As I finish off another growing season on the farm, I reflect on how things grew, what went well, and what to tweak for next year. Aside from our various pastured livestock, I also grow a market garden and, after nine years, I still feel that I have so much to learn.
With each season, I learn a few new tricks, like ways to get bigger onions, for instance, and, at the same time, things that have worked in the past didn’t work this year because of too much or not enough moisture or too much wind. I imagine I will continue to tweak things and keep learning for the rest of my life with this.
Being closely connected to seeding, tending, growing, pruning, harvesting and all the unpredictable variables that come with farming, I see why Jesus used so many farming metaphors throughout his teachings.
Galatians 6:7-9 speaks of reaping what you sow, which comes to mind at this time of year. It’s easy to connect it to the garden. I know that if I plant carrot seeds, I’ll get carrots later, but only if I plant them in good soil, weed them, thin them and make sure they have enough water all season long.
The same goes for our life in the church. Most of us took a break from church this summer, as most of our churches were forced to close their doors for public safety. We continued to worship as best we could through YouTube or Zoom, but it’s not the same. I allowed myself to take a bit of a break from church involvement. It was easy to just let it slip away and be absorbed by the business of the farm. I reflect now on what I have to harvest in my life in the church and my life in faith, but there is little to speak of.
If nothing else, this is a pep talk to myself—a reminder to do and be the church in order to reap any harvest.
The amount of continued effort just to grow a carrot is a reminder to me that fulfilment, meaning and community in the church, if that is what I want to reap, needs continued effort beyond watching a YouTube video once a week or even showing up to church Sunday morning. If that’s all I can give to the church, then I can’t expect much of a harvest.
If we want the church to be a welcoming place where friends gather, then we need to be that friend. If we want the church to be a place that looks out for the marginalized in our communities, then we need to do that together. If we want the church to be a place of discerning the way of Jesus in our world, then we need to do the work of discerning.
There’s a saying that the best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago, but the second-best time is today. Go plant new seeds, nurture those you may have neglected, and let God fertilize with mercy and grace what is good.
Lisa Martens Bartel is a member of the Mennonite Church Saskatchewan Pastoral Leadership Commission and a lay leader of North Star Mennonite Church, Drake, Sask.