A tale of two lawns
It’s a tale of two lawns. We had no choice really. Our builder, for quite understandable reasons, wrecked both our front and back gardens. Skips and grabs in the front; excavators and mixers in the back. Which meant new lawns, front and back. As it happened, an awesome task - just underneath the surface was buried the debris from when our house was originally built. As always the preparation is everything and we prepared properly: turf stripped, soil rotovated and then raked, by John and by Ian. Thanks guys. I made the tea. Then the big decision – how to make the lawn. We decided an instant garden for the front, laying turf in rolls while for the back, old-fashioned seed bought from a knowledgeable seed merchant from Bickerstaffe. So today, the front lawn looks magnificent. A beautiful shade of green, no weeds and no moss. Perfect. Coach loads of gardening enthusiasts come to gaze with awe at its splendour. However, the back lawn. Just as well it’s at the back, out of sight. To be fair, some of the seeds are doing their bit, producing baby blades of grass. And if you bend your knees to look over the surface, parts of the lawn look okay, especially if you squint. But a whole quarter of the lawn, nothing happening. You can still see the grass seed, just Jacqui blames me – that was the part of the garden where I sowed the seed. In contrast, those areas which Ian seeded were doing just fine. Jesus was fascinated by seeds; he told stories about them. Tiny, even non-descript. Just looking at seed, they give nothing away. And yet, from the tiniest seed comes the biggest bush. Just like the Kingdom of God, teaches Jesus. “It is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his garden. It grew and became a tree, and the birds perched in its branches.” (Luke 13:19) But each seed has a life of its own, hence our back garden. In some areas the seed gets going virtually right away; in other areas, nothing seems to happen. I personally blame the silver birch for the delayed growth rather than birds, rocky soil or thorns of the parable. Of course, what Jacqui and I need – Jacqui more than me – is patience. Seeds take time but no doubt, given a few more showers and more hours of sunshine soon the whole garden will be grassed over. Maybe one day our back lawn may rival the front. But that’s life and that’s sowing the Gospel. Often results appear patchy. Same seed, even the same sower but different results, at least to begin with, depending on whereabouts in the garden the seed is sown. The knack is to see the potential. The apostle Paul clearly took Jesus’ teaching on seeds to heart. Along with Barnabas to begin with and then later with Silas he traversed whole tracts of territory in what is today Turkey and then Greece, town to town, with the Gospel message. Very occasionally they would remain for several months, as in Corinth and Ephesus, but their standard stay was just a few days. Remarkable, if you think about it. Just a short visit including a Sabbath service at the synagogue – and then move, or be moved, on. The apostles clearly had a confidence in the seed they were planting and like all farmers they understood that sometimes the response would be immediate but often it would take longer, even much longer, for the seed of the Kingdom to germinate. This week I heard of the death of an old friend, Charles Bonsall. Charles had a remarkable ministry, especially for the 15 years or so he worked for Intercon, the mission agency working with expats, usually in Europe.
Early in the 1980’s Charles could see that increasingly people from the UK were going on holiday in France on package holiday taking their own cars and using hired tents. Canvas and Eurocamp were the main players. Charles could see the potential of a new campsite ministry, taking the opportunity of engaging with busy people now with time on their hands. Totally eccentric, Charles worked with campsite owners and local RC churches to set up seasonal ministries all over France in which UK clergy with their families were given the opportunity to take holiday services. Our family loved it and over about ten years we would visited the nearby campsites as well as leafletting parked cars, inviting everyone to a special Family Service. Essentially, in contrast to parish ministry at home, this was one-shot evangelism. You planted the seed and then with a few days everyone would drive back home. It would be most unlikely you would ever see them again – which meant that for some men (it was usually men) there would be no loss of face in going to church. With just a few exceptions of people who later contacted us, we had no idea of how fruitful this ministry was, except we knew the potential of the seed of the Kingdom. Charles understood this power of planting Gospel seeds. He worked tirelessly, sometimes to the exasperation of the headquarters staff, but who knows how many lives were transformed by his seizing this Gospel opportunity? When God’s word is sown, you can expect even a hundredfold growth. Don’t just look at the seed, get sowing.