Browsing through seed catalogs on a snowy day is an act of hopefulness.
One of my favorite hobbies is gardening. I love turning over the soil, transplanting seedlings, watching them grow and keeping an eye out for weeds and non-friendly bugs. Sometimes there’s a big harvest – like the year I got a flyer from the Texas Ag Extension office for a “Japanese Tomato Ring” and ended up with three five gallon buckets of tomatoes. More often though, I’m lucky if I get a single tomato. The herbs seem to do much better, and I love to cook with thyme snipped off the plant just outside the kitchen door.
Much of the southern U.S. is taking today off, schools are closed and so are the roads. Snow and ice have major cities shut down. So it’s a good day to look through a seed catalog and imagine the possibilities. That is an act of hope – to imagine, to consider new plant varieties, to plan out a garden layout and hope for a good harvest.
Gardens require hard work and sustained attention. The weather may not be favorable. A late freeze might kill some of the seedlings, or a heavy storm with hail might crush some of the plants. Looking through the seed catalog, a gardener has to keep in balance the hopes for a good planting season and the realities that might affect the plants.
Short-term mission is a little like those seeds in my catalog. We go, willing to be used by God, not knowing what may affect the outcome. We plan, like a gardener, the work that we’ll do, keeping in mind the things that may go wrong. We prepare, making ourselves as ready as possible before the trip begins. We pray and we hope, trusting in the work of the Spirit.
There’s a lovely hymn in the United Methodist hymnal that describes how Christians are to live in the world. “Sois la Semilla” was written by Monseñor Cesáreo Gabaráin, and translated into English by Raquel Gutiérrez-Achon and Skinner Chávez-Melo. The first stanza is “You are the seed that will grow a new sprout; you’re a star that will shine in the night; you are the yeast and a small grain of salt, a beacon to glow in the dark. Go, my friends, to to the world, proclaiming love to all, messengers of my forgiving peace, eternal love.”
This hymn contains a wealth of illustrations – seed, yeast, friends, waves, bread. On a cold and blustery winter day, it may be hard to imagine the heat of summer, and the sweaty work on a mission project – but we can pray and plan. We can sing the hymn and open ourselves to the Spirit working through us to make us yeast, salt, and witnesses.
My favorite lines are “You are the flame that will lighten the dark, sending sparkles of hope, faith and love” and “may your good deeds show a world in despair a path that will lead all to God.” May the work we plan today be a witness to God’s love. May the work of our hands be a witness of the love that God has for the world.
Read more about Sois La Semilla here: https://www.umcdiscipleship.org/resources/the-great-commission-inspires-spanish-hymn-you-are-the-seed
Hear the hymn tune here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=94jnanUWCko