He, who plants a seed beneath the sod and waits to see it grow, believes in God.
If I had a penny for each time I heard my grandmother say that when I was a child, I would never have had to work! With that mantra of spring mulling inside our minds, we always got outside this time of year to clear flower beds, seek perennials making their way towards the sun’s warmth, and pruning the dead foliage away so that new life had a chance. Since we now journey in post-Eastertide, it all boils down to new life and hope.
Way back in the day, Taylor Caldwell wrote a book entitled Dear and Glorious Physician. At the age of 14, and being a voracious reader even then, my mother gave me the book to read during summer vacation. It was, for me, an instant love affair with Luke, the physician and gospel writer. I was hooked, and still am! Luke, the champion of the least, the last and the lost has always fed my spirit. His respect for and treatment of women in Scripture is a lovely perk! However, that being said, I have been sitting with the parable of the barren fig tree from Luke 13:6. The gardener tells the owner of the vineyard, “Give me one more year to tend to this tree, spreading manure and nurturing it. If in a year, it does not bear fruit, it shall be cut down.” This parable is teeming with food for thought!
We lived for a long time in northern Shelby County. Big farm lands up yonder! This time of year, the farmers are itching to get out and start plowing. The soil there is rich and fertile, a luscious black. It puts me in mind of a local priest from Cincinnati, a city boy who was transferred to a very small, rural town where we resided. (This will lose something in the telling, as I cannot affect the screech of the voice, the bulging, watery eyes and hands waving in angst. One of those, “you had to be there moments.”) However, this young priest choked out, “What is that ghastly smell?” (You see, for a couple of days, the fragrance in the town and surrounding areas was rather ripe.) His congregant, a hard-working, BIG German farmer replied, “Remember that smell Father when you eat your Thanksgiving dinner.”
Lest we forget that there are a whole lot of phases between seed and feast, gratitude for hard work, long and laborious hours and true dependence on the Almighty might be in order. As well as that wonderful prayer of “Thank you!”
Getting back to Luke 13.6, I happen to be reading a book by Henry Cloud entitled Necessary Endings. Cloud is a psychologist with a Christian bent, leadership expert, author and speaker. This book puts Luke 13.6 in a modern perspective of how we live our lives through the seasons of change. Change is constant. To not change is to stagnate. But most of us push against change like it is a bad thing. (As an aside, I would highly recommend this book for personal as well as vestry reading! Stimulating themes for discussion may ensue.)
Cloud discusses the “pruning away” of things in our personal lives, relationships, work situations and other miscellaneous areas, which no longer give life or deplete vitality being funneled towards other aspects of our living life to the fullest.
Clergy tend to live inside their heads a lot. We spend a lot of time with the “ologies” of life – theos, eccelsia and techno – it might be nice to loosen our collars and let our heads bobble a bit in other directions of life-giving matters. It is after all, spring! If it is good for the “red, red robin,” it is good for us. Perhaps it is the season to put snippets of parsing aside. We could shorten that endeavor to parsnips! (Yes I know that pun was bad, but the devil made me write it!)
Pruning unleashes many hard questions for most folks to address. It is especially difficult for clergy who attempt to deal with changing congregations. The handwriting is and has been on the wall. We change or we become dinosaurs. We have lived in ruts and the “same ole” for so long, we have forgotten how to dream. Yet, dreaming, hoping, anticipation is what spring is all about. It is really what Easter is all about! Like creation/nature, we can only spend an allotted time in a season for it to be healthy.
Energy is currency. How much of what you do gives you energy? If it doesn’t, then why keep doing it? What does it take us all to invest in creation? This is the year! Let us tend to those barren fig trees in our lives, haul out some manure, prune and have at it. I pray we will all be bearing fruit and not barren fruit in the seasons to come.
The Rev. Ruth Paulus is a registered nurse and serves as rector of St. Christopher’s, Fairborn. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.