HOW DOES GOD’S GARDEN GROW? – Fourth Sunday after Pentecost, Proper 6, Year B; Eleventh Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B (RC)

June 16, 2024

Revised Common Lectionary
1 Samuel 15:34-16:13 or Ezekiel 17:22-24
Psalm 20 or Psalm 92:1-4, 12-15
2 Corinthians 5:6-10 (11-13) 14-17
Mark 4:26-34

Lectionary for Mass (RC)
Ezekiel 17:22-24
Psalm 92:2-3, 13-14, 15-16 (see 2a)
2 Corinthians 5:6-10
Mark 4:26-34

My mother loved to garden. In this she took after her Polish immigrant father. My grandfather not only tended his own yard but also leased the empty lot across the street to create a small farm. There he grew fruits and vegetables that my grandmother turned into delicious meals and canned goods for the winter. I was never very attracted to growing plants or tending a garden—but I’m far less patient than my mother or grandfather before me.

In the first parable that Jesus tells in today’s Gospel reading, he teaches listeners that the reign of God is a lot like my mother’s garden and my grandfather’s plot. Yes, of course, they did the planting and even the tending, but they didn’t make the plants sprout or bring forth the flowers, fruits, and vegetables.

The gardener and the farmer are models of hope. After they have performed their tasks, they walk away from the land and wait with patience and trust for the yield. So it is with those who commit themselves to the reign of God. Our witness, our service, and our advocacy for justice matter—but they are only one part of a larger story.

When we cast our lot with God’s dream for the world, we may see just a small seed, but as Jesus teaches in today’s second parable, that seed will become “the greatest of all shrubs” (Mk 4:32), with strong branches for nesting. Jesus calls us to remember that seed as we hunger and thirst for the coming of God’s reign and participate actively in works of compassion and justice that point to it. We are to wait in joyful hope, patiently trusting in God to bring about the seed’s growth and the fulfillment of God’s promises.

In 1979 Bishop Kenneth Untener composed a reflection that beautifully expresses the spirit of today’s Gospel reading:

“It helps, now and then, to step back and take a long view. The kingdom is not only beyond our efforts; it is even beyond our vision. We accomplish in our lifetime only a tiny fraction of the magnificent enterprise that is God’s work. Nothing we do is complete, which is a way of saying that the Kingdom always lies beyond us. . . . We plant the seeds that one day will grow. We water seeds already planted, knowing that they hold future promise. We lay foundations that will need further development. We provide yeast that produces far beyond our capabilities. We cannot do everything, and there is a sense of liberation in realizing that. This enables us to do something, and to do it very well. It may be incomplete, but it is a beginning, a step along the way, an opportunity for the Lord’s grace to enter and do the rest. We may never see the end results, but that is the difference between the master builder and the worker.

“We are workers, not master builders; ministers, not messiahs. We are prophets of a future not our own.”

A Hymn for Today: “For the Fruit of All Creation”

British poet, hymn writer, and Methodist minister Fred Pratt Green, FHS (1903 – 2000), was one of the most prolific and respected creators of texts for congregational singing in English during the twentieth century. Pratt Green quotes directly from today’s Gospel reading in the first stanza of this hymn, which celebrates God’s work in the world while recognizing the imperative for humans to participate in doing God’s will. Listen here.

For the fruit of all creation, thanks be to God.
For the gifts to every nation, thanks be to God.
For the plowing, sowing, reaping,
silent growth while we are sleeping,
future needs in earth’s safe keeping,
thanks be to God.

In the just reward of labor, God’s will be done.
In the help we give our neighbor, God’s will be done.
In our worldwide task of caring
for the hungry and despairing,
in the harvest we are sharing,
God’s will be done.

For the harvests of the Spirit, thanks be to God.
For the good we all inherit, thanks be to God.
For the wonders that astound us,
for the truths that still confound us,
most of all that love has found us,
thanks be to God.

Text: Fred Pratt Green, 1970, alt. © Hope Publishing Company. Used by permission under OneLicense #A-729857.

Image Credit: Planting at Our Community Place, Harrisonburg, VA, April 2008

“Word and Song: A Lectionary Reflection” is written by the Executive Director of The Hymn Society, Rev. Dr. Mike McMahon. For his full bio, click here and scroll down to the “staff” section.

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