Let Your Faith Grow

Year B, Third after Pentecost; Mark 4:26-34, Lectionary reading for June 13, 2021

It’s spring here in Saskatchewan, and everywhere you look, seeds are sprouting. Maybe it’s my childish heart, but to me, every spring feels like the miracle of resurrection. I have a difficult relationship with winter (ok, I hate it), so those cold days in March feel like the end of the world, like this is the year winter will last forever and I’ll never see green grass again. Then, slowly (really slowly this year) the miracle begins. The days get longer. The temperature warms. The snowbanks shrink. The buds swell on the trees, and if you squint at them in the right light, you can almost see a sheen of green in the treetops.

Spring is slow in Saskatchewan. We will have a +30C day when the grass is still brown, then a dump of snow during which we all nod and repeat “the farmers need the moisture,” then a few more warm days when you think it’s safe to plant the tomatoes (go back, it’s a trap!) and then an ice storm.

No matter the hairpin turns and unexpected valleys, spring progresses. We had our first thunderstorm of the year a few nights ago, and for me, that seals the deal. Spring has taken hold and I will have a reprieve from winter for a few months. We will have a few more nights of frost (guard those tomatoes), but God kept the promise, and life returns.

Maybe I love the seed parables because my faith is so small. Call it Seasonal Affective Depression, but there’s a part of me that, every winter, doesn’t really think spring will come. I’ve lived through enough winter/spring transitions to know better, but my faith is no bigger than a mustard seed. I watch the willows for catkins and listen for the chickadee’s love song because I’m afraid God has abandoned me.

But if I go to my spice drawer, I can see a mustard seed. It really is quite small (but hadn’t Jesus seen all the smaller seeds? I digress), and can’t I have that much faith? Can’t I muster up enough faith to fit in that tiny brown ball one more time? Surely. And when I do, when I breathe and pray and trust, the resurrection begins, even before the first thunderstorm. My body calms, my heartbeat slows, and the seed pushes out roots and a stem and the Kingdom is within me again.

Please plant some seeds with the kids in your ministry. I don’t care what time of year you happen upon this post; just plant some seeds. And when they sprout, lower your adult defenses and let yourself feel the same wonder the children feel. Something as still and cold as a stone has come to life before your very eyes!

But you’re here for the book, and since I made you read all that, I’ll give you two!

The Carrot Seed by Ruth Krauss does not pass my usual test for diversity, and there’s even an illustration of a man smoking a pipe (ah, the 1940s), but this little book is irresistible nevertheless. A little boy plants a seed, everyone in his family expresses their doubt, but the little boy has faith. He waits, he waters, he pulls the weeds, and eventually, a carrot the size of the mustard shrub in the parable pops out of the soil.

Another great choice for this passage of scripture is Elly MacKay’s If You Hold a Seed. Part of the beauty of this book is the passage of time. A boy plants a seed in this book too—but it’s a tree seed. No one discourages this boy, but trees take a long time to grow, and the illustrations point that out. If you go with this book, I’d recommend bringing in some seeds from the trees in your area for kids to look at. Break open a pine cone and look at those tiny seeds that will grow into a pine tree! If a tree can put its faith in a tiny seed to secure its future, maybe I can believe that winter will come, even if it hasn’t been above -30C for a week.

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Krauss, Ruth. The Carrot Seed: 75th Anniversary. Harper Collins, 2020.

MacKay, Elly. If You Hold a Seed. Running Press Kids, 2013.

Planting Seeds, Planting Love

Year B, Lent 5; John 12:20-33; Lectionary reading for March 21, 2021

Please, plant some seeds. Right now, go to the store and buy some nice big seeds, or better yet, ask a farmer in your congregation to give you some actual wheat seeds, and plant them with your little ones. Fill a jar with dirt, push some seeds down along the sides so you can see them, and witness death and resurrection.

Once you’ve done your planting, choose one of the dozens of great storybooks about seeds and gardens. Some that I wanted to write about but didn’t:

Seriously, so many splendid books. But today, we will plant something a little… unorthodox.

As a general rule, I add every new Peter H. Reynolds book to my library, and when he works with Amy Krouse Rosenthal, it’s twice as magical. Plant a Kiss features simple rhyming text to capture the attention of very young children, but the illustrations and the message will equally interest older children.

Rather than plant a seed, a little girl plants a kiss to the skepticism of those around her. But just as one kernel of wheat that falls and dies produces many seeds, the one kiss multiplies to bring joy to everyone in the community. Towards the end, the little girl runs out of kisses to share and walks away from her empty bowl. Take that opportunity to ask how the little girl might feel, having given away everything she harvested. How would the children in your congregation feel if they made a batch of cookies and gave them all away, getting none for themselves?

Questions to ask before you read:

  • How do you think a seed feels when it is planted?
  • What happens to the seed underground?
  • How does a seed transform into more seeds?

Questions to ask after you read:

  • We can’t really plant kisses, but what are some ways we can spread love?
  • If you could plant things other than seeds to make the world a better place, what would you plant?

Rosenthal, Amy Krouse. Plant a Kiss. HarperCollins, 2011.

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