Summary: The kingdom of God is mystery. Whether we are asleep or awake, whether its seed seems small or large, it will generate life that is abundant and rich.
A number of years ago at the prodding of a neighbor, who was also a church elder, my wife and I ventured into the mystical world of gardening. A section of our yard had once been a rose garden that one minister had lovingly cared for and another pulled up, so that it was bare when we arrived. The neighbor elder brought over his gas-powered plow and helped me prepare the soil for planting. With his tips and guidance from a book, we commenced to plant our seeds – seeds for cucumbers, for squash, for zucchini, green beans, lima beans, bell peppers, corn, tomatoes, cantaloupe, and pumpkin squash. We were ambitious for a novice couple.
Gardening, we learned, gives one a different outlook on things. For example, I no longer saw squirrels as cute little critters, but rather invaders raiding my corn. But more than learning the devious ways of squirrels, we experienced the awe of watching a garden come into being out of the barren ground. Gardening truly is mystery. You hide little seeds under the dirt, pour a little water on top, and nothing happens. The ground is as barren as it ever looked. You go out the next day and it looks the same, and again the next day and still the same result, so that your anticipation begins to decline. But then the morning comes when you step outside and the mystery appears – little green sprouts have begun. Your seeds have actually become live plants. And they keep growing day by day until the next wonder takes place. They begin to flower and the first tiny signs of fruit appear.
It is exciting to watch the marvelous fruit develop each day, until the time of harvest comes and you pick your first vegetable…and then another vegetable, and then another, and then another until you wonder how much produce can come from such a small garden. There isn’t a one-day harvest in which you take all that a plant produces. It keeps producing when you think there is nothing left. The zucchini plants were the worse! You pick all the fruit you can find only to come back the next morning and find an enormous zucchini the size of your arm. The pumpkin squash plants were downright eerie. We discovered that they were really vines that developed elephant ear size leaves and which crept throughout the garden bearing fruit that had the texture of a pumpkin and the shape of a large summer squash. And the plants wouldn’t stop producing! We ate, we gave to neighbors, we froze, we threw in the woods, and still new produce would await us the next day. The next year we grew a smaller garden.
That first garden is what the kingdom of God is like, so Jesus tells us. 26 He also said, “This is what the kingdom of God is like. A man scatters seed on the ground. 27 Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how. 28 All by itself the soil produces grain—first the stalk, then the head, then the full kernel in the head. 29 As soon as the grain is ripe, he puts the sickle to it, because the harvest has come.”