This is an interesting and a bit of a violent text to have on a Sunday when we are celebrating the harvest. Such as it is, the occasion to gather, give thanks to God, and to joyously come together to once again mark the relationships we have formed is always lovely. When I speak of relationships, of course I mean the relationships that we form with one another. But, I also mean the relationships we have formed with the other congregations as we once again participate in the Food Resource Bank program. And I also want to celebrate, or perhaps lament, the relationship that so many of you have to the land.
So many of you know that farming has not always been in my vocabulary. I learned a lot on internship and all of you have been so gracious to teach me more and more every day. There are still occasions when I see a piece of equipment in a field and I just gawk and say “I wonder what that thing does.” And if I were to try and explain whatever I saw to you I’m almost positive I would sound a bit silly—but I’d be willing to take the risk anyway. All of this to say I also want to celebrate today the relationship that all of us have to the land. And ALL of us have a relationship to the land whether we farm it or not. This year, so far, seems to be a pretty okay year. I know many of you still have corn or beans in the field; but from what I’ve heard so far, things are looking okay. We might have a celebration year. But I also know that there have been many years where it hasn’t been great and the lament is hearty.
Our ties to the land are much stronger than many people realize. Before becoming a pastor and learning the language of farming I would drive past corn fields having no idea what all that corn was used for and why was it so brown? Wouldn’t you want to pick it while it was still green? It’s dead now, right? And I thought things like “what do you mean those are soybeans and not weeds?” I fear, my brothers and sisters, that our society is moving further and further away from knowing where their food comes from and we are moving further and further away from knowing how the American farmer really (seriously) keeps this country moving forward.
People, I’m sure, might be surprised to know that as they drive past those corn fields that the ethanol used to help fill up their car started as corn. That the soda they are drinking started out as corn. That the burger they are munching on was probably a cow that ate corn. All while driving past fields upon fields of beautiful stalks that beckon for us, for all of us to listen. Listen as the corn tells us the story of how, year after year after year, it provides not only for this community but also for families and communities world wide.
Our Gospel today tells us “Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people that produces the fruits of the kingdom.” I highly doubt that as any of you prepare to fire up your combines and grain carts that you think “well, here I go…collecting the fruits of the kingdom.” However, the relationship that we have to the land, to other congregations, and to the FRB program certainly produces the fruits of the kingdom. Micah 6:8 tells us “what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” When we use crops, time, and money to train those in Honduras, Guatemala, Uruguay, the Congo, Kenya, Cambodia, Nepal, and many many other places around the globe we are doing exactly what the Lord has commanded us to do.
While a cart full of grain may not look like fruits of the kingdom to you, it looks like a sustainable well watering system to someone in Guatemala. A cart full of grain may not look like fruits of the kingdom, but to someone in Honduras, it’s seeds that produce much better in that environment. Those grain carts may not look like a lot to the average human eye, but to those who benefit from the FRB program, it means life, an opportunity to feed their families and the village around them, and ultimately, it may mean freedom. All of what we might normally take for granted as Americans is gifted to others in the gift of beans and corn.
The work of being a disciple, the work of being Christ to others in the world isn’t always easy. The work of being Christ and sharing God’s message to others in the world isn’t always comfortable either. However, when you take something that you already love, like farming, and combine it with helping others, how much easier is that Gospel to spread? In the gifts of the FRB program the message that we are sending to others is the same message that God sends us: you are not forgotten about. You are worth something. I love you. I care for you. Thanks for trusting me as we walk through this together. All of these words, all of these sayings are things that God says to us through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. I love you. You are not forgotten about. You are worth something. I care for you. Trust me as we walk through this together.
And while it may seem like nothing to you, when we give the gift of water, grain, machinery, experience or time to those in other countries through the FRB program what we are saying is the same thing to those in need. My brother, my sister: you are not forgotten about. I care for you. This is easier when we go about this together!
Friends, all of us are engaged in kingdom work. You don’t have to be a farmer to bring about God’s kingdom in the here and now. The fruits of the kingdom are as easily given in meals, time, donation, listening, and advocating as they are given in the gift of grain. As of right now, we only have one planet to live on. I give thanks to God for all of you who steward the land as a gift from God. I give thanks to God for all of you who support those who are good stewards of the land. I give thanks to God the ecumenical work that reminds us not only are we tied to the land but we are tied to one another. Most of all, I give thanks to God who created this land and saw fit to call it “good.”