Mark 4:26-29 | Setting the Atmosphere

With everything I’ve said about parables, I am now, by virtue of this series, required to unpack them and pull out some kind of meaning from them. So what I will do is simply unpack what they’re saying to me. Before you read this, go back to the parable and wonder what it’s saying to you. What do you hear?

Here’s what I hear:Growing healthy food

This brief parable says of the growing seed “…he [the farmer] does not know how”. I’m not a farmer. I’m not a gardener. This is a realm about which I know little to nothing. But one thing I do know is this: the gardner does not make anything grow. All the gardener does is set up an atmosphere where the greatest growth is possible. But when it comes down to it, the fact that seeds sprout and grow is a miracle every time it happens. Yes, science continues to explain more and more of how these things work, but in the end, we don’t really know why they work the way they work. Why water? Why sun? Why oxygen? Why soil? Why not thin air? Why not toothpaste? Why not something I can control. When it comes to growth, all we can do is set an atmosphere, and it is by the work- the grace- of God that anything grows. We do not get to control the results.

When I think about my own life and ministry, this is a sobering lesson. I’m a person of great vision. I see a preferred future in many areas, both personally and vocationally, and I want to make those preferred futures happen. I get impatient. I can even get controlling to the point where I think something might be a failure if it doesn’t look like what was in my head.  I’m getting better. But when I, for example, preach a sermon, there are often specific results I’m looking to get, and I’m hoping to get them when I want to get them. But it doesn’t work that way. All I can do is till the soil, scatter the seed, scatter in a place where it will get optimum light, and water it the best I can with the resources I have. The God will do what God does. It is in God’s time, at God’s pace, and in God’s vision that those seeds will sprout. Not mine.

So… I scatter seed. Tomorrow I will get up and see if anything has sprouted. If it hasn’t, I will water it, go to bed and get up in the morning and check again. This is the rhythm of spiritual formation in our lives. Scatter seeds in good soil, water them, and wait full of faith that even in the darkness of the soil, God is working.