On a cold January morning last week, I walked out to Epiphany’s community garden plot at the far end of our parking lot. Though winter, I could easily imagine the growth that’s to come in the season ahead. What are the ways that you see Epiphany growing? What are the ways that you are being called to grow with us?
Something of the kingdom of heaven, the reign of God that Jesus was always talking about, is somehow connected to this process of growth—this mysterious process of becoming. “Jesus said, ‘With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable will we use for it? 31It is like a mustard seed, which, when sown upon the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth; 32yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes the greatest of all shrubs, and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade.’”(Mark 4:30-32)
The wondrous process of growth from a seed, to a sapling, to a tree, is fraught with many challenges. There is the sprout as it presses its way through the crack of the seed…the darkness of the moist and fertile soil that the sprout passes through…the moment when new growth rises above the surface of the earth toward the sun…only to be confronted by weeds that choke, harsh winds that blow, and critters that find it good to eat. This growth process is truly miraculous and incredible to watch happen.
It so happens that pain, when it goes unprocessed, can remain beneath the surface in the fallow fields of our lives. Untilled and untended, that messy manure does us no good. Our growth stunted, prevents us from fully becoming, as we continue these painful cycles from season to season – relationship to relationship. With the proper tools, though, not only can that crap be pulled up from beneath the ground, but when surfaced and exposed to light and air, it can fertilize the seeds of possibility that God plants within us.
Yes, the process of growth and formation can be painful and difficult. I can very much feel the powerful pressure of what I imagine the outer shell of a seed feels, as the hard exterior breaks open to allow freedom and new life to spring forth. God is at work in the process of seed germination, helping to make possible growth, and guiding us by the light of the Son to blossom and bear fruit.
These seeds of faith grow within us, in our individual souls, as the Spirit of God labors in us. These seeds of faith grow within our congregation, in the collective Body of Christ, of which we are all a part. These seeds of faith grow in the world in which we live, as we are called by our Creator God to prepare, plant, tend, and draw a harvest from the mission fields around us.
Yes, we have work to do, as laborers in the vineyard, scattering seed and tending to new life as it grows, but it is God that does the growing. It is God that we are dependent on. It is God that initiates the pressure that in turn enables new growth to spring forth, breaking through the hard exterior of the shell. It is God who brings forth the rains to nourish us. It is God who brings forth the Son to shine upon us and sustain us as we grow. I pray with confidence that God will continue to break open the seeds of all of our hearts and allow new growth to sprout in you and in our congregation. We may not know how it all works, the sprouting and growing, but we are called to participate, to tend the soil of our souls in prayer and worship and service, and to be transformed from the tiny seed to the mighty tree with deep roots and far reaching branches. Perhaps this is something of the Kingdom of Heaven that Jesus invites us to grow into.
Whether it is the Kingdom of Heaven that I see, ready and waiting to burst forth in beautifully explosive expressions of growth, I can not say for sure. But what I do know is that this growth process is sometimes painful, often messy, and always a lot of fun. It can be a lot of fun to watch happen, but it is even better when we participate in the process. So, what are the ways that you are being called to grow with us here at Epiphany?