This Ember day, coming as it does right before spring, is a season focused on sowing, but it is of interest to more than gardeners and farmers. The agricultural practice of sowing seed became for the biblical writers a metaphor of the spiritual life. Hosea used it figuratively of God sowing Israel in the Promised Land; Jeremiah, for God making Israel fruitful; Zechariah for sowing Israel abroad in the diaspora; and the Psalmist by fashioning his prayer from the metaphor:
“He who goes out weeping, /bearing the seed for sowing,
Shall come home with shouts of joy, /bringing his sheaves with him.”(Ps. 126)
Later Jewish writers told of “God sowing virtues in the soul” much as we approach the Lenten disciplines as cooperating with the Holy Spirit’s work and God’s word in sowing the new life of the Spirit and the rhythms of grace into ever-deeper aspects of our lives.
Jesus uses this image of sowing in his well-known Parable of the Sower to teach about the Kingdom of God. The Sower going out to sow tossed the seed abroad in the field of the world. That is trust God and share the Gospel. Share the Gospel and trust God. So also in other parables such as the Growing Grain and the Mustard Seed the sowing metaphor found a place in his teaching (Mark 4:26-32).
St. Paul, likewise, used the metaphor of sowing to teach essential principles of the spiritual life. As he notes in Galatians 6:7-10: “Do not be deceived; God is not mocked, for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. For he who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption; but he who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. And let us not grow weary in well- doing, for in due season we shall reap, if we do not lose heart. So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all men, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.”
Then again, in 2 Corinthians 9:6 he takes up this metaphor afresh: “The point is this: he who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully Each one must do as he has made up his mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.
So, too, with these spring Ember days or seedtime. It is an opportunity to reflect upon the simple but profound truth that there can be many spring times in our lives—days for sowing and planting. Spring is not just a season for the young. Sowing and planting can refer to sowing words of encouragement; to prayers cultivated in private; gifts and alms planted in secret; sharing an experience of God’s faithfulness; writing a letter, email or text to friend; a note to someone going through a difficult time; a hug, a hand on the shoulder, or a greeting on the street.
Read it all.