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Sowing and reaping - for goodness sake! Lessons from cress

To explain how students can make a difference in the world by sowing words and actions of love and truth (SEAL theme 3: Keep on learning).

by Tim and Vicky Scott

Suitable for Whole School (Sec)


To explain how students can make a difference in the world by sowing words and actions of love and truth (SEAL theme 3: Keep on learning).

Preparation and materials

  • A carton of mustard cress from the supermarket.
  • Kitchen roll, plastic or tin tray, bottle of water, packet of mustard cress seeds.
  • The information about mustard cress, and how to grow it, can be found on
  • You might like to print out the following instructions for growing cress, to hand out at the end of the assembly to pupils who are interested.
    –  Fold a few sheets of kitchen roll to a suitable size to fit in a tray, and place it in a tray.
    –  Using a jug, cup, or other type of vessel, slowly pour some water on to the kitchen roll, until there’s enough water for the kitchen roll to be soaked, but not swimming in the water.
    –  Generously, and as evenly as possible, sprinkle cress seeds over the kitchen roll.
    –  Place the tray in an area, such as on a windowsill, where it will get the most sunlight.
    –  You will need to check and water the seeds daily to ensure that the kitchen roll does not dry out.
    –  After 12 to 14 days, your cress should be fully grown, approximately 2 inches tall, and ready to be harvested; this can be done with a sharp pair of scissors. Use a sieve to rinse the cress under a cold water tap, shake dry, and store in an air-tight container. After harvesting, the cress is unlikely to keep for more than 48 hours.
  • The Bible passage is Matthew 13.31–32.


  1. Show the cress, and see if anyone recognizes that it is cress. Ask: Who likes cress in their sandwiches? Explain that there are different types of cress: watercress (also known as land cress or American cress) and thale cress are two types, both of which are soil-grown varieties. A common type of cress is mustard cress, which doesn’t need soil.

    Mustard cress is a mixture of the sprouts of white mustard and cress. It has a spicy peppery taste. Cress has many uses – for instance, in egg sandwiches, to decorate finger food at a buffet, or as a soup.
  2. Ask if anyone likes gardening, and find out if any of the students has ever grown cress or sunflowers. Explain that mustard cress, like the sunflower, is easy to grow. It does not need a garden or soil. It can be grown at any time of the year, but grows best in sunlight.

    Show your tray, kitchen roll and water and explain that all you need is a suitable shallow container, a few sheets of kitchen roll, a sunny windowsill and plenty of water. And, of course, a packet of cress seeds! (Demonstrate the first steps, and summarize the remaining steps: see the preparation section above.)
  3. Read the parable of the mustard seed that Jesus told (Matthew 13.31–32):

    ‘The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that someone took and sowed in his field; it is the smallest of all the seeds, but when it has grown it is the greatest of shrubs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches.’

    Ask: Have you ever felt as if you could never make a difference on your own, because you feel you are so insignificant? If so, this short parable that Jesus told is just for you, because it reminds us that the mustard seed, though small and insignificant, has the potential to grow and become very useful. This is what happens when we care about each other and enjoy life to the full.
  4. You are here in this school now, and live in this area now, in the year 2011, and you too can make a difference in the lives of others, a difference that could be significant.

    As you sow seeds of love in the things you say and do, both to the deserving and the undeserving, God working through you will produce a harvest of good in the world around you.

    The potential is all there – we just need to have patience and wait for the harvest. Watch out for signs of the harvest. Listen to what people say today and this week – maybe you’ll be praised for something, or you’ll be asked for your advice about something.

    Keep living honestly, faithfully and cheerfully as you wait for the signs of a harvest of good through your life. Know that you are working for God and the world when you live like this!
  5. You could suggest that the students grow some cress. As the pupils leave the assembly, give everyone who is interested a sheet of instructions.

Time for reflection

Think about the opportunities you have to spread love and kindness in this place today.
How will you do that?


Dear Lord,
thank you that in your eyes I am not insignificant, but extremely precious.
Please help me to be faithful to your call
by sowing seeds of faith, hope and love today
that there might be a harvest for good in this world.


Play John Rutter’s hymn, ‘Look at the world’ (available to download)

Publication date: September 2011   (Vol.13 No.9)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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