By Brandon Brown
The Gospels are full of agricultural references because that was the world of those who first heard and experienced the Gospel story. I often consider how far we have come from those agricultural roots and how far until we no longer understand the metaphors. But as a child of gardeners, I like to have a small vegetable garden, or at least I like the idea of a garden. Last year, my wife and put together a small raised bed garden and tended it until late in the season when life events took precedence. In other words, we neglected the tending and piking of the last of the fruit of that garden. I remember looking at the remains of the plants after the first freeze and thinking that it would be quite a task to clean up the following spring. We even considered completely removing the bed.
We chose to keep the garden this spring and began to plan the plants we wanted. Tomatoes, jalapeño peppers, and squash were our choices. My wife decided to clean out and ready the bed while I was working in my home office one afternoon. I heard her come into the office and say come look at something. I got up and went out to the garden which was cleaned and had new plants placed around. I noticed a tomato plant very near the small fence and wondered about its placement; I also noticed it was already planted while the others were not. My wife smiled and mentioned that she had not planted that tomato plant but had discovered it there. It was then that I remembered that one of the plants we had planted the year before was a heirloom variety of tomato. In our neglect, we had inadvertently planted seeds which sprouted. Most likely our leaving the old plants had formed a protective covering for those seeds to take root. Eventually, they sprouted and grew strong and are already reaching for the sun.
The metaphorical seeds we plant in our lives may be much like the tomato plant in our garden. Even when we don't know we have planted seeds or if we are not the ones who tend those seeds, they may grow. Much like the neglected seeds were protected and tended in our neglect, the seeds we scatter in life are often tended by others or the Spirit of God. I am encouraged by this. My effort is not crucial to seeds which scatter to grow. There is cooperation and tending required, but it is not only up to me. Creation will find a way and when it cooperates together, seeds flourish. Maybe it can be that way with the Church herself. Maybe the Church can work in unity toward tending our garden and working in the broad unity afforded Christianity. But even if we can't work in unity, the seeds may grow and flourish outside of the Church. That is our clue that God and faith are wild enough to sprout without our effort, but think of how much more can happen if we do cooperate in unity. If I had paid better attention, I may have been able to have multiple tomato plants from that heirloom instead of just the one lone plant.