The Earth Produces of Itself
Text: Mark 4: 26-34
You have probably heard the story of Jack. He lived with his mother on a run down farm. Things weren’t going so well and to make matters worse their cow had stopped giving milk. Jack was told to go and trade the cow in for something new. Something that would help the farm out.
To make a long story short, Jack returns with three beans. They are magical he has been told. His mother, is not impressed and throws them out the window. Scattering them on the ground. Fast forward to the next morning and there is a giant beanstalk in the yard. We all know how the rest of the story goes.
As whimsical as the story of Jack and Beanstalk is, it does highlight how when seeds are scattered they can find fertile ground.
Our two parables today are very similar. They both speak to God’s kingdom. The first, if we are being honest, is fairly straightforward. I dare say it borders on being a little boring in its deliver. That is compared to the second parable with the mustard seed. Which tells us that from the tiniest seeds can come the largest of trees. A remarkable reminder of the power of God’s kingdom.
However, it is a sentence found in the first parable that I want to focus our attention on. It is a small sentence and given everything else that is going on we may miss its significance. In the Good News Translation which we heard this morning it reads, “The soil itself makes the plants to grow and bear fruit.” The NRSV translates it as, “The earth produces of itself.”
The earth produces of itself.
Oh sure, we need to actually scatter a seed. The type of soil will make a difference. It helps if the seed gets water and sunlight. We can control some of those things, but the earth produces of itself. Long before we started planting things in the ground the earth was doing it of itself. Take a hike through the Northumberland Hills and you will see the earth does indeed produce of itself.
We aren’t needed.
What I am about to say may seem contrary to what we think we need to do. It may even run contrary to other passages in the scripture. Specifically, those times when Jesus says, “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour.” (Matthew 25:13)
So here it is. You can take a break. The earth produces of itself. It’s okay to rest. With the summer coming, a time in our culture that is associated with rest and leisure, it is okay to rest.
This isn’t a pass to stop doing the work of the kingdom all together. Rather, an indication that it is okay to rest. To allow the seeds you have scattered to begin to do their work. It is good news, it means we should never become so reliant on our own energy and effort. We need to trust more in God and less in ourselves.
We live in a culture that glorifies the worker. Our worth is measured by our productivity. We value our protestant work ethic. It’s a badge of pride that we cling to. As if we are only measured by what we produce. Our value tied to what we offer society.
Ever meet someone new in a social setting. Invariably one of the early ice-breaker questions is, ‘what do you do for a living?’ As if our job defines our worth or even worse our identity. I often wonder if we are addicted to work and keeping busy. Do we find value in the doing of things or in the results of our efforts?
Perhaps another way to put it is, what are we called to do versus what can we do? We can do it all, but should we? Is that healthy and who does it really benefit?
Karoline Lewis writes, “Once we start to think that by our own reason and strength, by our own planning and programming, by our own ministerial labors and homiletical brilliance that the Kingdom of God will reach its fullest fruition, we have forgotten that we are talking about the Kingdom of God.” (reference).
The kingdom of God will take root. It will grow on its own, you may not even notice it happening until one day you see a beanstalk in your front yard. Amen.