Sowing Seed


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On holiday over the summer, we took a borrowed campervan, our bikes and spent much of our time cycling alongside French canals and visiting coffee shops! France definitely (from my limited geographical research) has the best coffee shops in all the world. One particular coffee shop in Saulieu in the Dordogne region of France was simply wonderful!

Yes, of course, we took two digital cameras with which we took at least 1000 photos! But, especially on holiday, what I really like is to sketch. A sketch book slows me down and makes me focus on what is around me – not just the auto-focus on my camera. Otherwise I would have - like a tourist I noticed in Chateau Chambourd taking 1000s of photos – seen France through the back of a camera. 

So our break in France this summer gave me the perfect opportunity once again to sketch what I enjoy - Buildings! 

In sketching, my bench mark: the style I aspire to, is a particular picture by Van Gogh. It is in Dulwich Picture gallery.

And Van Gogh has inspired me in more ways than mone, here are some of quotes:

  • “I am seeking, I am striving, I am in it with all my heart.”
  • “I am still far from being what I want to be, but with God's help I shall succeed.”
  • “What would life be if we had no courage to attempt anything?”
  • “The fishermen know that the sea is dangerous and the storm terrible, but they have never found these dangers sufficient reason for remaining ashore.”

Van Gogh was a failed missionary. This quiet, thoughtful man was born into an upper-middle-class family later spent time as a missionary in southern Belgium. As well as doodling he even spent time translating passages from the Bible into English, French and German. 

At one stage, he immersed himself in Christianity and had a strong desire to become a church pastor.  But he failed the theological school entrance and also failed a three-month course at a Protestant missionary school near Brussels. But 1879 he worked as a missionary in a coal-mining district of Borinage in Belgium. 

On one occasion, to show support for his impoverished congregation, he gave up his comfortable lodgings at a bakery … to a homeless person, and moved to a small hut where he slept on straw.

However, his squalid living conditions annoyed the church authorities, who dismissed him for "undermining the dignity of the priesthood". 

The Sower, another picture by Van Gogh, shows his understanding not just of colour and texture, but of the process of sowing. His picture has some clues about what time of day it was. But is it morning? Or evening? What season is it? Autumn with brown leaves and bare branches? Is the sower just starting or is he nearly finished?

Photo-Michele Ahin: Van Gogh Museum – The sower 1888:

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This reduced-resolution photo has been released under the Creative Commons cc-by-sa 2.0 (generic) licence. .

I need to remind myself every time I visit a school … yes, I am seed sowing … but what seed? What does this generation of children see – or hear – or know about the church, about Christians?  About me? About you?

Thankfully, God is totally committed to seedtime and harvest and the Bible teaches in the parable of the sower that the seed is the word of God; in 2 Cor 9:10 Paul makes it clear that 

 “He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness.”

And the very fruit we should be sowing is His word to this generation. Words of life. Words of love. Words of grace.

I believe we are in a season of seed-sowing and at times, it feels as though there is not much to show for it. Here is Paul again to encourage us, this time in Galatians 6:9,

“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”

Or as Van Gogh would say: “I am seeking, I am striving, I am in it with all my heart.”

So where did I get my ‘thing’ for sketch book from?  When I was a child I had a Brownie 127 camera. I had the grand total of 8 photographs for a while week. EIGHT. Each one was precious. And when I compared to my digital camera which has the capacity of 1000s of photos, it throws some perspective on the concept of ‘seeds’.

Every seed is valuable. Every life we engage with in a school, albeit how slightly, is a seed sown.

Ironically. Have you ever noticed the pleural of seed is the same? Just as sheep. Whether one or 1000. And we talk about seed, the Millennium seed bank at Wakehurst place is just that - it is not the ‘seeds’ bank.

Last word to Van Gogh: 

"One does not expect to get from life what one has already learned it cannot give; rather, one begins to see more clearly that life is a kind of sowing time, and the harvest is not here."

Let’s not give up sowing seed for the kingdom – especially in the generation in primary schools.