Beirut and Clover Seeds
Note: We are beginning a new rhythm of Thursday blog posts about outreach at Incarnation--hope you'll follow along!
February 2, 1968
by Wendell Berry
In the dark of the moon, in flying snow, in the dead of winter,
war spreading, families dying, the world in danger,
I walk the rocky hillside, sowing clover.
Wendell Berry wrote this poem three days into the disastrous 1968 Tet Offensive of the Vietnam War. That same year brought race protests, riots in the streets, two tragic assassinations, and a bitter election. It was a year of shock, rage, division, despair, and grief. A year, in many ways, like our own.
And in the frozen soil of this painful year, the poet sows . . . clover. A weed.
Yet this weed brings weary soil back to life so that it can sustain more, healthier crops next season. Clover invites pollinators to linger, producing flowers, seeds, and fruits. Clover offers grazing animals a feast; they grow bigger and healthier, their milk is richer, and they birth more young.
Sowing clover is an act of renewal and refreshment. It's an investment in the hidden ways of God's creation. It's an act of hope in an unseen future of life and flourishing.
On Monday evening, the ongoing tragedy of our own year was punctuated by a devastating explosion in Beirut, Lebanon. 137 are dead at last count. Thousands are wounded. Hundreds of thousands are homeless. Half of the city is destroyed.
How do we "sow clover" in a time like this? To use the language of scripture, how do we sow the kingdom of God?
Our tools feel like clover seeds, weedy and meager. Prayer. Monetary gifts. Small acts of service.
But the kingdom of God grows from meager seeds. The kingdom "is like the smallest of seeds, yet when it grows, it becomes a tree, so that the birds come and perch in its branches” (Matthew 13:32). In the economy of God, by the miracle of his grace, our sowing matters.
In future weeks, these Thursday blogs will be a place for updates and reflections about our outreach efforts. But this first week, I'd like to simply invite us to keep sowing. That's really all our outreach is . . . sowing small seeds.
This week, I specifically invite you to sow seeds of prayer and generosity in Beirut:
This article interviews 15 local Lebanese ministries in the wake of the blast; choose one and pray for them by name each day this week.
This article describes the hopes and challenges of the Lebanese church; pray for and with our brothers and sisters.
Pray for those displaced, hungry, wounded, and grieving.
Pray for good leaders, effective governance, peace in places of deep division, and the ongoing battle against COVID-19.
If you struggle to find words, pray this Collect for Natural Disasters: "Almighty God, by your Word you laid the foundations of the earth, set the bounds of the sea, and still the wind and waves. Surround Beirut with your grace and peace, and preserve it through this explosion. By your Spirit, lift up those who have fallen, strengthen those who work to rescue or rebuild, and fill us with the hope of your new creation; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen." (BCP 654)
The practical needs are immense, and we are all affluent by global standards; consider how you might give from your resources to a relief organization you trust.
I'll end with words of Joseph Kassab, president of the Supreme Council of the Evangelical Community in Syria and Lebanon, from his interview in Christianity Today: "In the midst of such pain, we need to become a better church. We are not called to sit in the pews, but to witness for Christ and work for the kingdom of God." Amen.