Several years ago I heard an audio essay on the radio -- I can't remember the program -- where the narrator talked about his Ukrainian grandmother, transplanted to Chicago, a woman who had known tremendous hardship in the Old Country. She always planted a garden in her back yard; and in that garden she always reserved space for the seeds and pits of fruit she'd bought in the grocery store: cherries, apples, plums. Her children and grandchildren made fun of her small orchard nursery: Was she afraid of running out of food again? "We'll buy you fruit, Grandma." And at her age, why would she embark on this ridiculous project anyway? "We'll buy you a tree from the nursery, Grandma, if that's what you want."
The grandmother replied that she knew what it was like to experience hunger, and she wanted other people, even people she didn't know, to one day be able to enjoy fruit picked from their own back yard.
This old, stubborn and in her family's mind highly eccentric Ukrainian grandmother is a lot like the God Jesus describes in the parables we hear today. A God who takes the small, the simple, the insignificant -- and grows God's Reign out of them; something big and lush and extravagantly productive. How this happens we can't understand, or plan, or control; we're just asked to trust the process.
What would the Church, which is all of us, be like if we did, individually and corporately, trust the process -- if, in the words of Paul, we truly did walk by faith and not by sight? What would the Church be like if we got our own opinions and attitudes and prejudices and agendas out of the way and simply walked with Jesus in the lead, letting God be God for us?
As many of our church bodies gather this summer for their national assemblies, and as many of us continue to discern our own roles in Christian community, it's a question we might want to keep in mind. How willing are we to be to let our thoughts and words and actions become the seeds for God's creative, redemptive, sustaining work in the world?
"Tree of Life" silk challah cover