Church of England Diocese of Manchester Kirklees Valley

2) b) 'Gardens' - Lent Reflections by Derek Akker - Week 2

There is Hope in Gardens!

(Not all seeds grow, not all plants thrive, but many do)

I made gardens and parks and planted all kinds of fruit trees in them. (Ecclesiastes 2:5)

For everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under heaven: . . . a time to plant (Ecclesiastes 3:1-2)

For everything there is a season, a time to plant, to sow - but not all seeds grow, not all plants thrive, but thankfully many do.

We are familiar with the parable of the sower in Matthew (13:3-9) and Mark (4:1-9). It is a parable that could, in someway, be lived out in our gardens, patios or on balconies at this time of the year.

. . . as he sowed, some seeds fell on the path, and the birds came and ate them up. Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and they sprang up quickly, since they had no depth of soil. But when the sun rose, they were scorched; and since they had no root, they withered away. Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. Other seeds fell on good soil and brought forth grain . . .. (Matthew 13:4-8)

You have your piece of ground or planter prepared, and your bag of seeds, and for a change there is a generous number of seeds in the bag! You tip the seeds into the palm of your hand and scatter the seeds across the surface of the soil; there is a gust of wind which carries the seeds beyond your target area. You smile, but there are sufficient seeds where you want them, so you water them in and wait.

Slowly over the weeks that follow, the seeds in the patch of soil grow in abundance and need to be thinned out. Rather than discarding the surplus of seedlings, you find a use for your used plastic food cartons and transplant the seedings, and once they have established themselves, you share them with friends and family. As for the other seeds that were scattered by the wind, they were scorched and choked.

Jesus told another parable involving seeds, the mustard seed.

Jesus put before them another parable: ‘The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that someone took and sowed in his field; it is the smallest of all the seeds, but when it has grown it is the greatest of shrubs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches.’ (Matthew 13:31-32)

We should not focus or get bogged down on whether the mustard seed was the smallest seed or whether it grew into the largest shrub or tree. Jesus was telling a story, which was one of his favourite ways of making a point, he was after all a great teacher. He was not giving a lecture on the horticultural properties of the mustard seed. The point Jesus was making was that the Kingdom would grow from small beginnings to a worldwide size.

Now, if you can look at your garden, why not have a short stroll around it. Resist the urge to do anything else, once you have completed your stroll return inside.

Why not make yourself a drink, and also have a fine tipped felt pen or ball point pen to hand.

Pause for a moment:

Think about gardens, gardens that are special, familiar to you. You may have put a lot of time and effort in arranging your garden or you may have plans to bring about changes. Slowly, savour this moment, hopefully enjoying it with a sense of satisfaction at what has been achieved or what will be achieved in the changes.

Now, pick up the felt tip or ball point pen and put a dot in the palm of your hand. Look at it and take in the fact that much of what you have in your garden started with something as small as the dot in the palm of your hand. You may not have sowed the seed; you may have bought it as a seedling or as a plant, but its beginning was as something as small and insignificant looking as that dot on the palm of your hand.

Jesus really had something when he told the seed stories. Our gardens live out the story of the sower who went forward and sowed, and from a dot sized seed grew a large shrub. Our gardens tell the gospel story, over and over again, the Kingdom story, if we were but to stop for a moment and see that hand of God in all things.

The Kingdom of God is not a place but rather the spiritual realm over which God’s will and love rules; seeing God in all things is part of that vision. The more we seek to find God in the ordinary, the more we can appreciate the Kingdom of God we are part of. It’s not over there, it’s here with us and then over there!

· Now in a time of prayerful reflection let us ponder some questions that these ideas of seeds, the ground and our faith might raise.

· How can modern Christians, in light of COVID19, use Jesus’ parables on seeds?

· Think of the challenges these seed and soil parables of Jesus present to us today in terms of spreading the word of God.

· You may have your own questions.

· Think but please share your questions with others, don’t keep them to yourselves. Together our thoughts, our seeds can grow into ways to spread the Good News!

Lord, help me to grow in faith so my relationship with you so that it is not shallow or weak, but deep and vibrant. By your grace strengthen my faith so I can face what, at times, feels like a mountain of doubt. Lord, I am yours. Take me as I am. Shape me. Make me. Mould me into the person you would have me to be. Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen

Let us pray these words of Gracia Grindal’s song, which recognises the mystery of the seed, its growth and the kingdom:

The kingdom of God is like a grain of mustard seed.
When it is sown in the earth, it is the smallest seed.

It is like the kingdom of God and a mystery.

For when it is sown, it grows into the largest plant,
greater than all of the herbs, and grows into a tree.

It is like the kingdom of God and a mystery.

It grows so birds can rest inside its crown of leaves,
deep in its shadows, away from any evil prey.

It is like the kingdom of God and a mystery.

And so we can liken it to seeds which make a tree
larger than all of the trees from just the smallest seed.

It is like the kingdom of God and a mystery.

The Lord's Prayer

We close this time of prayerful reflection, by reading the words of the hymn ‘The sower went forth sowing’:

The sower went forth sowing,
The seed in secret slept
Through weeks of faith and patience,
Till out the green blade crept;
And warmed by golden sunshine,
And fed by silver rain,
At last the fields were whitened
To harvest once again.
O praise the heavenly Sower,
Who gave the fruitful seed,
And watched and watered duly,
And ripened for our need.


Behold! the heavenly Sower
Goes forth with better seed,
The Word of sure salvation,
With feet and hands that bleed;
Here in His Church ’tis scattered,
Our spirits are the soil;
Then let an ample fruitage
Repay His pain and toil.
Oh, beauteous is the harvest,
Wherein all goodness thrives,
And this the true thanksgiving,
The first fruits of our lives.


Within a hallowed acre
He sows yet other grain,
When peaceful earth receiveth
The dead He died to gain;
For though the growth be hidden,
We know that they shall rise;
Yea even now they ripen
In sunny Paradise.
O summer land of harvest,
O fields forever white
With souls that wear Christ’s raiment,
With crowns of golden light.


One day the heavenly Sower
Shall reap where He hath sown,
And come again rejoicing,
And with Him bring His own;
And then the fan of judgment
Shall winnow from His floor
The chaff into the furnace
That flameth evermore.
O holy, awful Reaper,
Have mercy in the day,
Thou puttest in the sickle,
And cast us not away. (John Frederick Bridge - Tune St Beatrice)

+ To God the Father, who created the world;

To God the Son, who redeemed the world;

to God the Holy Spirit, who sustains the world;

be praise and glory, now and for ever. Amen (David Adam)