Shield of the Episcopal Church of the United States Environmental Stewardship Commission
Shield of the Episcopal Diocese of Minnesota
Episcopal Diocese of Minnesota

Environmental Stewardship Resolution

The following is offered for your information and comment.  On this and similar pages the Environmental Stewardship Commission of the Episcopal Diocese of Minnesota intends to offer thoughts and ideas on how any congregation or individual with a congregation can implement portions of the Resolution.

From "A Resolution on The Spirituality of Food Production"
passed at the 144th Annual Convention (October 26-27, 2001)

"WHEREAS we believe that feeding people is an honorable and socially just endeavor; that farming is a noble vocation that gives great pride to those involved in it; that farmers can feed the whole world with safe, healthy, and nutritious food;"

Seed Planting
by the Rev Margaret W. Thomas

Of all Jesus' parables, The Parable of The Sower; which is found in Matthew 13: 1-23, Mark 4:1-20 and Luke 8: 4-15, is one of the most famous. The story is clearly a metaphor for the teaching of Jesus, as he explains, concerning the ways into the kingdom of God. These days very few of us Americans really know about seeds from personal experience. We may know from science classes or grass seeds, but so many of us now live far from the farms or gardens of the past that fed and sustained our ancestors. So how can children, or any of us, know of the basic nature of the parable, when they have never experienced seed germination issues first hand?

Seed catalogs are often the perfect antidote for winter depressions.  They arrive with the last of the Christmas cards. In the years when my garden was my family's vegetables, I poured over pictures, eager for the profuse, delectable results attested to in photos. In my kitchen I nourished tiny tomato plants in cut off mild cartons and tucked herbs into egg shells with pure organic fervor. My children grew garbage gardens of avocado pits, grapefruit seeds, carrot tops and pineapple stalks. Some of those grew beautifully. We had many successes, some failures and learned so much along the way.

We learned all aspects of the parable of the sower, especially with tomatoes. We learned that the beautiful tomato plants would rot if watered too much on dank, cold March days. The tomatoes would get spindly if left in the same window and not turned. Seedlings had to be "weather hardened" so they would not sunburn. when put outside. We learned that the Golden retriever loved to eat carrot plants, Her tail would disrupt all sorts and conditions of our indoor and outdoor gardens, as she eagerly joined us. We learned that one could not plant tomatoes in the exact same places each year. Then we really learned about soil. We learned which area of the garden was the richest, the sandiest, the sunniest. Next we learned about cut worms, slugs, and chipmunks. We experienced weeds, mulches, hoeing, fences, pruning and propping. Then, we rejoiced in the mysterious bliss of eating juicy, ripe, warm tomatos.

In analyzing all of this, we could say that the dog, and the pests were the devils for sure. We could surmise that the moisture and light problems were similar to the parable's seeds that were left on the bare places or the ones that began to grow and then withered. The problems of weeds, and general cultivation could be the competition with the cares of the day, the choking out of the beginnings of young plants. The parable says nothing of confession. I learned a real meaning in that when I recalled eating tomatoes at night from a neighbor man's garden. I had never guessed how a gardener is intimate with every ripening tomato in a small patch. He must of known, and never told our parents.

Of course the sower still sows, as God is always planting seeds anew in us. The purpose of new fruit or tomatoes, is to produce more seed. If we know nothing of real seed production we may know nothing of the most basic of spiritual truths. We are here to be given to something beyond ourselves, we are to be consumed and given for new life, or the "kindom of God". We may try to control the seeds, but there are mysteries beyond all of our control that will always continue to challenge the eager planter.

If we fear to plant to, or strive too much to control the seeds, we will have nothing, If we keep planting, as the sower does, we must trust in the spirit to nurture the seed in ways that we cannot. While my son went to college, he planted a new crop of grapefruit seeds in his first apartment. Fifteen years later, several of the trees were just decorated for Christmas. We gardened anew the past two years. We had forgotten about rabbits and beans. We are having problems with shade. But our lettuce crop, due to the rainy spring was terrific. The tomatoes did well, too, but the zucchini got slugs; so we fried the blossoms. By planting variety and at various intervals, some things did very well.

So this is the time to choose to garden for yourselves. Be creative and try some things instead of the plain dull grass. Just dig up that yard some. Pumpkins are usually easy and may be eaten for pies, after the Halloween party. They can be tucked into the back of a yard near the tomatoes. Their large seeds make excellent teaching, eating examples of this parable story. Sugar pea pods are good too, but dry out fast. Beans are best for a quick visible crop. Children can plant, hoe, pick and eat them.

Gail Coon of Eveleth who owns a greenhouse and manages Great North Teens Encounter Christ always speaks of her youth ministry as that of a sower.  Gail has sown seeds for nearly fifteen years in the wild and weathered northern parts of our diocese. Because she is such a professional and passionate gardener, she knows full well the risks and dangers to plants, just as with youth.

For the sowers and seeds, experiences continue to guide, and nourish. Those rooted deepest can withstand droughts, and weather battering for the long haul of any life or ministry. Just when we think we have it figured out, or controlled, we are reminded to stick to our spiritual roots. Even if the dangers snap off some of our branches, the new sprouts will emerge again. If the rabbits get fat on our beans, the fox or the owl may have a great meal on a cold winter night. Try gardening, be willing to share with the other critters. They too are just trying to survive and thrive, even the slugs. Leave the poisons out and strive for organic enriching of soil. It truly works. A fine soil nourishes a fine, productive plants best.

Copyright Statement

The Rev. Margaret W. Thomas is rector of St. Edward the Confessor Episcopal Church, Duluth, MN.  She originally wrote these thoughts in 2004 and they appeared in the February 2004 issue of Soundings, the newspaper of the Episcopal Diocese of Minnesota.  Margaret and we welcome your comments. Please address your comments or additional reflections to Margaret W. Thomas or any MEESC member, or mail them to:
c/o C. Morello
4451 Lakeside Drive
Eveleth, MN 55743-4400 USA

The MEESC assumes that all correspondence received is for publication on this web site. If your comments are not for publication, please so note on your correspondence. The MEESC reserves the right to decide which items are included on the website.

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