Sometimes, despite our best efforts, traces of cynicism or discouragement set in. Nothing seems to be happening. Critics seem to be everywhere. The church is going nowhere, and we can’t seem to get it started again. Where do we turn for sustenance? For encouragement?
Jesus once told a parable—about a seed that grows secretly. I love this parable.
The kingdom of God is as if someone would scatter seed on the ground, and would sleep and rise night and day, and the seed would sprout and grow, he does not know how. (Mark 4:26-27)
This may be my favorite parable. I like to imagine a setting in which Jesus told this particular story.
The disciples are a dejected and discouraged crew. They are sitting with Jesus and asking doleful questions: “Teacher, is any of this really making any difference? Will anything come of all that we are doing in these days? We don’t see any results.” In contemporary expression, they are asking, “Will there be any fruit from all of this?”
I am reminded of a bit of graffiti I saw once, scrawled on a wall: “Will it matter that I was?” In a sense, that is the question addressed to Jesus here by his closest followers: “Will it matter that we were?”
And Jesus says simply, “Listen, let me tell you a story. The kingdom is as if you would scatter seed on the ground. The seed sprouts and grows. And you do not know how it happens.” Here is solid encouragement!
We remain faithful to the task. We press on toward the upward call. We continue to take the higher ground. We tell the story—a story that reflects what God is saying and what God wants life to be like. And the fruit comes. Maybe not quickly. Maybe not in an immediately visible way. Maybe not even in our lifetime. But it comes.
The odds are always on God’s side. Once God calls, we never despair. We know that this Faith position is not always clear or obvious. But the seeds we plant will grow. We may not know how or exactly when, but they grow.
One of my strongest convictions comes from an old liturgy of the church: “Dearly beloved, the church is of God and shall be preserved until the end of time.” Yes! And the church WILL make a difference. Thanks be to God.
Tuesday, April 29, 2014