One of the benefits of the
COVID-19 pandemic has been my entrance into the realm of gardening. With the help of others, we constructed a raised bed. Again with the help of others, I have learned how to prepare the soil and plant the seeds. Above all, I have learned that between the preparation of the soil and the planting of the seeds, there is a necessary time of waiting. Since I grew up in the city, I had very little experience of how things grow or the power of sun, water and soil. During the first season of growing last summer, I used to go out every day and see what might’ve popped up out of the soil. A friend of mine gave me a book that taught me how long it takes for each seed to grow and what my expectation of waiting would be. That helped me be a little bit more patient, even though that’s not one of my greatest virtues.
Our Gospel for the 11th Sunday in Ordinary Time compares the kingdom of God to the process of planting and growing and harvesting. I know a little bit more about that now than I did several months ago, but I am in awe of the farmers who prepare the land and harvest the crops. I know that many of them don’t make enough money to make farming a full-time job, but I thank them for the patience and work they do to bring us the food that we need. I pray for farmers that they might learn from the lesson of the work that they do of how close they are to the kingdom of God. And I pray that they can take the lessons that they learned from the earth and bring them to the rest of us who are not as connected with the earth.
The work in the kingdom of God looks very much like farming. Some of us spend our lives preparing the soil for others to plant the seeds of faith. Some of us fertilize those planted seeds of faith by our words of wisdom or the examples of our lives. For those of us who are impatient, we can learn a lesson of trust for those who are planting the seeds. We can do our part to plant and prepare and fertilize, but we do not have full control of what happens to the seed once it enters the ground. The life that God has instilled in creation has a rhythm about it that leads to life. But because of some of the choices we have made about how we treat the resources of the earth, sometimes that rhythm of life is interrupted or warped in the wrong direction.
I just harvested some carrots that were the weirdest carrots I’ve ever seen. Something happened underground that twisted them in odd shapes. They were still edible and delicious, but they didn’t look like the well manicured carrots I find in the grocery store. As I looked at those carrots and the other oddly shaped vegetables that come out of the earth, it was a great lesson about the seeds of faith planted and what comes up from those seeds. Thank God we are not all alike, but sadly some of us are valued more than others. Some of you might have a similar reaction to people who strike you as odd, as I did to the oddly shaped carrots. At first glance there is a surprise as our expectations are not met. Sadly we follow that with a judgment about the person’s worth. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could assume the interior goodness, no matter what the exterior looks like?
As you go about your work in the kingdom of God this week, pray for trust in God. We are given specific tasks along the way of nurturing faith. Trust the rhythm and life that God has put into all of creation and do your part to value every single step along the way. Trust that God will bring to completion the good work that we are doing.
Father Wester is pastor of All Saints Parish in St. Peters.