When I read the first parable of today’s Gospel passage, I initially thought it didn’t hold up well. Jesus said, “This is how it is with the kingdom of God; it is as if a man were to scatter seed on the land… and the seed would sprout and grow, he knows not how.” But we do know how the seed grows. Not only that, we’ve designed varieties of wheat and corn and soy beans to resist drought and pests and diseases. Some farmers have tractors with a built-in GPS that enables them to inject fertilizer or spray insecticide in precise amounts onto specific sections of their land.
Yet for all our genetic splicing and satellite-guided sowing, we are not in control of the land. We aren’t in control of the water, either, or the climate, or other species. There are some things about our planet that we can control, like global climate change and the pollution of our air, sea, and waterways, but there remain many things that we don’t even understand.
God does. In his parable Jesus speaks about God’s hidden, mysterious movement in the world. This world is God’s, and God continues to work within it, renewing and recreating it. We are the only species on earth capable of participating, of joining God in the work of taking care of the world. And given how much we’ve advanced in the realm of farming alone, there is a great deal we can do.
There are many practical reasons for taking good care of our home, reasons like not making ourselves sick on our own pollutants, protecting other forms of life that could provide cures to human diseases, ensuring the health of our oceans so people have fish to eat, and so on. But for Christians there is also a theological reason. God is trying to work within our world, not to take us out of it. What we do to our planet, to our home, reveals whether we truly want to be part of the kingdom God is remaking all around us.