I think Jesus was talking about zucchini. I don’t know of a more fool-proof garden vegetable. Drop the seeds in the ground. Walk away. Turn around and come back and you will have more zucchini growing than you will ever want to see again.
Continuing the theme of sowing seed found at the beginning of Mark 4, this week’s text, Mark 4:26-34 offers two little parables about growing seeds which, contrary to the images of the parable of the sower, teach us that God’s kingdom is as fool-proof and inexorable as zucchini.
These little stories are here to reassure in those moments when we begin to doubt the success of what God is doing in the world, or begin to imagine that His work depends on our efforts, producing only despair and hopelessness.
The “of itself” (automatae in Greek, i.e., automatic) production of growth by the earth in verse 28 is our reminder that, even in labor-intensive endeavors like farming, the results do not ultimately depend on us, but on God.
Likewise, the size of the results in spiritual work is not correlated to the quantity of sacrafice put in. In the parable of the mustard seed, great things sprout from tiny beginnings.
I’m finding these thoughts a great comfort for the long-time pastor of a smaller congregation. And I’m finding it true as I think how so many of the good things that have happened here in people’s lives have not come from my direct efforts, but have “sprung up” while I was focused elsewhere. Likewise, tiny seeds like a couple member’s heart for the homeless have grown into larger ministries like the Egan Warming Center through which we’ve been able to give a warm place to sleep to several hundred people over the last few years. “The birds of the air will rest in its shade.”
And, as it says in verses 33 and 34, all that God has done in and through the community of our church may not be apparent to those who will not hear, but it’s clear and plain to those willing to hear and understand. Thanks be to God for working mysteriously and wonderfully through our small gathering.