“Nurturing the Seed of Life”

Mark 4: 26-34

Thomas Merton, a Trappist monk who lived in seclusion wrote this which later ended up in a book entitled He Is Risen

So we are called not only to believe that Christ once rose from the dead, thereby proving that he was God; we are called to experience the Resurrection in our own lives by entering into this dynamic movement, by following Christ who lives in us. This life, this dynamism, is expressed by the power of love and of encounter: Christ lives in us if we love one another. And our love means involvement in one another’s history.”

Christ lives in us if we love one another. And our love means involvement in one another’s history.”

In our Gospel reading this morning, Jesus gives two seed parables. The first is of a farmer who plants his garden then waits for the harvest. The second is of the tiny mustard seed that grows into a great bush that offers life and safety to the that birds call it home. These seeds say a lot about what it is to live a Christian life.

Seeds are planted by farmers or gardeners, squirrels, birds… all sorts of ways. Some seeds spread like the dandelion, blowing in the wind. Some others hitch rides on passing animals. Other seeds lie dormant in the ground for months at a time, waiting for the right conditions to grow in. Some seeds grow into great big trees while others grow into fragile flowers. Some seeds grow into fruits and vegetables that offer us nourishment. Others grow into poisonous plants that threaten our lives.

Every seed is different. Every seed serves its own purpose. But every seed has the same goal. To grow and blossom so that it can produce more seeds.

It was 14 years ago that I graduated from high school outside Bridgewater. I was preparing for studies at Acadia University. My major? Computer science. I was a confident young man who was ready to take on the world. Only I had no clue as to what to expect. I certainly wasn’t expecting this, that’s for sure! Church back then was the furthest thing from my mind. It had been about 6 years since I last attended church, and it would be about another 7 before I would again.

Everyone one of us has a seed. Mine was planted some 20 years ago in that rural Sunday school. Learning the stories of Jesus. It wasn’t until I had left Acadia and was working in Ottawa that I went back to church. And there my dormant seed found the ideal conditions in which it could begin to grow.

That seed, planted in us by the Holy Spirit, is Jesus Christ. Thomas Merton told us that it is Christ who lives in and through us. But the Christ within us needs to be nurtured, so that we can grow to listen to what Christ is forming us to be. To understand what it means for us to be Christian, living out our life with Christ.

We all live out our Christian life differently partly because we are all at different stages of growth. Some of us are just newly planted, just starting to grow. Others have matured and blossomed, spreading our seed, creating new plants.

And it is in our development as Christians where the church plays a critical role in how well our seeds grow. A seed needs optimal conditions in order to grow to its full potential. If I took a seed and planted it in a pot, maybe gave it some water, it might start to sprout. If I then look at that sprout and say “Ah there we go, its fine now” and walk away, that plant will wither and die. I haven’t given the seed what it needs to grow into a full plant. And if you knew about my black thumb, you’d be surprised it made it that far.

That’s why the church is so important. We all have the gifts to make a garden grow.

When someone recognizes that Christ lives inside them, we can help them grow and develop their faith. And we can do that in many ways. Some of us are planters, we can introduce people to Jesus Christ, planting the seed. Others of us are waterers, we feed the seed through teaching about Jesus. Through Sunday School or Bible studies, we help people learn who Jesus is. Others bring sunshine, offering warmth through hospitality, through sharing and friendship, making people feel at home. Some of us are pruners, we help guide and mold as people explore what Christ means to them, and how they express their faith. Still others are blankets, offering safety. Being with those who are hurting, offering comfort in times of trouble or mourning.

No one person can offer all of these gifts. It takes a community to nurture a life of faith, the seed that lives in us. Here, together as a community, people can come to be in optimal conditions for growth. To learn about Christ, to explore what it means to be Christian, and how one can live out their own Christian calling. All within the safety of the church community.

And in that community, we become part of the family. One of the gardeners offering our own skills in nurturing others. As Thomas Merton put it, to be “involved in one another’s history.” To care for one another using our gifts. Just because you nurture me doesn’t mean that I cannot nurture you.

There was an article in a journal, Christian History that spoke about how early Christians lived longer and healthier lives than those around them. The reason? They took care of one another. They nursed one another in illness. They shared of what they had with those who lacked food or shelter. They shared the teachings of Jesus. The community rallied together, to care for one another in all circumstances. To move beyond being just a collection of different people, into being a loving family.

When we lived in Ottawa, I was working a desk job that I expected I would be in. But I wasn’t happy. I felt that I was not living up to my potential. It was when I went to church that I found the right conditions for growing that seed that I felt deep down inside me. The people in the church used their many varied gifts to help me develop my own sense of faith, and how I was going to live that faith. When I realized Christ living in me, that’s when I was open to his call in my life. In gardening terms you might say I was transplanted from a dry, neglected pot into one full of rich soil where expert gardeners helped me to grow. Each with their own skills in nurturing me in understanding the Christ within. They are part of my family. And they continue to support and care for my family even across the miles.

Did I expect that growing in my faith would lead to this? No! But this is where I feel I am called. We all have our own callings in life. We don’t all have to be preachers. All of us can live out our commitment to Jesus Christ in whatever we do. Just as all seeds are different in what they produce, we too are all different in our own lives as we live outwardly what Christ living in us leads us to do. The joy of being in the church is when we see people’s lives transformed when they are experiencing and using their own God given gifts.

We are all part of God’s garden. Growing, blossoming in our own understanding of our relationship to Christ. But we also have roles to play in the nurturing of others. To make the garden as fruitful and productive as we can.

Think about this for a moment: It is the greatest gardens that get the most visitors. What is one of the most popular attractions in Halifax? The Public Gardens, a beautiful oasis in the midst of the city. People come from all over to see it, and think about the support it received after Hurricane Juan.

The excitement of living out our calling as Christians, acknowledging the Christ living in ourselves, and collectively in our community makes the church a beacon in the world around it. As we blossom and grow, the people around us will see our lives renewed, and want to be part of our family.

We can then expand the garden, reach out to even more people. By living out our faith in the world around us, by being excited about our faith, the church can do its work as preparing God’s harvest. The seeds can grow and bear fruit to all who enter. As people look for hope and love, the church that blooms is the church that can nurture those who seek Christ in their own lives. Something that we can ponder and think about is

How might we be the best gardeners we can be for the people of God?