Jesus often used farming illustrations to describe God’s kingdom. This activity helps us to think about our lives in terms of a field. We will grow seeds in different conditions as an illustration of how different parts of our lives may be growing better than others.
You will need:
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Take a piece of foil about 15cm / 6” square and tun up the edges to make a shallow tray. Line the bottom with the paper and label one corner ‘no water’. Sprinkle a few seeds over the paper, but do not water it.
Make a second tray and label this one ‘too much water’. Add the seeds then flood the tray with water (making sure the corners are water-tight!)
For the third tray, write ‘no light’ on the paper. Add the seeds and a small amount of water, but then cover the tray with another piece of foil.
The fourth tray will be called ‘water and light’. Add the seeds, a small amount of water and place it by a window. Keep the paper damp.
You should find that the seeds in the first tray do nothing. Those in the second tray might go mouldy. The third set will probably sprout a little, but make unhealthy, mis-formed plants, and the fourth tray should grow strong, healthy seedlings, delicious in a sandwich.
We don’t all of us have a call like Jeremiah’s to go uproot nations – that’s probably just as well – but we all have calls. Some are big and visible, some are seen only by God, but all are just as valid. There is no status in the kingdom of God. A call to ordained ministry is not more important than a call to sit with a troubled neighbour. In fact, I’d say we are crying out for the latter in modern western society. It’s a gifting I greatly admire – I’m pants at it myself.
However, there are problems with having a calling:
- Working out what the call is.
- Doing it.
The first part – yeah, tricky. I don’t have any quick answers for finding that. I’m afraid you’re on your own there.
In our passage, Jeremiah did not have a problem hearing his call. God was on mega-phone setting. It was the response he had trouble with. I wonder if Jeremiah had been reading about the call of Moses recently. Sounds pretty similar.
I do not know how to speak = That’s not my gift.
I am too young = It’s not the right time.
I expect ‘please send my brother’ was next up
I’m just the same. I know that feeling, that niggling, nagging won’t-go-away sensation in the pit of my stomach. My head is saying ‘You had better just get on and do it.’ The entire rest of my body wants to run in the opposite direction and the excuses come thick and fast.
God’s answer? Not the most sympathetic.
First he tells Jeremiah off for saying he can’t do what God has said. Talking with God is not a democratic debate. It’s more like when I ask my children’s opinions about meals. I want to hear what they have to say, but in the end I will make my decision, and that is it. My family is not a democracy, it is a benign dictatorship, as is the Kingdom of God. So when God says to Jeremiah, ‘speak’, he’s not opening a debate on the matter.
It’s not actually relevant whether Jeremiah feels equipped for the task or not. The equipping is God’s business; Jeremiah’s business is obedience.
So God says, ‘Stop making excuses. I wasn’t asking you, I was telling you.’ That’s verse 7. Then there’s 8. Initially it sounds like a nice, comforting verse. But it has a kick as it leaves, like a tennis ball that you think has sailed past you out of court, but rebounds off the back wall and smacks you in the back of the head.
I can imagine Jeremiah going, ‘Ah, that’s nice Lord. … Er, hang on. Why would I be afraid of them? What are they going to do? And why am I going to need rescuing?’
And then God equips. He puts his words in Jeremiah’s mouth so that he cannot help but speak them. And the result? The result will be total destruction. Uproot! Tear down! Destroy! Overthrow!
Yeesh! That doesn’t sound very God-type-stuff. Isn’t God supposed to be about forgiveness and restoration? Well, yes. But we only get to to warm sunshine of forgiveness by passing through the dark night of acknowledging our sins and turning from them. It was only the repentant thief on the cross who was forgiven. And the restoration – the building and planting which were Jeremiah’s ultimate goal? Ask any builder. Ask any farmer. You cannot start to build until you have demolished the previous building. You cannot plant before you have cleared the soil.
Sometimes God has to take away a wrong thing so that he can replace it with a right thing. And that wrong does not always mean a bad thing, just not the right good thing. In Jeremiah’s case, God demolished Jeremiah’s pleasant comfort-zone so that he could build a mission (uncomfortable though that was). God uprooted Jeremiah’s reliance on his own competence so the he could plant reliance on God.
Sometimes God doesn’t fill the bare earth with anything. It might be up to us to do the rebuilding.
If it feels like you are in a place of desolation right now, if you feel like an empty building site or a fallow field, it’s OK. It’s part of the process of restoration. What do you think God might be wanting to build or plant?
When I look at my life as a field, I see many parts.
I see parts that are fresh and growing.
I see parts that are full of weeds and thistles.
I see parts that are bare and empty, waiting to be planted.
let us work together in the field of my life.
Jeremiah 1:4-10 New International Version (NIV)
The word of the Lord came to me, saying,
“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,
before you were born I set you apart;
I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.”
“Alas, Sovereign Lord,” I said, “I do not know how to speak; I am too young.”
But the Lord said to me, “Do not say, ‘I am too young.’ You must go to everyone I send you to and say whatever I command you. Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you and will rescue you,” declares the Lord.
Then the Lord reached out his hand and touched my mouth and said to me, “I have put my words in your mouth. See, today I appoint you over nations and kingdoms to uproot and tear down, to destroy and overthrow, to build and to plant.”
New International Version (NIV)
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