“So God Made a Farmer” by Paul Harvey
I played the audio version of Paul Harvey’s message “God Made a Farmer’ this past Sunday because another storyteller celebrated the contribution of the farmer in the stories he told. While standing in the rows of a vineyard, sitting beside a freshly planted crop, or looking at fields ripe for harvest, Jesus never tired of using the farmer and the soil of his profession to illustrate spiritual truths. In most of these stories, God is the farmer, exhibiting interest in His crops and enduring patience with what he has planted.
That is certainly the case in the Gospel story about the fig tree. A vineyard owner wants a fig tree planted on his land and has his farmer put one in the soil. He expects it to grow and plant figs, yet it does not for its first three years. He concludes that it is worthless and orders it to be removed. The farmer, though, has more patience and convinces the owner to give it one more year, during which he will give it special attention and fertilize it with manure. He believes it has a future.
Recently, we asked our parishioners to respond to a survey about the “spiritual health” of Holy Family. One comment stated that maybe we should only baptize people from the parish. In our last baptism, people in the pews felt uncomfortable because the manners of the family at the font did not meet their expectations. Some people felt annoyed and upset by what they witnessed. Our committee members had a lively exchange of opinions. Maybe we need guidelines about who and who can’t be baptized in the church? Others felt that the parish “mission” statement welcomes all with open arms.
Kathleen Norris, in her book The Cloister Walk, provides insight on what happens when we don’t repent, Repentance is coming to our senses, seeing, suddenly, what we’ve done that we might not have done, or recognizing … that the problem is not in what we do but in what we become.
Our lack of repentance results in our becoming something far less than God intended when he planted us in this world. We may look healthy on the outside, but our lack of fruit is evidence that we are perishing. You and I are not here to enjoy the rich nutrients of the soil and keep them all to ourselves. We are not here to take up space and not produce any fruit. We are not here to live without accountability and inspection. We are not here to wonder about other people’s innocence or guilt or etiquette and not consider our own.
What we are here to do is to thrive in the vineyard of God and bear fruit for the people of our world. The fruit of our branches is to provide nourishment, taste, health, and life in our community. Is such fruit on our branches? Are we that part in the crowd who can’t understand Jesus?
The agricultural tip for the people to bear fruit rather than perishing was in the manure. God could take the waste of life and bring beautiful and life-giving fruit from it. This wouldn’t happen unless they were willing to use it as fertilizer. There was still hope. Jesus, one skilled in bringing life from waste, could see the potential in the people who gathered around him that day. He looked at their fruitless branches and saw fruit. He could bring it out of them if they would join in; if they would do their work of turning away from the things that were destroying their lives and take in the ingredients of life God had for them.
Let us pray and reflect: “But you are merciful to all, for you can do all things, and you overlook people’s sins, so that they may repent.” (Wisdom 11:23).
Lord, I pray for all my Sonshine Friends that Lent becomes a time of crop inspection. Let this season be a time to see not so much what needs to be given up, but adding what is missing. It is a time to allow God to redeem the waste of our unfruitfulness and bring the kind of harvest our world is missing.