When everyone had arrived we paraded outside, and marched around the church making four stops in the four corners of the swept dirt compound. At each stop someone had drawn a circle in the dirt and written the four sources of this communiy's livelihood: the borehole, the garden, the carpentry shop, and the school. So we read scripture, sang, and prayed for each of these, before hunching down to re-enter the low opening under the thatch roof of the church.
At which point the preacher read the parable of the seeds, and a command with promise from Malachi 4 about tithing and finding abundance in the harvest.
Several things struck me about this service. First, the very Hebrew unity of physical and spiritual. These people did not consider their gardens to be irrelevant to their worship. And rather than murmur a god-bless-those-seeds prayer, they actually carried the seeds to the church to be prayed over. The God who gave us his body and blood, who speaks through His created world, I think would applaud the concrete nature of this act. Second, the church became a focal point for community, as the service ended we watched people share and exchange seeds. And lastly, the way a tithe is faith. To give seeds to the church as some did, is to risk. To risk everything including one's children's survival on the promise of God. If I only had a bag of dusty pods to get me into the next year, I would think long and hard about giving any away, before planting, before seeing what weather and war and market prices and a thousand other in uncontrollable variables would bring.
So pray today that the seeds of South Sudan would be blessed. The literal seeds of a country waiting for rain and food. And the seeds of freedom, of a reorganized society, of markets and trade and books and exams, of drinking water and vaccines and a thousand processes that make up a society.. And mostly the seed of faith, which starts small and dried out and unpromising but in the mystery of God can flourish into a nation that nurtures our world.