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R&V In the Word: Garlic, Teens, and Hope

Image: Paul Marlow

Read Mark 4:26-34 MSG

Then Jesus said, “God’s kingdom is like seed thrown on a field by a man who then goes to bed and forgets about it. The seed sprouts and grows—he has no idea how it happens. The earth does it all without his help: first a green stem of grass, then a bud, then the ripened grain. When the grain is fully formed, he reaps—harvest time!

Mark 4:26-29 MSG

Last fall, I decided to plant garlic in one of our flowerbeds which is normally dominated by weeds and groundcover. It’s been five months at least since I put the cloves into the ground, forgetting all about them throughout Thanksgiving preparations and Advent celebrations and New Year’s resolutions and Lenten considerations.

But when we sprang forward an hour and the sky decided to clear here in mostly overcast Ohio, I saw my rows of garlic sprouts and remembered. Without any help from me at all, they are there, growing and growing and growing.

We are in the teen season of raising a family. Our middle son just got his license. Our youngest will turn 13 in a few short weeks. Our oldest is graduating high school this year and heading off to college. So much about these years can feel like throwing seed on a field and then forgetting about it, planting garlic cloves in hopes that we’ll have bulbs to dig up in nine or ten months’ time.

I know lots of farmers. One thing they don’t do is haphazardly throw seed on their field and then just forget about it. They tend to their land. They weed it and cultivate it and monitor it. But somehow Jesus says that the kingdom of heaven—God’s kingdom, God’s way of living—isn’t this way. God’s way of living is sowing seeds and then trusting that what will be will be.

As a parent of teens, I find this way of living with my kids extremely challenging. Sure, I hope they will turn out okay, and I’m also diligently weeding around what I’ve planted. But this diligence can turn into obsessive attempts to protect my young adults from the mistakes they’ll inevitably make, rescue them before they have a chance to try and risk and fail or try and risk and succeed, or pave an easy path that leaves no room for them to make choices, even bad ones.

What Jesus seems to be saying about God’s way of living in this new kingdom is that we have to trust the process. We have to trust that God, the creator of the soil and the water and the sun and the seed itself is going to bring it to fruition. That’s faith, believing that God is good, that God will have a harvest, even when we have no idea how it’s going to happen. Or if it’s going to happen.

Hebrews 11:1 says, “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” Our young adults are making life choices right now. They are searching for God or not searching for God. They are trying to figure out who they are and what they were made for. They have planted in them lots of ingredients we were given to pass onto them—hope, joy, peace, occasional patience, values, virtues, and most importantly, love—and now, it is up to no one else but God to bring those seeds to harvest.

Let me possess the faith to be confident in my God of the harvest.

Points of Reflection

  1. What are you currently trying to grow, change, shape, or arm wrestle into submission?
  2. What would happen if you opened your fists, released your control, and trusted God with it?

For the Kids

  1. What makes plants grow, according to the passage of Scripture today?
  2. What is our part in the process of growing food?


Although in this parable told by Jesus, the bulk of God’s way of living relies on trusting that God will bring about the harvest through all the ingredients he has baked into creation—sunshine, water, soil, and seed—we still have an essential role to play in creation and in God’s kingdom. Do you see it? The farmer picked up and cast the seeds. The farmer gets to participate in and benefit from the harvest. We have a role as co-creators in this New Creation! We get to benefit from it and we get to participate in its unfolding. God will do the work in the in-between.

Take some time today to think about what seeds you’ve been handed by God and where you might be called to scatter them. Be intentional in your conversations and in your actions. Identify a place you can serve and spread joy there. Think about your everyday interactions with your children, your spouse, your parents, your friends, and your neighbors as daily opportunities to scatter the seeds of God’s love, and then give those seeds room to grow!


Art and Faith: A Theology of Making by Makoto Fujimura invites Christians to consider their part in ushering in the New Creation with Christ as our foundation. It is a beautiful, inspiring book that touches upon our roles as both the seed planters and the harvesters, the makers that God designed us to be, co-creators with God in a vibrant, abundant life. It is not just for people who identify as artists; this is a theology for all Christians, because all Christians are called to participate in the unfolding of God’s kingdom here on earth.

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