Dropping Seeds of Hope Everyday
Over 23 years of ministry, I suppose I've officiated 150+ funerals/memorial services. For many of these services, the deceased was advanced in years and there were few family and friends left to attend the time of last 'good byes' which often reflected a small gathering of mourners.
Still other services were attended by many people since the deceased was not relatively old and or died tragically. Though not a firm predictor of the person's character, a large crowd can often be related to the kind of person the deceased was and how they influenced their world.
Such was the case of a recent memorial for my brother-in-law. John, a 6th grade schoolteacher for 33 years, was the proverbial farmer that is described in Matthew 13. John was a favorite teacher of so many students and his teaching style and more importantly, his ability to connect with each child made him popular and memorable. His viewing and memorial were attended by hundreds of folks who stood stoically inline awaiting their turn to offer condolences to the family.
“A farmer went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seeds fell along the path, and the birds
came and devoured them. Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have
much soil, and immediately they sprang up, since they had no depth of soil, but when
the sun rose they were scorched. And since they had no root, they withered away. Other
seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. Other seeds fell on
good soil and produced grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. He who has
ears, let him hear.” (Matthew 13:3b-9, ESV)
Along with John's students, his family and extended family were also extremely blessed to know him and love him. He will be truly missed. This author can firmly say that John befriended a young boy and became his second brother. The fun we had, the games we played, the farm work we toiled over, and the love of all things sports made growing up a great joy. I often feel guilty that in the early days it seemed John spent as much time with me as he did with my sister whom he was courting.
(A 19-year-old mentoring a 10-year-old)
John's lifework was an elementary teacher, but he mixed in a lifelong love of gardening and all things edible from the garden. Early in the family's settling into their hometown, John tilled his first patch of ground and turned a pesky parcel of lawn into fertile soil ready to receive vegetables of all kinds. Yes, John even planted Eggplant. As an aside and without much forethought, John and Linda also planted some Dill seeds. Dill Pickles are always a good staple for any table of scrumptious food.
The annual Spring battle with weeds, rodents, insects and their larvae, and the occasional deer marauding his garden, kept John busy. He didn't mind the ongoing confrontation with all the aforementioned critters. Ironically, John's spring garden preparation ritual included a thinning, dare I say, an annihilation of the ever-spreading Dill plants. He would mutter how the Dill plants reseeded themselves and spread like wildfire. A visit to John's house would consist of him telling me how many armloads of the plants he would burn just to eliminate the seeds dropping into the ground.
Though the Dill plants were, are, and will continue to be a nuisance, I can't help but appreciate the metaphor of an innocent looking seed multiplying with such ease and consistency. In so many ways, the Dill seeds spreading with such effortlessness and John's easy-going life of being an educator, encourager, jokester, and a few other endearing traits are running a parallel path for me.
John knew the value of memory and would almost always assign a nickname to everyone he met. While we laughed, he was using the nickname as a way to remember the person's name. Never one to point to his own accomplishments, I doubt that John ever realized the profound impact he had on so many people. His attention to planting methods and his willingness to invest in garden soil were qualities that always produced a harvest far beyond what was originally planted. John also understood the principle that a seed had to be planted in order for its full potential to be realized. A seed had to die in order for the exponential return of vegetables and or seeds. Jesus knew this principle first.
[Two Dill seeds that can only produce and spread when they are planted]
When Jesus said these things in John 12, he was preparing his followers to understand the work he was sent to do. He had entered the city earlier to great fanfare. Now he was predicting his death. Furthermore, he was educating the faithful that this was the way God designed salvation for the world. Apart from Jesus' death, there was no means of salvation. Jesus mentioned his death and burial into the ground as a means of a great harvest to be realized. Loving one's life was a dead-end road but hating one's life would lead to eternal life.
I'm grateful to have known John for 50+ years and the memories we made will continue to bring both a smile to my face and a tear to my eyes. As John, the farmer, planted the seeds of hope and joy in all kinds of soil, his yield was and is still producing good results. So many lives were influenced by a teacher who cared, a gardener who excelled, and a friend who love unconditionally. In his death and burial, the notion that we are the increase of his planting should be obvious. All the gifts that John possessed and offered freely should drive us all toward the same kind of influential lifestyle that celebrates others with as much hilarity as possible.
John's seed of hope was cast into the ground and is bearing much fruit. In his last weeks, he was strengthened by the truth that Jesus was the original first seed that was put into the earth to produce victory over sin and death and to the Resurrection! He held onto Jesus throughout the last days. His struggles ended on July 9 and he experienced the lush garden of heaven. I believe there are no weeds, no barren places, and certainly no rocky spots for seeds to perish. I do believe there is abundant good soil where much grows with lush vigor!
"A Musing Pastor"
PS: Is there Dill in heaven? If so, I'm presuming John is raking it into a pile to incinerate it.
See ya soon brother......