July 13

Corn Doesn’t Ripen Overnight

I’m not a farmer nor do I claim to be. But having grown up on a farm, I know just enough to be dangerous. And one thing I know is that the fields in this area are filled with beautiful tall corn. The old saying, “knee high by the 4th of July” could have been the 4th of June this year...but that doesn’t rhyme.

One thing that fascinates me about farming is the complete dependence upon weather. In most occupations, people have at least a little control over their results. And even more comforting is that most businesses have some kind of back-up plan in case of emergencies. When struggles occur in the majority of vocations, there is time to consider other options.

In a sense the same thing can be said about farming. The amount of nurturing and care invested in the crops will have an effect on the resulting crops. Back-up plans might include diversification or second jobs, maybe even insurance. But few occupations are so reliant on the weather for success in their ‘fields’ of work, pun intended.

The mystery of farming is much like our faith lives. Time, money, and energy are spent nurturing seeds of corn. We know that there is a correlation between the investment and the results, assuming the proper growing environment. In a very simplistic example of a formula (a+b=c) with (c) being a bountiful harvest, our efforts are just one part of the equation, such as (a). The second part (b) is something completely out of our control...the weather. Without sunshine, without rain, and without the extremes of either the sun or rain, all efforts are fruitless. Of course there are other factors too, such as disease, cost of machinery and fuel, etc, but those things are out of our control as well.

The only thing that we can control is our own actions, so we do the best we can with what we have. So we are called to nurture and maintain seeds in such a way as to promote fruitful harvests. Today’s Gospel message (shared in the context of growing corn in Luckey) might sound like this.

It wouldn’t make any sense to lay seeds of corn down the middle of Luckey Road and expect a harvest. The farmer wouldn’t plant seeds in fields of rock without topsoil with hopes of autumn abundance. Nor would we typically see a farmer planting seeds in the middle of thick green weeds and grass without first prepping the soil for corn. If we expect to reap a fruitful harvest, it will be necessary to tend to the soil and the seeds. That will require investment of physical labor, machinery, fertilizer, and pesticides. It would be crazy to think that one would simply drop seeds in the ground, forget about them until fall, and expect a harvest busting at the seams.

Jesus told this parable to explain our relationship with God. He explained that if someone reads a text from Scripture, doesn’t understand it, and leaves it without seeking meaning, it is like laying the seeds of corn on Luckey Road. The Word was heard but wasn’t translated. It had no affect on the hearer.

The seeds that are planted in rocky dirt without top soil might sprout, but the roots will be shallow and the plants will not have the dexterity to survive much of a challenge. Jesus describes this situation like those who hear the Word and it connects in that moment (it sprouts), but without continued reading and studying, the shallow roots of understanding will not be unable to sustain the connection through additional struggles.

Then there were seeds planted into fields of thick green weeds and grass. The weeds and grass steal the moisture necessary for the corn seeds to mature and prevent sunshine from reaching the young plants. Corn is choked and killed before having a chance to grow. And Jesus said, “This is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the lure of wealth choke the word, and it yields nothing.”

Finally there are fields of seeds that are planted in soil that has been tilled and fertilized. Care is taken to kill the weeds that might steal life from the harvest. Jesus describes this as the person who hears the word, seeks to understand it, and as a result bears fruit in faith.

Where are we planting the seeds of our relationship with Christ? Jesus says that we will reap what we sow. Using our simple formula from fruitful corn, (a+b=c) with ‘c’ being relationship with Christ. ‘B’ is the movement of the Holy Spirit and is out of our control. But ‘A’ is our investment into the relationship. Just as the harvest is influenced by the investment put into the corn and the field, the fruitfulness of our relationship with Christ is dependent on our investment in it. Does our faith look like the healthy and abundant stalks of corn in the fields, or like the sickly and stunted plants whose ears will be small?

Jesus already promised his presence through the Spirit and has paid the price for our sins. The formula is already complete. But abundant life is not restricted to heaven. Jesus makes a difference today. Let’s continue to till and fertilize our faith and give thanks for his love and mercy. Amen.