West Sussex County Times

Nurturing our spiritual seedlings

- Revd Jane Bartlett Associate Vicar Church of the Good Shepherd and St Mary de Haura, Shoreham

This is the time of year when gardeners become very active. The green fingered are planting seeds and nurturing seedlings in anticipati­on of an abundance to come. At my church we’re busy building a children’s garden, to be used as an outdoor classroom. Part of the vicarage garden is being transforme­d with raised beds for vegetables, log seating and even an area for chickens. There’s much for adults and children to learn from being outside with our hands in the earth. For Christians creation springs forth from the grace of God. If we want to know God we can look closely and lovingly at nature.

Jesus liked to teach about the spiritual life by using seeds and plants as an illustrati­on. There’s the well-known parable of the sower, found in three of the Gospels, that tells the story of a farmer who sows seeds: some falls on the path, some on rocky ground, some amongst the thorns and some in the good soil. It is only those seeds sown in the latter that bear a harvest.

We might consider how the spiritual life is like sowing seeds. Seeds can be unpredicta­ble. Not all that is planted grows. Some seeds grow at a tremendous pace and others are slower. Much can come along to spoil their growth. This year I put the courgette seedlings out too early and the whole lot was destroyed by frost. So I start again.

Like those delicate seedlings, the spiritual life needs nurturing and protection. Much of our inner growth happens quietly, out of sight, a hidden process. It requires sustained attention, yet ultimately not everything is under our control. I can’t force a seed to germinate. It is the Holy Spirit who comes and grows within us, continuall­y transformi­ng us into the likeness of Christ. Our faith assures us that come harvest time we can expect wonders.

Prayer, scripture, contemplat­ion, study and service, these are just some of the conditions that are needed. They are the water, sun, warmth and good soil for the soul. But ultimately it’s up to God. Says St Paul: “It is not the gardeners with their planting and watering who count, but God who makes it grow.”

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