The Strength of a Seed – The Parable of the Sower

At this time of year, we enjoy the fruits of our gardens, fields and hedgerows; vegetables ripen, crops are harvested, and berries begin to show bright among the leaves. Much of this growth started with a few seeds in spring; the miracle of life coming from small dead-looking things. There is a league table of long-lived seeds. The winners so far are from the narrow-leafed Campion, buried by squirrels in the Siberian permafrost over 30,000 years ago. When those seeds finally germinated, they became healthy plants that flowered and produced seeds of their own.

The Bible contains many links between seeds and spiritual growth, and the Parable of the Sower is the most famous (Matthew 13). A person may hear or experience something of God which has the potential to germinate into a life of following Him, resulting in the fruit of others coming to know God too. But things can happen that snatch that seed away, destroying it before it has finished germinating, or choking its growth.

What about the knowledge of God that gets trampled, churned too deep in the mire of life to receive the warmth and light it needs to develop into faith? Buried seeds don’t always die, but they can lie dormant, remaining alive but inactive until the earth is turned over. The possibility of that moment of connecting with something divine, a scrap of knowledge, or snatch of conversation resulting in a changed life may seem infinitesimally small, but it’s not zero. The seed may be incredibly tough, just waiting for a chance to grow.

The Gospel narrative plays on the fact that it took a long time for the disciples to understand the full implications of Jesus’ teaching: a germination process that took many of them three or more years. They could have been discouraged, but Jesus was not. I don’t think it’s too much of a stretch to draw out of the Parable of the Sower, to include the observation that it can take a long time, sometimes decades, for people to work their way through the various barriers, sticking points, and phases of forgetfulness that may keep them from following through on their spiritual experience. When we finally receive – or are open to – the encouragement, challenge, or experience that helps our faith in Christ grow, we can experience the rich fruit of a transformed life.

Dr Ruth M Bancewicz,

Church Engagement Director at The Faraday Institute for Science and Religion in Cambridge.

The feature image for this post is “Marten van Valckenborch – Parable_of_the_sower“, Wikicommons (P.D.)

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