Death is like Sowing Seeds

Grandma

My grandmother, Georgina Shultz, passed away last Sunday (April 19, 2020).  I had been preparing myself for this for a couple of years after she went into assisted living.  What I was not prepared for were the circumstances.  The home where she stayed has made the news for having a severe outbreak of Coronavirus cases (over 80) among residents and staff.  Grandma was not a “confirmed case” but her difficulty breathing and sudden downturn indicates she was likely another victim of COVID-19.  What breaks my heart the most is the fact that, due to social distancing and the outbreak, her sons and grandkids (and others who loved her) could not be around her before or when she passed.

Starting in the summer of 2017, I began interviewing my grandma on video during my visits.  If she was in a good mood and willing, I would capture little stories and snippets using the camera on my phone.  I learned some very interesting stuff like how this under-aged Baptist girl went to taverns when she was dating my grandpa (a fact she would have never admitted in years prior, but in one video she even shared with me her drink of choice).  One day I asked her for her favorite hymn.  I expected an old standard, but instead I got a relatively obscure hymn (based on an even more obscure Bible reference) called “Bringing in the Sheaves (click to listen).”  Here are the lyrics:

Sowing in the morning, sowing seeds of kindness,
Sowing in the noontide and the dewy eve;
Waiting for the harvest, and the time of reaping,
We shall come rejoicing, bringing in the sheaves.

Bringing in the sheaves, bringing in the sheaves,
We shall come rejoicing, bringing in the sheaves,
Bringing in the sheaves, bringing in the sheaves,
We shall come rejoicing, bringing in the sheaves.

Sowing in the sunshine, sowing in the shadows,
Fearing neither clouds nor winter’s chilling breeze;
By and by the harvest, and the labor ended,
We shall come rejoicing, bringing in the sheaves.

Bringing in the sheaves, bringing in the sheaves,
We shall come rejoicing, bringing in the sheaves,
Bringing in the sheaves, bringing in the sheaves,
We shall come rejoicing, bringing in the sheaves.

Going forth with weeping, sowing for the Master,
Though the loss sustained our spirit often grieves;
When our weeping’s over, He will bid us welcome,
We shall come rejoicing, bringing in the sheaves.

Bringing in the sheaves, bringing in the sheaves,
We shall come rejoicing, bringing in the sheaves,
Bringing in the sheaves, bringing in the sheaves,
We shall come rejoicing, bringing in the sheaves.

This is a farming reference to sowing and reaping.  Sheaves are the bundles of harvest that result from a successful crop season.  The song is based on Psalm 126:6 which says, “He who goes out weeping, bearing the seed for sowing, shall come home with shouts of joy, bringing in the sheaves with him.”  She used to work the hay fields with her farmer daddy so I am not surprised this would have been meaningful for her.

The picture we get in this passage is a reluctant farmer who is sad to sow the seed in the ground.  He is likely sad because he does not have much food.  So, he is literally taking food out of his family’s mouth to bury it in dirt.  Why?  He does so in faith that it will produce a crop at harvest.  When it does, he will have joy as he brings in the sheaves of produce.

This reference is lost on me as someone who has never farmed, but it was not lost on Grandma.  In one of our videoed-visits she shared how she would work the hay fields with her dad.  It was strange for a young girl to be working with the men in the fields, but it does not surprise me one bit.  Grandma was one of the hardest workers I have ever met.  So, when she sang the words “Bringing in the Sheaves” she likely remembered many harvest seasons where she would literally do just that.  She experienced the reality of sowing and reaping; she knew the joy of bringing in the sheaves.

The passage from Psalm 126 talks of sowing, but it is not merely speaking of sowing physical seeds, but of a spiritual reality of sowing and reaping.  What are the seeds we sow in faith?  The passage names a few:

  • Seeking God with our whole hearts (vs 1)
  • Telling others of the goodness of God (vs 2)
  • Walking in God’s ways (vs 4-6)

Jesus also speaks of sowing and reaping (Matthew 13:1-8, 18, 23).  Jesus spoke of seeds as holding fast to the Word of God by not just hearing it, but living out (Luke 8:15).  The one who lives unto God by faith would receive the harvest of eternal life.  Simply put, faith in God sown in this life produces a harvest of eternal life with God.  This reference was not lost on Grandma either.

The lyrics say, “Sowing in the morning, sowing seeds of kindness”  I remember one day when Grandma was in the kitchen cooking for what seemed like forever.  As a kid, I wondered what special meal was coming.  Then, she packed up the food in recycled food containers like those old Country Crock butter tubs and asked me to help carry them to her car.  We got in the car and took a very short drive up the street.  She explained to me along the way that there was a family in need of food and she would be giving what she made that day to them.  This was the first time in my life that I grasped that there are real people who don’t have food.

Then, something life-changing happened.  We pulled up to rickety old mobile home and knocked on the door.  The person who answered was a kid from my class at school.  The family had a kid like me; a real person with a real name who I knew personally.  This impacted me more deeply than I know how to put into words.  Grandma did not orchestrate this life changing moment.  She simply sowed seeds of faith by giving away food and God used it in my life.  From that point on my grandma might as well have worn a superhero cape in my eyes.

Grandma was always sowing seeds like this.  I could tell you countless stories of my grandma sowing just these types of seeds.  Thanklessly spending countless summers cooking countless meals for countless campers at Bates Creek Baptist Camp in a rural Missouri.  Casting her widow’s mite in the offering plate at Horine Baptist Church where she faithfully attended and served for as long as I remember, probably longer than I have been alive.  Hours of silent prayers for her family that none but God has heard.  Why?  She was waiting on the harvest from these seeds of faith she was sowing.

On April 19th, somewhere around 2 PM, Georgina Shultz received the harvest of her years of faith in Jesus Christ.  Though never experienced and indescribably wonderful, what happened that day for Grandma was no surprise.  When she closed her eyes to this world, she opened her eyes to a reality she had expected by faith for nearly all of her 90 years.  She saw the face of Jesus welcoming her into the harvest of eternal life.  Of course, like all of us, I believe she was welcomed by many who loved her and passed on before not the least of which was Grandpa Shultz.  She may have passed away lonely and with only a few by her side, but she was greeted by the cheers a rejoicing crowd of loved ones led by her precious savior and Lord Jesus Christ.  Perhaps they even asked her to sing a song: Bringing in the Sheaves.

Going forth with weeping, sowing for the Master,
Though the loss sustained our spirit often grieves;
When our weeping’s over, He will bid us welcome,
We shall come rejoicing, bringing in the sheaves

On Friday, April 24th I had the privilege of performing my grandmother’s funeral.  Like the reluctant farmer buries a seed in Psalm 126, we buried her with weeping.  If that were the end of the story, it would be worthless; meaningless.  But, that is not the end of the story.  The seed is buried in hopes of a greater harvest.  The wise farmer knows he will see the seed again, though greater than the previous seed form.  I will see her again and she will be fully healed, restored and clothed with all the blessings that are hers in Christ.  This is the hope of the resurrection.

1 Corinthians 15 speaks of death; and when it does it describes our bodies like seeds buried in soil.  It says in verses 42-44 42 So will it be with the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; 43 it is sown in humility, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; 44 it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body.

I will see Grandma again and she will be fully healed, restored.  Her mind will be sharp, her body will be strong, all of those wonderful qualities I loved about her will be fully expressed.  And, she will be clothed with all the blessings that are hers in Christ.

1 Corinthians 15 continues in verses 54-57:  54 When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.”
55 “Where, O death, is your victory?
Where, O death, is your sting?”
56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

This is the hope of the buried seed’s harvest; this is our hope in the resurrection of Jesus Christ.  Death is not the end for those who trust Jesus Christ as their Savior and Lord.  We weep our tears as we bury Grandma, but we grieve with hope that Jesus Christ has won the victory through his death and resurrection.  And that seed of hope in Christ will produce a harvest of everlasting life for you, for me, and is now Grandma’s  reality as she enters that hope.

If you are wise, you will learn the lesson that death has to teach us:  cast the seeds of faith that God has given to you today knowing that it will produce a harvest because of Jesus Christ.  One day we will all face our “April 19th.”  I don’t say that to scare you, but to help you further embrace the reality of Jesus Christ and what He has done for you through His death and resurrection.

“Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you will abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” – Romans 15:13

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