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Planting, harvesting, the work of God’s kingdom

Published: November 13, 2020   

There is something mysterious about the kingdom of God. Jesus describes it this way: “It is as if a man were to scatter seed on the land and would sleep and rise night and day and the seed would sprout and grow, he knows not how.” (Mark 4:27) I’m fairly certain a seasoned farmer or a scientist could describe just how it happens, and we could install cameras to watch the emergence of the tiniest speck of green from the soil until it becomes a blade and then a bud or pod that opens. But that would be missing the point.

Jesus wants us to enter into the awe-inspiring reality that God works in ways that, to human logic, seem almost impossible. A seed has to die in order to bring life; and in spite of long experience, a farmer cannot accurately predict the exact moment that the seed becomes a viable plant. In the same way, the kingdom of God is unpredictable. It requires some dying (to selfishness, sin and false values), and some growth (in mercy and justice) and then it may blossom (to fullness of life).

God’s kingdom is a mystery, not in the sense of something that needs to be solved like a riddle. Rather, it is mysterious in that it exceeds our logical nature. It turns expectations upside down and, in the process, invites us to find God in Christ at the very center of this new reality. 

Paul wrote about this reversal of expectations: “Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles. … For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength. … God chose the foolish of the world to shame the wise, and God chose the weak of the world to shame the strong.” (1 Corinthians 1:22-23, 25, 27)

The kingdom of God becomes tangible in the person of Jesus, the Christ: born in a particular time and place, ministering among those who are in need of salvation (and aren’t we all?), dying on a cross and rising to new life. The good news of God’s kingdom is that while the cross is essential, it is never the final scene. 

Jesus suffered death because he proclaims that God’s love is at the ready even for those who are not deemed worthy. He suffered death because the sin he identifies in all of us cannot define any of us. He suffered death because he trusts in the Father’s will to turn suffering into rejoicing. 

God invites us each and every day to be saturated in this mystery of salvation, and to be so fully immersed in the kingdom of God that we cannot help but want to proclaim it to others. Yes, God chooses the foolish, the underestimated, the fragile and the broken. That means God chooses us to do some dying to self so that our true self, the image of God in which we are created, can rise to the surface. 

In his life, Jesus chose a rather rag-tag group of followers. Fishermen, tax collectors and zealots, some would have been quite adept at their trade, most would have been schooled in the local synagogue, and each would have his own personality. And don’t forget, there were also women from the region of Galilee who were called by Jesus and stayed with him through his public life. (Luke 8:1-3; 23:48-49, 55-56; Mark 15:40-41)

Jesus is still calling disciples, and he gives each of us the mission of proclaiming the kingdom. Whatever our economic or educational status, whatever our personality traits or gifts, we are being sent to plant seeds of the kingdom for the next generation and to harvest what has been planted by those who have gone before us. 

Catherine Upchurch is the general editor of the Little Rock Catholic Study Bible and contributes to several biblical publications. She writes from Fort Smith.

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