Ezekiel 17: 22-24; 2Corinthians 5: 6-10; Mark 4: 26-34
Anyone that has done any kind of gardening knows that there is a spiritual element to working with the earth, digging in, getting ones hands dirty, planting seeds, being one with creation. It is also pretty well known that this kind of work requires great patience, which we tend to not be very good at, trust, and faith. Once those seeds are placed in the ground, it is really out of our control; something else takes over and all we can do is wait and be patient. You know what it is like when kids have the chance to plant something…they come and check it everyday to see what has grown, they grow impatient, they want to dig into it, and we have to tell them, no, you have to take a step back. Be patient, trust, have faith. What is true of planting is true of our spiritual lives as well. We hear that in our readings this weekend and will many times over the next weeks about working with the earth; it is a common image in Scripture. Ezekiel knows that the people have grown impatient and he is going to remind them of the need for patience with God and that God operates on a different time. They knew of their greatness and see what they have become and want to be great again. Ezekiel tells them that if they trust, have faith, and be patient with God, they will be even greater than they were, but that it will take time to get there. He tells them that they will become one of the greatest of trees, the cedar, but the seeds need to be nurtured in order to grow and even should expect pain since growth is a painful process. Paul knows that full well, especially with the Corinthians, but relays one of his most well-known messages that we walk by faith and not by sight, that once the seeds are planted, we have to trust the Author of Life to do something with them and to grow them into something great. Paul does become impatient with the Corinthians, so he too needs to grow in patience with the people of Corinth. Of course, Jesus uses the image of planting more than anything throughout the Gospels and today we hear 2 parables. The first of the farmer, like the little kids, goes out each day checking on what has grown, waiting for something to sprout and grow. Then the parable of the mustard seed…the smallest of all seeds that grows into one of the largest of bushes where the birds live and life happens, but these things don’t just happen. Like gardening, it requires work on our parts in growing in this relationship and requires a whole lot of patience, trust, and faith. I want to close with a prayer by a Jesuit by the name Teilhard de Chardin who writes of that patient trust that is needed in the garden of our souls and with the Author of life. His prayer which is ours as well is this:
Above all, trust in the slow work of God.
We are quite naturally impatient in everything
to reach the end without delay.
We should like to skip the intermediate stages.
We are impatient of being on the way to something
unknown, something new.
And yet it is the law of all progress
that it is made by passing through
some stages of instability—
and that it may take a very long time.
And so I think it is with you;
your ideas mature gradually—let them grow,
let them shape themselves, without undue haste.
Don’t try to force them on,
as though you could be today what time
(that is to say, grace and circumstances
acting on your own good will)
will make of you tomorrow.
Only God could say what this new spirit
gradually forming within you will be.
Give our Lord the benefit of believing
that his hand is leading you,
and accept the anxiety of feeling yourself
in suspense and incomplete.
Today our prayer is for patience and trust in the slow work of God for we truly are a people that are called to walk by faith and not by sight.