One early spring morning a few years ago, I can remember walking out of my house in Virginia to discover that we had received a few inches of “sugar snow,” as my dad used to call it when I was growing up in Vermont. Sugar snows are those spring snowfalls that come in late March and April, during the time when the sweet tree sap is running abundantly, and the farmers are busily collecting and making that delicious treat, maple syrup. It is during this time that we sometimes have the joy of seeing some of our spring daffodils and crocuses poking up through the new snow, creating a dazzling contradiction in color and light.
Recently, I was sitting in my sunroom enjoying the beauty of an amaryllis blooming for the third time since Christmas. It was a gift from a dear friend, who knows how much I love gardening and coaxing my flowers to bloom to their full potential. Watching these flowers bloom in the midst of snow and ice blowing against the parsonage windows, one can’t help but hear the faint promise of spring.
I realized in my reflections that being a pastor is not so much different from that of a gardener or perhaps even a farmer. Our work is always done with an eye toward the harvest and realizing the fruits of our labors at some distant point. For farmers and gardeners, the “fruits” are well defined — corn and wheat from the fields, tomatoes form the garden, vegetables in abundance for canning and eating — as we celebrate the work of months of planting and weeding and watering. For pastors and fellow-ministers of Jesus Christ, celebrating the fruits of our labor can come in many forms. For me, looking into the innocent face of a small child while I baptize them in the name of the Father, and the Son and the Holy Spirit is one of the ways I get to experience “the harvest.” It is not unlike experiencing the joy of a newly blooming flower. It is something I have never fully appreciated until I was the one performing this sacramental act.
Looking into the face of a child is like seeing innocence in its purest form, and perhaps the closest we come to gazing into the face of God — at least in this life. There are other ways we experience “harvest moments.” Sometimes in Sunday worship, when the music plays and the voices gather into a crescendo of praise, I often feel chills move down my spine, and I know that God is smiling upon us. These are the moments when our hearts become one with God, when we experience life the way it was meant to be lived.
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During February and March this year, while the earth outside remains hard and frozen, we still have an opportunity to prepare the ground for planting and harvest ... the fertile ground of our hearts that is. Lent is a time of introspection, repentance, restoration and renewal. It is a time when we examine ourselves and look for the ways we have strayed from God’s will for us. And as we discover those “weeds” within us, to take the time to gently remove them so as not to disturb the “good wheat” that grows alongside. It’s really very simple — read your Bible, keep a journal, pray for others, attend worship and experience the joy of serving others during this season of reflection and hope. For we know the end of the story — God wins, and as followers of Jesus Christ, we will be welcomed into an abundant life in God’s presence where the harvest will be plentiful and peace will reign forever.
David Downer is pastor of the Trinity United Church of Christ in Centre Hall. He can be reached at trinity email@example.com.