Tag Archives: Farmers

Decoration/Memorial Day Thought

As I prepared the sermon, I started remembering how our family handled Memorial Day, which we called Decoration Day.  The day was a process–beginning in the morning picking flowers from our own yard.  No purchased ones were ever used and I never remember not having fresh ones available.

The next step was wrapping old Folgers coffee can with aluminum foil, filling them with the flowers and then water–enough to get to the cemetery before we added more there.  The flowers filled the trunk of the car and then for the next step.

My memory includes picnics.  Mom would pack the picnic basket–now sitting in my dining room with one broken handle–with either fried chicken or ham.  No potato chips, instead there would be potato salad and/or deviled eggs.  At least that is what I remember.

Then off we would all go–all four of us.  No one stayed home as this was a family event.  We started in Middletown.  I remember it because that is where Ote West was buried, along with his wife.  Our farm had been his, but when he died, it became Dad’s.  And with each grave, came the stories. Little did I know the value of the stories then as I do now.

From Wellsville, we drove to Millersburg where Mom’s birth mother and an older brother are buried along with others from her family.  This is where we learned of the heartbreak Mom experienced having lost her mom when she was only 2 1/2 years old and growing up to know she had had an older brother, too.  What we did not know until 1980 was that her mother had been pregnant when she died.  But the stories continued.

As I remember, we often had our picnic at Dixie Lake which is only a few miles from the Millersburg Cemetery.  In terms of a lake, it is rather small by my adult standards, but as a young girl it was huge.

After lunch, we drove back to Montgomery City’s cemetery where Dad’s family was buried.  There were more graves to visit here, but Dad’s family was much larger.  One memory is of my cousin Sally’s family.  She was the only infant to survive due to RH factor.  The graves of the babies are not an accurate reflection of that heartbreak as some were turned over for scientific study.  But the story is laid out along the rows of graves in that cemetery along with aunts, uncles, great-grandparents, and now even our own parents.

Today I live on the other side of the state.  Trips to the cemetery are far and few between.  The cemetery is a location, but the spirits are always present.  I rather miss the traditions and being able to share the stories I learned from decorating the graves, but location determines many decisions.

I know that Memorial Day is really designed to honor the veterans, but for me it is honoring the history of my family.  We did not have many who were veterans as most were farmers and escaped being drafted.

One uncle did serve in World War II and suffered from malaria off and on during his life.  Plus my dad and his cousin Donald did enlist at the end of World War II when the draft called them.  (Enlisting rather being drafted reduced the months of service.)  Later his brother also served.  Yet they returned home to continue farming until their lives ended in a non-combat manner.

Today, the Tuesday after, I wonder if I should have made the drive across state to visit the cemeteries.  No.  My memory always honors those who have gone ahead.  The cemetery is just a place.  My decoration is the life I now live honoring them in who I am.  I am sure they know.

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Mysteries of Harvest

given on Sunday, September 28, 2014

Scripture Base:  Matthew 13:36-43  “Parable of the Wheat and Weeds”

24 Here is another story Jesus told: “The Kingdom of Heaven is like a farmer who planted good seed in his field. 25 But that night as the workers slept, his enemy came and planted weeds among the wheat, then slipped away. 26 When the crop began to grow and produce grain, the weeds also grew.

27 “The farmer’s workers went to him and said, ‘Sir, the field where you planted that good seed is full of weeds! Where did they come from?’

28 “‘An enemy has done this!’ the farmer exclaimed.

“‘Should we pull out the weeds?’ they asked.

29 “‘No,’ he replied, ‘you’ll uproot the wheat if you do. 30 Let both grow together until the harvest. Then I will tell the harvesters to sort out the weeds, tie them into bundles, and burn them, and to put the wheat in the barn.’” . . .



Out driving along our country roads, no one can miss the fact harvest is under way. The smells of the cornfield, the signs of the shelled corn along the edge of the road, the dust in the horizon, even the big trucks lumbering along the roads all announce harvest. Of course we do live in a rural community, and harvest season creates a sense of mystery. In fact, many simply accept harvest as part of a farmer’s lifestyle and don’t think about any mystery.

The parable of the wheat and the weeds can help unravel mysteries of harvest especially since it speaks directly to those raised in the farming community. To be honest, even those raised in the urban environment may understand because their own family heritage began on a farm. Of course the ones who truly are urban born and bred, through and through, the parable can share the mystery of harvest, too.

First, though, what mysteries of harvest are there? For me, a daughter of the family farm, harvest is filled with images that demonstrate mysteries of life. When the combine goes through the fields and cuts, shells, and loads the corn, the machine becomes like a magician performing a trick.

I can see the process, I can hear an explanation about how the combine works, and I can watch the corn fill the hopper. Yet, an element of mystery remains how such a device can process the corn plant from its place in the field to a pile of debris and a hopper heaped with shiny yellow corn. The process is one of the mysteries of harvest.

The picking of the corn is a symbolic representation of life’s final phase—or is it? The life cycle of a grain is a parallel to the life cycle of people. Jesus was sharing the parable of the wheat and the weeds to an audience that worked the fields in an agrarian culture. The audience struggling to raise a bountiful harvest knew exactly what message Jesus was sharing with them. And the same message should be that clear to us as we harvest this year’s crops.

Mysteries of harvest begin with the mystery of life itself. The creation story remains mysterious because no one can prove or disprove the story in a manner that all can agree. The questions remain and are discussed in various manners such as asking once again whether the chicken or the egg came first.

Life is filled with mystery and as the life cycle progresses some mysteries can be unraveled, but others continue to tease rational minds. The wheat and the weeds parable relates how difficult it can be to sort out the good from the bad, the wheat from the weed, the faithful from the unfaithful.

Two plants with extremely similar characteristics planted side by side in the same dirt receiving the same weather conditions as it sprouts, grows, and produces the fruit. The workers know the problem, but the owner knows the risks of pulling up the weeds. Not until harvest can the two be separated.

The mystery remains until harvest. Harvest 2014 has surprises for all of us. The growing season has been filled with different weather patterns, with rain and drought, with cold and heat, with sunny days and cloudy ones. Not until harvest do farmers know the full effect of the growing conditions.

As the combines travel through the fields, the mystery of production unfolds. How many bushels per acre does this field produce? Across the road, the results may be the same or very different. Sometimes the differences are very small, but sometimes they are vastly different and farmers analyze why: sometimes the answer is obvious, and sometimes it remains a mystery.

When Jesus selected the Apostles, he chose a group of individuals from various backgrounds. These men had to be trained much like a farmer has to prepare the field for planting. The parables were as critical as the plow, the disc, the planter, and the seeds. The Apostles needed to understand the mysteries of faith in order to prepare the people for harvest or judgment.

While reading the parables in Matthew, the wheat and the weed parable is immediately followed by the parable of the mustard seed and another of the yeast. But the Apostles were still struggling to understand the mysteries of the lessons.

In Matthew 13, verse 34 explains how Jesus used the parables:

34Jesus always used stories and illustrations like these when speaking to the crowds. In fact, he never spoke to them without using such parables. 35This fulfilled what God had spoken through the prophet:

“I will speak to you in parables.

I will explain things hidden since the creation of the world.”


The mystery of the wheat and the weeds had to be explained to the Apostles even after the crowd left. They asked Jesus to explain the story:

37 Jesus replied, “The Son of Man[b] is the farmer who plants the good seed. 38 The field is the world, and the good seed represents the people of the Kingdom. The weeds are the people who belong to the evil one. 39 The enemy who planted the weeds among the wheat is the devil. The harvest is the end of the world,[c] and the harvesters are the angels.

40 “Just as the weeds are sorted out and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of the world. 41 The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will remove from his Kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. 42 And the angels will throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 43 Then the righteous will shine like the sun in their Father’s Kingdom. Anyone with ears to hear should listen and understand!

Imagine how frustrated Jesus might have been. These were his chosen Apostles whom he was going to leave the entire responsibility of carrying His Word to the world. The world was the field, and yet the farmers—the Apostles—were struggling to unravel the mystery of faith so they could continue planting the seeds for God’s harvest.

The symbolism of harvest is found throughout the Bible. Harvest continues to demonstrate how God judges his followers when death ends their physical lives. It begins in Exodus and ends in Revelation. Understanding the mystery of harvest literally as well as symbolically is difficult.

Rev. Bob Farr, Doug Anderson, and Lay Person Kay Katon have identified four observations concerning the condition of churches today, and understanding the first two is critical to the life of the church:

  1. Inwardly focused churches tend to define and practice evangelism as “reconnecting disconnected church folks.”
  2. Outwardly focused churches define and practice evangelism as connecting the unconnected folks to Jesus and then to the church.



The harvest, so to speak, of our churches does not have to be a mystery. We must take an honest assessment of what we do, how we do it, and what else can be done. Are we inwardly focused or are we outwardly focused?

Over the next few months, as we prepare for fall events, Charge Conference, Advent and a new Christian year, it is important that we follow God’s commandment to love one another and are equipped to carry out the commission of making new disciples of Christ for the transformation of the earth. Set goals for your personal faith journey and join with the church family to set goals for the coming year.

As a church, remember the theme “to hold fast to love and justice.” As we move into action with the community children on Halloween and open the doors for the turkey dinner, let us be outwardly focused. As Thanksgiving celebrates the harvest, let us celebrate the arrival of Jesus during Advent.

Let us look for methods to increase God’s harvest. There are books to read, leaders to train, and ideas to share. We may be thinking more about harvesting than planting, but even farmers begin ordering seed for next year’s planting during harvest. Maybe some of the practices cannot be done, but we can modify or create new ones. We can share the love of God in ways that produces a record-breaking harvest. The mystery of faith will answer the mystery of harvest.

Please join in a closing prayer:

Dear God,

Thank you for a year filled with love.

Thank you for seasons to plant,

to grow, and to harvest.

We acknowledge our dependence

on your guidance through the Bible

and the teachings of Jesus.

May we seek ways to share the love

and to fight for justice for all.

Guide us through the Holy Spirit

to be the outwardly focused church

caring for the unchurched,

the hurting, the lonely, the ailing

and even the strong still struggling

to unravel the mysteries of faith.


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Prepare Ye!

given on Sunday, April 6, 2014

Prepare. What a packed word! There are so many different ways to talk about that one word and it seems to affect our lives—prepare. Prepare a meal, prepare for guests, prepare for the day’s work, prepare for a trip, prepare for retirement, even prepare for the end.

Prepare ye! Just one more word added on, but it changes the entire perspective. Why prepare ye, or in today’s vernacular, prepare yourself? Adding yourself to that verb creates a simple phrase with an entirely different perspective. Preparing yourself is much more than following a morning routine getting ready for the new day.

When Mark used Isaiah 40:3 to open his gospel, he invoked a reference familiar to the Jewish people yet he was talking to the new Christians of Rome. The reference provides a historical connection to the prophecies the Jewish people knew so well. Using such a key verse can preserve the link of modern humanity to historical humanity.

Prepare Ye the Way. The words woke me. They circle around and around in my head. It triggered memories, questions, and ideas. Why? Each extra word that adds to the phrase becomes more and more weighted. Prepare yourself the way. Now the verb, the personal connection is moving toward the Way.

What way? How does one prepare for the way when it is an unclear destination? Back to the Biblical verses:


Isaiah 40:3 [the NIRV]:

A messenger is calling out,
“In the desert prepare
the way for the Lord.
Make a straight road through it
for our God.


Mark 1:3 [the NIRV]:

“A messenger is calling out in the desert,

‘Prepare the way for the Lord.
Make straight paths for him.’”


The way is to the Lord. Prepare yourself for the way to the Lord. Isaiah the prophet told his people they needed to prepare the way for the Lord in roughly 681 BC while Mark was repeating the same words to the newest Christians about 750 years later around 60 AD. Here today, in 2014 AD, almost two full millenniums later, these words pop up and circle through my brain.

The common thread continues to weave the generations together; it continues to direct our thinking, our actions, and our purposes toward the Lord, our father, creator, protector, and comforter. The way to the Lord is not a simple path.

Growing up on the farm, preparation is part of the structure of daily life as well as the year’s growing cycle. The farmer follows the cycle God provided for waking up, for working, and for resting. It is a cycle for the day as much as it is for the entire year. Whether it is January or July, the farmer’s pattern is set by the very world God created. Separating God from that life risks the very source of life—God’s creation meant to meet the needs of all.

After the week when farmers tackled the fields to prepare them for the seeds, planted the seeds, and left them to God’s care in the soil to warm and to water for germination is a clear example of preparing the way for the Lord. Once the preparation is complete, farmers know they must place their faith in the Creator.

This same process is what the prophets in the Old Testament had to do with preparing the people for the way of the Lord. Isaiah is full of messages trying to prepare the Jewish people for the way of the Lord. The Bible we know is filled with Old Testament prophets who tried to prepare people. If the people had listened and followed the way of the Lord—loving each other and being good stewards of the earth, would the way to the Lord have included the stories of the New Testament?

In Mark, invoking the words of Isaiah set up the connection to John the Baptist. Rather than starting his gospel with the birth of Jesus, Mark chose to begin with the work of John the Baptist. He reports the preparation that John did to prepare the people for Jesus:

And so John came. He baptized people in the desert. He also preached that people should be baptized and turn away from their sins. Then God would forgive them. All the people from the countryside of Judea went out to him. All the people from Jerusalem went too. When they admitted they had sinned, John baptized them in the Jordan River.


John was preparing the way for the Lord. And the way was through the ministry of Jesus Christ, the Lord’s son sent to teach all, not just the Israelites, how to live so that all could have eternal life–the way to the Lord.

Prepare Ye the Way! Our millennium is over 2,000 years after Christ walked this earth. Are we listening? Have prophets been carrying the message to the generations since Jesus’ death and resurrection? Have we prepared each other for the coming of Jesus Christ?

During the late 1960’s the chaos that spread through our country seemed to spark a movement that destroyed all the preparation Jesus and the Apostles had done. A survey of history shows that Jesus’ message had been carried by disciples/priests from the cross on the hill to the European continent and across the oceans.

The way has not been easy. The conflicts between men created much of the evil that was witnessed by the Israelites and the earliest Christians. During the 1960s that chaos included the Vietnam War, the Civil Rights, the War on Poverty, and even the Equal Rights Movement. In the middle of this came modern prophecies:

Give thanks to the Lord for He is good

            His love endures forever

            Hallelujah, oh, my soul

            Praise God, all my life long I will praise God

            Singing songs to my God as long as I will live


            I will praise you, oh Lord, with all my heart

            Before the Gods I will sing Your praise

            I will bow down toward Your holy temple

            And will praise Your name for Your loge and Your faithfulness


            Prepare ye the way

            Prepare ye the way of the Lord. . .

            –from Michael W. Smith’s lyrics “Prepare Ye the Way” in the musical Godspell



            Prepare ye/yourself.

            Prepare ye for the way.

            Prepare ye for the way for the Lord.


In today’s society we do not talk about prophets instead the term used is futurists. Typically futurists do not focus on spiritual topics but trends in the lifestyles and/or business. They look at what may be next in how we conduct business. The think tanks do not spend time assessing how humans live as much as they look at what can be done to improve quality of earthly life. Yet, the prophets are there we just do not want to hear the messages.

Godspell prophesized we need to prepare ye the way for the Lord. Just like Mark, the musical goes directly to the prophet Isaiah’s words to prepare ye the way for the Lord. Undoubtedly the parallels are too uncomfortable to discuss, yet in the 1960’s the truth is in the words, not only in Godspellbut in another rock musical Jesus Christ Superstar. In the theme song, Judas says:

Ev’ry time I look at you

            I don’t understand

            Why you let the things you did

            Get so out of hand

            You’d have managed better

            If you’d had it planned

            Now why’d you choose such a backward time

            And such a strange land?


            If you’d come today

            You could have reached a whole nation

            Isreal in 4 BC

            Had no mass communication . . .


            Don’t get me wrong, now . . .

            Only want to know . . .

            Jesus Christ

            Who are you? What have you sacrificed . . .

            Do you think you’re what they say you are? . . .


            Tell me what you think

            About your friends at the top

            Now who d’you think besides yourself

            Was the pick of the crop?

            Buddah was he where it’s at?

            Is he where you are?

            Could Mohomet move a mountain

            Or was that just PR?

            Did you mean to die like that?

            Was that a mistake or

            Did you know your messy death

            Would be a record breaker?


            Don’t get me wrong, now . . .

            Only want to know . . .

            Jesus Christ

            Who are you? What have you sacrificed . . .

            Do you think you’re what they say you are?

                  –from the lyrics of Jesus Christ Superstar


Judas set into motion the end of Jesus’ story. He betrayed Jesus, and Jesus knew he would betray him:

17 When evening came, Jesus arrived with the Twelve. 18 While they were at the table eating, Jesus said, “What I’m about to tell you is true. One of you who is eating with me will hand me over to my enemies.”

19 The disciples became sad. One by one they said to him, “It’s not I, is it?”

20 “It is one of the Twelve,” Jesus replied. “It is the one who dips bread into the bowl with me. 21 The Son of Man will go just as it is written about him. But how terrible it will be for the one who hands over the Son of Man! It would be better for him if he had not been born.”


Place yourself in Judas’ place. Did he prepare the way of the Lord or not? Had the prophets known that Jesus’ ministry would end in such a betrayal and gruesome manner? Was it part of the plan? During Jesus’ last supper with his family and friends, was he continuing to prepare the way for the Lord?

When we come to the Lord’s table, are we preparing our way to the Lord? Are we a Judas? Are we a Peter? Are we prepared to carry on Jesus’ work or not? Are we prepared?

Today as we share the bread and the cup, do we hear today’s prophets telling us to prepare the way for the Lord or do we just go through the motions with no understanding?

22 While they were eating, Jesus took bread. He gave thanks and broke it. He handed it to his disciples and said, “Take it. This is my body.”

23 Then he took the cup. He gave thanks and handed it to them. All of them drank from it.

24 “This is my blood of the new covenant,” he said to them. “It is poured out for many. 25 What I’m about to tell you is true. I won’t drink wine with you again until the day I drink it in God’s kingdom.”


Prepare. Get busy. Make sure you have done what God has asked you to do. Live the life given you by God. Share the stories of Jesus. Demonstrate God’s love to one and to all.

Prepare yourself. Do not slide on the very acts of piety needed to keep your Christian faith strong. Pray. Study the Bible. Worship—privately and corporately.

Prepare yourself for the way. The work never stops. Farmers know this all too well, but so do successful parents, businessmen, artists, and more. Preparation is not just an occasional process; it is a daily even lifelong process.

Prepare yourself for the way of the Lord. Buried in this phrase is a tiny little word that can make such a difference: of. Think about the implications of that one tiny word:

  • . . . the way of the Lord: OF seems to indicate that we are to follow the way of the Lord, not our way—but His way.
  • . . . the way to the Lord: TO indicates that through preparation, we will reach God’s side; a goal filled with hope.
  • . . . the way for the Lord: FOR the Lord implies that one needs to be open to the possibilities the Lord may have for one’s life; a promise.


What a challenge! What a thrill! What a reward! Prepare yourself for the way of the Lord. The prophets have spoken. Jesus has lived. We are the ones who are to prepare the way.

Closing prayer:

Dear God,

We hear you.

We know you.

We prepare for you.

Guide us as we prepare

not only ourselves

but others

for the way

of the Lord,

for the way

to the Lord

and to eternal life

by your side. –Amen

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