Monday’s Column: Neal At The Cross
In recent weeks, packets of seeds have been mailed to apparently random homes across the country. Dozens of folks received the seeds, which have Chinese labels but have not been confirmed as originating from China. A few days ago, the USDA confirmed that the seeds were harmless but still cautioned recipients not to plant them. The seed packets included mint, sage, cabbage, roses, and other plants. One working theory is that this was part of a “brushing scam,” where people receive unsolicited items from sellers who then post fake reviews (Joseph Wilkerson, msn.com, “Mysterious China seeds received by Americans identified by USDA”). But, given the current political climate, skepticism–and concern, suspicion, and even fear– abound!
One of the major projects Kathy has begun in our backyard is a “cottage garden.” You can research the origin and history of these gardens, which started in England perhaps as far back as the Medieval period. These gardens have a mix of flowers, herbs, and bushes, and the more elaborate of these gardens have trees, bees, and even livestock. Ours is simpler, with climbing roses on a trellis, boxwoods in the middle, herbs planted throughout, but included among the many packets of seeds planted was a mix called bee feed. It has been fun to see a variety of mysterious seeds appear, like California poppies, Chinese forget me not, Coreopsis, and Sweet Alyssum. We’re not sure where the tall fringed bluebells came from, but it’s incredible to see such an eclectic mix growing and thriving and demonstrating Genesis 1:11 before our eyes.
In the New Testament, Jesus teaches several parables involving seeds. In one, a man sows wheat seed in his field, then his enemy sows darnel, a weed resembling wheat. Only after they started growing could the two be differentiated. The landowner instructs his slaves to let them both grow up and separate them at harvest time (Mat. 13:24-30). This parable illustrates the lives of the righteous and unrighteous, whose destiny will be sorted out at the judgment (Jesus explains the parable in Mat. 13:36-43). It certainly can apply to true and false teachers (lawless stumbling blocks), who can seem similar but are also distinguishable to the discerning.
Jesus also teaches the parable of the mustard seed (Mat. 13:31-33), which shows God’s power to do great things through seemingly humble deeds attempted in true faith. Matthew, Mark, and Luke record the parable of the sower, the soils, and the seed. Luke 8:11 identifies the seed as the Word of God. The soils represent the different conditions of heart, three of which are futile and one of which is fertile. The sower is the one who spreads the word to people.
Then, there is the parable of the seed (Mark 4:26-29). A man casts seed on the soil, and then gets to behold the marvel of how it transforms from seed to sprout, the soil producing it from blade to head to mature grain in the head. Then, he harvests it. The power is not in the sower, who is not around (or, in the parable, awake) when the seed produces. The growth of the seed is a marvel even to the sower. Where is the power? In the seed!
There are certainly some malicious ideas and teaching out there in the world. Sometimes, even truth can be shared from improper motivation. But, God’s Word is a seed which can produce incredible things in a heart and life that is good and fruitful. Have you ever seen someone who seemed like a poor candidate to become a Christian, much less become a force for good in God’s Kingdom? How does that happen? We can talk about planters and waterers, but God causes the growth (1 Cor. 3:6). You may not be an eloquent, sophisticated Bible teacher or soul-winner. You may feel you are unskilled. But, when you share God’s Word with others, you will see the wonders of this mysterious process. It has been said that persuasion happens in the absence of the persuader, as the Word gets to work on a heart. The power is in the seed! Let’s be about planting it however, wherever, and to whomever we can, then witness the marvel of the seed producing in the recipients’ lives. It’s God’s plan! It works in mysterious ways!