By Rowan Wyatt
A few years ago I was fortunate enough to be one of the botanists working to catalogue, store and germinate seeds at the Millenium Seed Bank. We had collections of seeds from remote places worldwide, some rather common seeds and some so very rare it was nerve wracking working with them.
I was one of a small group working with various Orchid seeds, as well as many other types of seed, and our tasks were to clean the collection of any detritus and remove any dead seeds, germinate a small sample using agar and growing them in various conditions to monitor how they grew in each climate. After germination the plants would be grown on in the glasshouses whilst the seeds were catalogued and stored in air tight containers, in a giant walk in freezer set to -35 deg C. The amount of seed in there was staggering. There were over a million collection bottles, each with its own unique charge of seed, and that whole collection a small fraction of the worlds abundant variety.
Germinating the orchid seeds was a difficult job. The conditions had to be spot on, no room for error or the seed would not grow, at all. The other seeds too had to have just the right conditions for growth to happen and I was always filled with joy and wonder when those first points of green began to protrude from the protection of the casing. I always used to think on the parable of the sower when I was at work, let’s take a look at it: –
Parable of the sower Matthew 13: 1-9
Seeds are incredible and wondrous things so it is inspired that Jesus used them so often to describe the word of God and so very dramatically here.
Howard Flint, the vicar at my church, recently suggested in a sermon that the parable of the sower should actually be called the parable of the earth as indeed it is really about the conditions that the seeds, God’s Word, is sown into. I completely concur with him in this and want to stretch things even further by saying the conditions for the earth to receive seed can also be seasonal.
We all go through seasons in our lives, they all very and despite our best intentions our ‘earth’ (spirit/soul) are not always in the best condition for a seed to penetrate and germinate. The smallest of things can cause our ‘earth’ to harden causing the seeds ‘Word’ to bounce away, never to germinate and grow. Jesus explains exactly what is happening here in his explanation of the parable.
As I said above, germinating a seed can be difficult but with the earth prepared in the right way the seed can flourish and grow and importantly bear fruit, in abundance. So in order to receive and let God’s word take root, deep root in us, our earth ‘soul’ needs to be prepared for it and the best we can do that is through prayer and worship.
Here’s a process to think upon: –
- The soul as a patch of earth, brown, tilled and ready to receive the seeded word of God.
- Trial gets in the way, the earth bakes closed, dry and hard, unyielding, the seed is snatched away. Needs the living water to soften it and make it ready once more to receive. Pray & read the word to make the ‘earth’ ready again.
- The patch of earth has not been prepared well, rocks and stones get in the way and the few seeds that take root have no foundations and soon become weak and die. Again, pray, read and worship. Take the Lord in quantity like a draught of quenching fluids on a hot day, drink deep of the living water and rake the stones (distractions/doubts) away.
- The Patch of earth is surrounded on either side by unprepared ground, weeds and thorns all of which invade and unchecked begin to choke the new seedlings till they are no more. Pray, pray and pray again, remove temptation and doubt, cut it back and throw it into the fire.
- The earth ‘soul’ is ready. Tilled, watered and fed, and the sower comes.
- The seed ‘word’ sown in that good, prepared earth takes root.
- Water it with the living water of Christ.
- Let it bask in the light of God.
- Strengthen it as it grows with supports ‘church, fellowship, partnering’.
- Watch as it bears fruit which is shared freely for all, and the seeds can scatter afresh.
In conclusion it becomes obvious that we need to prepare ourselves to receive the word of God. In the parable of the sower, Jesus is quite explicit that we will miss out on that bounty from God if we have not taken the time or effort to prepare our soul, spirit whatever word you choose to use, correctly. Through prayer, reading the Bible, worship (corporately or alone at home, in your quiet place), fellowship and communion our soul can be tilled and made ready to receive. How great it is to share so much with a humble seed.