stalk, then the head, then the full kernel in the head. 29 As soon as the grain is ripe, he puts the sickle to it, because the harvest has come.”
from Mark 4
This was half of the Scripture for today’s sermon—understandably and as usual the lesser half, sermon-wise. (The mustard seed story comes next, and it’s flashier.) I wandered off here, though…partly because Eugene Peterson’s version starts thus: “God’s kingdom is like seed thrown on a field by a man who then goes to bed and forgets about it.”
Hang on a minute… lemme get this straight…
God’s proper world is seed scattered like the inland sea oats in my front yard. Little bits laying around…thick on the ground, perhaps, but nothing especially deliberate about it.
Jesus doesn’t say the seeds were planted: no holes dug and buried. Maybe in this story the land has been tilled, the dirt enriched—but maybe not, since it’s just “ground.” Not “field.” Seeds scattered on unspecific ground.
Next, Jesus implies the man ignores the seed-scattered dirt. More accurately, Jesus says the man has nothing to do with what comes next. Waking, sleeping, whatever! Well, maybe there’s some tending. Maybe the dirt is watered and weeded—then again, maybe not. Jesus doesn’t mention any. It doesn’t matter: the seeds sprout, grow, bear grain. The template of what will happen is built into the seed, not the man.
The kingdom of God is scattered liberally everywhere, built into itself, ready to unfold because that’s all it can do.
The kingdom of God is not the man, and does not rely on the man.
Perhaps we can say that the man is the reason the kingdom gets going, and the man certainly benefits at the harvest—this grain isn’t left to wild things. But the man isn’t generating the kingdom of God.
I find my poet-self speculating on this man. Is this man standing for we humans? Is the man standing for God, since after all it’s God’s kingdom we’re talking about here? But I want to be careful and not push this story harder than it can stand. I’m all about metaphor, but I’ve also seen the damage done when metaphor is shoved too far. In the end, I don’t think anyone is interested in the man.
We’re interested in the grain sprouting everywhere, ready to be baked into the bread of life.
I don’t think of myself as one who is tied into world affairs. I am allergic to morals drawn in wide-tipped black Sharpie, or carved on a 2’x4′ to hit people with. But during these sad, heavy days that are quickly piling on top of each other, I find comfort that God’s vision for our world is in the kingdom-seeds scattered everywhere on the ground. God’s will doesn’t depend on my will, or others’ will. In the conditions where they are, God’s seeds will still sprout, unfold, grow into the light and bear nourishment.
Hallelujah/All y’all praise our God!