From the Bishop
THANKGIVING DAY 2019
We plow the fields and scatter the good seed on the land, but it is feed and watered by God’s almighty hand.
These lines are from my favorite Thanksgiving Day hymn. As we sing we should see how we could apply these words to our lives. The image of laborers in the field preparing the ground and planting seeds is a very peaceful image. Farming is an honorable pursuit in this mechanized world, but many young people only know food by the plastic wrapper it comes in. They only see the superficial side of life. It is no wonder then that the world has lost touch with the act of creation and its Creator. We have lost sight of the continual hard work needed to produce a crop year in and year out.
This agrarian image can be applied to the church and our efforts of evangelism today. We the sowers of the seed must be aware of the conditions in which we plant. Recall the parable of the seed that falls on rock, shallow soil, and then on the good ground. The seed, God’s Word, is perfect and complete in and of itself. If we properly care for the Word it will flourish, just as the seed on good soil grows strong so the Word will grow in the hearts of men. The Word of God contains all that we would ever need for the health of our souls. Understanding then that the seed is perfect we need to look at other factors that would affect the spread of the Word. These variables are the condition of the soul and the skill of the laborers to understand the state of the soul.
God is the husbandman who manages the fields and the laborers. He gives us the tools and knowledge we need to plant a good field in the heart and soul of mankind. God gives us the tools we do not have ourselves. The rain comes to nourish the soil and our tears to provide love and compassion for all. He sends the wind and rain to refresh our efforts, as the days grow long. When we come to Him hungry He feeds us with His Body and Blood to strengthen our souls. As we tend to the garden it often becomes too much for us. God then holds out His hand to lift us up from the ground. He is always there to support us, His laborers, in His fields.
We the laborers must know the soil as best we can. We must know the amount of fertilizer to add to the soil of the soul so the seed will not burn up in too rich an environment. We need to be aware of how much a new seedling might be able to understand at the moment of planting. We should not overwhelm them with complicated information that might only serve to confuse and bewilder. The wise farmer knows he can always add to the mix later but it is far more work to change a misunderstood point of faith. People we meet are like plants with their own characteristics and each need special attention. If some thrive on social interaction we can use that as a tool for growth. If another person loves theology we can teach them unique points about our church. And if someone loves the liturgy we must show him or her the best liturgies we can. These are the ways we fertilize the soil of the heart.
Another factor is the amount of weeding we must do. We as laborers should slowly till and weed until the bad that might choke the seedling is removed. This weeding can include creating clear straight furrows of understanding or in other words paths from this world to our Lord. By creating clear paths we are giving the person, the seedling, a better way to navigate the pitfalls around them and find their way to The Kingdom.
So our task is not as simple or as quick as many would wish. We must know our own soil, our faith, so that we can guide others to a more sound and reasonable faith of their own. As we tend to the garden of the soul we need to nurture a better understanding of the faith of the Church. And once having cleared the garden we need to add the good seeds, watering them with the tears of our Lord’s love and compassion. So that at the end of the day, when all is said and done, we will find a strong plant able to withstand the temptations of the world and the devil.
The truth is that our souls need laborers to work the fields. Our Lord needs all of us to till and weed the soil so once planted, His word will grow and be strong. Yes, you and I are the laborers in God’s fields. Let us tend the fields with the love and compassion we have received from Christ.
Pray that our planting may be our work of evangelism for the glory of God all the daylong.
Yours in Christ
+R M Starks
Bishop of the Midwest