Seeds of Hope

By Jennifer Woodruff Tait

June 13, 2024

Scripture — Mark 4:26-34 (NRSV)

Jesus said, “The kingdom of God is as if someone would scatter seed on the ground, and would sleep and rise night and day, and the seed would sprout and grow, he does not know how. The earth produces of itself, first the stalk, then the head, then the full grain in the head. But when the grain is ripe, at once he goes in with his sickle, because the harvest has come.”

He also said, “With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable will we use for it? It is like a mustard seed, which, when sown upon the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth; yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes the greatest of all shrubs, and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade.”

With many such parables he spoke the word to them, as they were able to hear it; he did not speak to them except in parables, but he explained everything in private to his disciples.


I think about those tiny seeds that we planted in despair all the way back three or four years ago. Have any of them come to fruition in your life? I can point to stories of the way they have in mine.


Yesterday I wrote about how my devotionals for this coming Sunday line up with passages I wrote about three years ago, at the height of the pandemic, and how this represented a rare opportunity for me to see how good of a prophet I’d been.

In Mark 4, Jesus tells a couple of well-known parables—one about a garden that grows on its own and one about a tiny seed that grows into a great big tree. Here’s some of what I had to say about both of those parables in 2021:

Is it possible that you could ignore your garden and go on with the business of life and “sleep and rise night and day” (presumably not weeding while you were sleeping and rising) and still have your grain sprout and grow and get to the point where it was actually edible and you could harvest it? I have watched my husband pull enough weeds in his garden to think that this would be an exceedingly difficult endeavor. How in the world did that poor grain not get choked by weeds, or mint, or kudzu?

Yet even as these images puzzle and amaze me, they also give me a key to where God is at work right now: not in the well-tended gardens where we expected him and prepared for him, especially before March 2020, but in the most tangled parts of the world and our lives—in among the weeds and the kudzu, the Zoom and the COVID, the death and the destruction, the questions and the uncertainties, the doubt and the longing.

It is there that Christ is reconciling the world to himself. It is there that new life and new creation will break forth. It is there that we have planted what seem to us like the tiniest of seeds, planted almost in despair. And it is there that Christ will make all things new and grow for us, somehow, some way, bursting through the weeds and cracked ground, the most amazing mustard tree.

Yesterday I dwelt at some length on the ways that our experience over the last few years has involved death and loss and despair. I strongly believe that we do ourselves and the Kingdom of God no favors when we behave as though everything always goes well for Christians; it may be that you need to remain for now contemplating the moments of loss and despair, and know that Christ holds you in those moments.

But I also think about those tiny seeds that we planted in despair all the way back then. Have any of them come to fruition in your life? I can point to stories of the way they have in mine. I reconnected with people I had fallen out of touch with, some of them for decades. I learned what it meant to love community-building places so much that I tried to save a few of them. (I succeeded with our community theater but failed with several restaurants.) I came to love the Eucharist and my church community in new ways, even while grieving the loss of those who never came back when the Zooming was over. I clarified vocational questions. I started shopping at the corner grocery store. I recommitted to a life that was both profoundly local and infinitely interconnected.

And Jesus was there. Because I didn’t do any of those things on my own.

I certainly feel, in a polarized nation and a war-torn world, like that big gorgeous mustard tree I hoped for three years ago is still very much a Kingdom project in process. But I also know that, in the darkest of nights, we planted seeds of hope for a transformed world.

“From the past will come the future;
what it holds, a mystery,
unrevealed until its season,
something God alone can see.”—Natalie Sleeth


(The same questions from yesterday.)
What did you lose between 2020 and now?

What (if anything) did you gain?

Where did you see the Lord?


This is the same song I chose for yesterday, “Hymn of Promise.” It is also sung by a small local Lutheran church choir, as yesterday’s version was. It was recorded three months ago, not three years ago—unmasked, undistanced. As yesterday’s version represented what we have lost, let this one represent what has endured.


(Prayer for the Fourth Sunday After Pentecost in the Book of Common Prayer) Keep, O Lord, your household the Church in your steadfast faith and love, that through your grace we may proclaim your truth with boldness, and minister your justice with compassion; for the sake of our Savior Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Find all Life for Leaders devotions here. Explore what the Bible has to say about work at the unique website of our partners, the Theology of Work Project. Reflection on today’s Life for Leaders theme can be found here: Parables at Work (Mark 4:26-29 and 13:32-37).

Jennifer Woodruff Tait

Editorial Coordinator

Jennifer Woodruff Tait (PhD, Duke University; MSLIS, University of Illinois; MDiv/MA Asbury Theological Seminary) is the copyeditor of and frequent contributor to Life for Leaders. She is also senior editor of

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