Thanksgiving Sunday Oct 7, 2018
I remember well my first year of married life, and my first year of farming with my brother (and without our father). Our father had died suddenly the previous winter, and so the two of us had a “baptism of fire” into the farming business. Although we had grown up helping our dad from the time we were little children (please don’t report me to OHS, but I remember driving a tractor around a field while my dad forked off hay to the cows before I started grade 1; although, for the record, I wouldn’t allow my grandkids to do the same), there is a difference between being a “helper” and being a manager. While attempting to build a house on a “shoestring budget” and trying to start up a fluid milking operation (our dad died the very night we were installing that equipment) and learning all the “ins and outs” of the planting, harvesting, and marketing grain (and lots and lots of machinery repair) the stress was significant. Added to that summer rains that delayed both the building of our house (I can’t remember how many times I pumped water out of the basement hole) and haying until after our week-long honeymoon to Banff and back.
With the haying delayed, harvest got delayed a bit as well, and to add insult to injury, the clutch went out of our only field tractor. Lacking sufficient funds to repair it, we waited for our neighbor to finish his harvest, so we could borrow his tractor. Mid-September rains turned into early October rains, and it wasn’t until late October that we got access to my neighbor’s tractor. By then our fields (particularly the gumbo patches) were so wet that we had to wait until freeze-up to get on them. Throw in bovine disease that came in through the purchase of a single cow, and I was wondering if that first year of farming would be my/our last.
Verses like the one from the book of Joel probably wouldn’t have been met with much believability for people like me during that first year on the farm; as we read of rains coming at the right time and in the right proportions, grain bins full to the brim, a chicken in every pot, and the promise that the people of God would never be put to shame again. Those who know a bit about farming, and a bit about the history of Israel, and the history of Christianity, know that shame did in fact come to the people of God on more than one occasion since that time, and conditions for farming are not always what farmers wish them to be.
What I, and other people of faith discover though, is that often as we look back and take inventory of our lives on the farm, and our lives with God, that over time we see the provision of God, and the deliverance of God time and time and time again. Even with the difficult conditions of our first year on the farm, somehow (thanks to God and the help of family, friends, and neighbours) we managed to get our house more-or-less livable by the time we were married. And although a bit darker than those cows may have preferred, the hay got baled which fed them through the winter. The swaths on those frozen fields were eventually combined and the straw baled. And there were even enough funds from the sale of milk and grain (along with some funds from Lois working at the hospital) to feed us, fix the clutch on the tractor, and acquire seed and fertilizer for the following year, so we could repeat the process again.
There was no question there were “ups and downs” with life on the farm, as there is with life off the farm. We may not always hear the soil praising God (as there are times as we can’t hardly hear our own praise of God), but in my/our experience, God has provided for our needs, year after year after year. I don’t think I would want to wish our first year of farming on my worst enemy, save for that one thing- the knowledge that even in such difficult times, God provides. Farming provides a good learning ground for this. `
Kings and Politicians…and Those who Pray for Them 1 Tim 2:1-7
Every Thursday morning a small group of us gather here at the church for worship, study, and prayer. I don’t think I remember a single time when someone has not prayed for our political leaders. Sometimes it’s hard to know exactly how or what to pray for in this regard. In the movie Fiddler on the Roof, a religious devotee asks the rabbi if there is a proper prayer for the Czar, to which he responds, “may God bless and keep the Czar…far away from us”.
A similar notion seems to be in Paul’s mind as he instructs Timothy and those who read this letter regarding prayer for “kings and those in high positions”, as both they and we pray that these leaders would allow us to live “quiet and peaceable lives in all godliness and dignity”. If you haven’t been on the combine 24-7 this past week (and perhaps even there you are not totally free of the news of the day), you will know that such prayers are needed now more than ever as our own provincial government is increasingly infringing on the rights of primarily Christian people at this point, by attempting to impede us from living out our creeds and our lives in “godliness and dignity”.
If you happen to come to the Men’s group information meeting next Tuesday at 1:15, you will hear that such prayers are even more urgent for those currently living in Iraq and Iran (and other countries lead by radical, militant Islamists). Not only can those living in such countries not live out their lives “quietly and peacefully in all godliness and dignity”, in many cases they cannot live out their lives at all- as they are often tortured or killed simply for their confession of faith in Jesus).
This passage goes on to state the heart of God regarding all people: Muslims, Jews, secularists, politicians, lapsed Lutherans, you-name it- to come to a knowledge of the truth of Jesus Christ. For those who desire “truth” apart from Jesus, these words may well seem discriminatory and even offensive. I liken this to those who rail against the discriminatory nature of gravity (on this planet anyways), that seems to continually discriminate against their desires to go up and reach new heights instead of continually being brought back down to earth (without the aid of massive amounts of carbon-based fuels…or perhaps massive amounts of feathers). Gravity is, as gravity does, no matter what I might think, wish, feel, or believe. The literal words of Jesus in the gospels of John as he states that he is the “way, the truth, and the life” (Jn 14:6b), or his words to Pilate, “For this reason I was born and have come into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to My voice.” (Jn 18:37b) force us to grapple with these claims and come to some kind of conclusion. Either he is who he says he is, and is in fact” The Truth”, or as CS quotes, he’s as delusional as a person who thinks he’s a poached egg…or something worse.
Paul then goes on to state his core credal convictions about the nature of God and salvation; “5For there is one God; there is also one mediator between God and humankind, Christ Jesus, himself human, 6who gave himself a ransom for all—this was attested at the right time.” All religions (including secularism and atheism) have their creeds and statements of belief. One such creed that gives me a bit of a chuckle every time I hear it goes something like, “we have deeds not creeds”. There’s only one small hitch with that statement, and that is that the very statement is itself a creed…a statement about what such a person believes. Another most credible way to say this might be, “although I say I don’t have any particular creeds/beliefs…I actually do”. Currently I, and many other Christians are finding ourselves in disagreement with many of the secular creeds that are currently being espoused all around us. In a free society, everyone has freedom to believe whatever they want to believe about gravity, sexuality, God, or anything else for that matter, but not all creeds are created equal. Paul’s (and the Christian) creed about
the singularity of God dates back to the time of Abraham and beyond. Christ as mediator dates back to the witness found in the New Testament and is authenticated by the resurrected Jesus himself. People are free to believe this or not, but this is at least a couple of core tenets of the orthodox Christian faith.
The text ends with Paul’s admonition to prayer (contrary to what we often do, prayer at the time of Paul involved lifting, rather than folding hands), and to do so without anger or argument. Paul makes a distinction between making a defense for one’s beliefs and doing so through heated argument and anger. Although our human sinful frame often wants to exert itself when making our defense, the Holy Spirit is right of course in cautioning us against doing so in anger. Such ungodly means never justify the ends, even should we technically “win” the debate.
And so it is that this small group of prayers that meet on Thursday mornings, and each of you gathered here today and others throughout the world lift up holy hands in prayer for our leaders, so that we as Christian people in this land, and in all lands might live quiet and peaceably in all godliness and dignity, and we do so without force or intimidation. This may not seem overly impressive to some, but I’m convinced prayer has the power not only to change the hearts and minds of our politicians…but to change us as well. Amen