Parson to Person: Jesus as a farmer
If Jesus hadn’t been a carpenter he could well have been an Iowa farmer. Agricultural themes appear throughout his teachings in the Gospels. There was a time, of course, when most people were engaged in agriculture. Even town folks at least had a garden. My “call” to ministry was shaped during long and solitary hours plowing corn from the seat of a Case D-C tractor. Not a few Christians have had experiences of God in the out of doors. Let me share with you today some thoughts that originate with Jesus the “farmer.”
“A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up.... Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop — a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown” (Matthew 13: 3-9).
Each spring I marvel at the amount of faith it takes to be a farmer, investing vast amount of cash to put seed into the ground. Though past performance is of course a predictor, there is no garantee about the year’s return. Rain was the big variable in 2012, with yields being all across the board, just as Jesus described in this parable. Whether planting seed or some other investment in life, it is a gamble. Never the less, it is good to remember that planting nothing is the only is the only decision with a garanteed result.
“The kingdom of Heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field. Though it is the smallest of all your seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and perch in its branches” (Matthew 13: 31-32).
A mustard seed isn’t the world’s smallest seed and we don’t intentionally plant it around here. But wild mustard is a common plant to see along Iowa road ditches. It is a pretty hardy plant with a substantial tap root which would make it hard to weed out if you happened to want it out of your field. Jesus’ point is that a little goes a long way in this business of faith. A little faith in our big God, over time is assured to grow into a sturdy faith, big enough to support you when you need it the most.
“This is what the kindom of Heaven is like. A man scatters seed on the ground. Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how. All by itself the soil produces grain - first the stalk, then the head, then the full kernel in the head. As soon as the grain is ripe, he puts the sickle to it, because the harvest has come” (Mark 4: 26-39).
Planting and harvesting are a kind of spiritual experience in that there is a part of the process over which we have no control. To participate in these things, be it a child sprinkling lettuce seed in a garden row or a farmer aided by his GPS planting a thousand acres of corn, those who plant are participants in the mystery of the life-giving nature of God.
In the breadbasket of the world, we are blessed to be firsthand witnesses to God’s plan to again and again create that which is good. And we are blessed by the regularity of a harvest which is generally better than we had dared hope.
Farmer or not, these lessons of Jesus are easy to apply every day: If you want to get something out of life first invest in it. We all need faith but it’s not how big our faith is that counts but how reliable God is to grow our faith. And we are never to old to be awed by the wonders of a wonderous God.