The story of Vincent Van Gogh is familiar to many of us. In his early career, he was a pastor and preacher but his church thought he was overzealous, too spiritual, too much of a dreamer; so they kicked him out. Shortly thereafter, Van Gogh traded preaching for a paintbrush.
The landscape in Van Gogh’s painting is so big that it dwarfs the sower. The hour is late. The sun is low in the sky. The sower probably can’t even see all of the seed, but he keeps at it even when he can’t see the impact of the seeds upon the soil.
There’s a sense of urgency in this painting that must be our sense of urgency. We know from the parables of Jesus that seeds are sown with no guarantee that they will fall on good soil. But we sow anyway. In the Gospel of John Chapter 9, Jesus calls his followers “to work while it is still day, for night is coming when no one can work.” We’ve got to face up to the reality that our time is limited. Life is short.
If we say we are followers of Jesus we know the way that leads to life. It’s the way of sowing and reaping; hoping and praying for the harvest to come.
In their book Resident Aliens, Stanley Hauerwas and Will Willimon write that “The purpose of the Church is to show the world that it’s not the Church.” They go on to note that “our job is not to water down the faith so that the Gospel becomes credible to the modern world—our job is to make the world credible to the Gospel.”
We do this by being shaped by the same story that shaped the pilgrims on their way to Jerusalem, the same story that shaped Jesus on his way to Jerusalem. And the same story that shaped the first witnesses to the resurrection—the women who wept for the body of Jesus.
The story of the body of Jesus doesn’t end with weeping, of course. It ends with resurrection. We get a glimpse of that on Easter morning, and the power of resurrection becomes even more palpable at Pentecost.
Thankfully, we’re not the ultimate sower, nor are we the ultimate preparer of the soil. Jesus does that and invites us to join us in his work. It’s not up to us to share Jesus with the world. Jesus is sharing us.
Think of it this way, on the day of Pentecost, Jesus shares Peter with the crowd. Peter is willing, and he can’t believe his eyes—or his ears. Jesus cultivated the soil. Peter joined the work. And the rest is history. Jesus wants us to gather seed. He wants to share us with the world. Are you willing?
Gannon Sims is Director of Networking and Communications for Fresh Expressions US. He lives in Fredericksburg, Virginia where he works to bring Fresh Expressions of church to the University of Mary Washington community.
Gannon is the Director of Ministry Formation for Fresh Expressions US and leads the Fresh Expressions efforts of the Baptist General Association of Virginia. He earned the Bachelor of Arts Degree from Baylor University and the Master of Divinity degree from Duke University. Prior to entering seminary, Gannon worked as a legislative aide in the U.S. Senate and as a public affairs officer in the anti-human trafficking office at the U.S. State Department. He enjoys forging partnerships between followers of Jesus from different traditions and has served in various roles at several churches, Baptist, Presbyterian, and Anglican. Gannon is married to Carey, who also is a graduate of Duke Divinity School. Together they work to bring fresh expressions of church to the collegiate community at the University of Mary Washington in Fredericksburg, Virginia.