My dear friends in Christ,
Jesus said to his disciples in today’s gospel from Mark 4:26-34, “To what shall we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable can we use for it? It is like a mustard seed that, when it is sown in the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on the earth. But once it is sown, it springs up and become the largest of plants and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the sky can dwell in its shade.”
This gospel opens for us the possibility that the smallest, seemingly most insignificant things can become large in meaning, even the most significant of all. The tiny seed of faith may become the most important in our lives if we are attentive to the stirrings and imagination of God. God so often has an incredible sense of humor.
I loved gardening as a teen. I spent so many hours digging up the soil, planting flowers, seeding the lawn, trimming bushes and watering the grass from the sprinkling system that was filtered through the lake water on which we lived. I found much calm in the practice of cultivating, seeding, watering, transplanting and waiting for growth, color and blooms. I found in the act of gardening a patience that was transplanted in my focus at school and in my ideas of what I would become. The combination of living on a lake, learning to take care of the yard, smelling the freshwater lake environment and feeling the sunshine on my face led me to much reflection about how I wanted to live my life. The almost completive act of waiting for seeds to grow taught me more about God’s life within me than so many of the other activities in which I was involved.
There was an elderly couple that owned a greenhouse in the center of our small town near my parents’ grocery store. We bought all the flowers, seeds and shrubs from these kindly people. Somehow I could tell that that act of planting, seeding, watering and waiting had completely formed and transformed their lives. Their bodies were bent over from years of working on their knees from pulling weeds out of their flowers and lifting heavy palettes of geraniums or bags of fertilizer. After years of getting to know Mr. and Mrs. Yarborough, I grew to really enjoy my visits with them and their kindness to me. His bib overalls were always stained with black soil and sweat. His face was tanned from the sun and there was a tan line around his forehead from wearing a cap. Mrs. Yarborough was small in stature, her white hair lightly pulled back in a bun. Her flowered dress was covered with a blue denim apron and her smile covered her face so we would not notice how much she was in pain from her arthritis.
In my senior year in high school, the Yarborough’s approached my parents and asked them if I would consider buying their humble business. They knew that I understood at a young age what they had learned over the course of many years, that life takes time and patience. We learned that beauty and color were things to wait for from the earth and within our selves. My parents approached me about their request, but I did not accept only because I felt that there was a seed growing within my heart that was going to lead me into other places, well beyond the shoreline of our small lake. The small seed of kindness that I learned from the simple, elderly couple helped me have the patience to examine my own vocation and place among the wildflowers on earth.
I hope that we all understand our role in helping young seedlings grow and think about what is most important in life. Our children need us. We all need role models in no matter what careers or jobs that we think God has in store for us. I hope everyone will consider that what we do for others can become a mustard seed, leaving God to do the harvesting and the transplanting.
I am still grateful for the Yarborough’s example to me and their fidelity in their own vocations. I pray that my own vocation of cultivating the Word of God has bent my heart toward the Light. I pray that my own body and words may reflect a lifetime of wisdom from the smallest seeds of the earth.
(from our parish bulletin for Sunday June 14, 2015)