Lately, I have been trying to find a hobby that might improve my attitude during this pandemic time. This has led to gardening and requires some clarification. My gardening involves one small, potted lemon tree (you don’t want to overd0 it). My goals being:
1) Keep it alive
2) Maximize productivity. “How hard can this be? Fertilizer and water.” With that, my efforts turned into a multitude of buds, blooms, and small lemons. “Success! Keep watering!”
Then, I noticed small, immature lemons dropping to the ground. “What’s going on? I’ve been so faithful in watering.” So, I ran to Google in search of an answer. There, I was reprimanded for providing TOO MUCH WATER. “WHAT? I did exactly what I believed proper and right.”
This is where my story fell in line with Jesus’ telling of a farmer, who instead of sowing in a smart, efficient manner, tossed seeds everywhere whimsically (it would appear) hoping for a good crop (Matthew 13: 1-9).
A waste, you say? Maybe. But, only when judged by modern standards, with our most recent scientific knowledge. But, how fair is that? You can’t know, what you don’t know. They didn’t know better. Today, that terrain produces bananas, grapes, and the most delicious tomatoes anywhere, in abundance. Advances in science have changed everything! One might even conclude, “A miracle!”
But, I return to my central thought: “You can’t know what you don’t know!”
The past cannot be changed or rewritten, simply because it doesn't meet present expectations or standards.. It can, however, be acknowledged for what it was, teaching us a better way.
What people thought and how they lived made sense to them then, but is out-of-sync with our thinking today. It doesn’t justify the past, nor glorify it, but honestly recognizing it, for all it was. — good and bad! I can’t imagine living in Florida without air conditioning. Would we go back, because people did? “Not I, said the fly!” We know better; understand more; and learned.
Events and changes of our age feel overwhelming at times and we cry out for the familiar and known — “STOP! Let me off this train!”” But we know better, because we understand more! No one really wants to go back, except maybe to their imaginary recollection of what was. Recent times have reminded us of sins past that society would like to forget, especially the memory of slavery. And the thought of returning to that institutional system is abhorrent. But we live with the residual effects of this institution, even today. We shudder and struggle to let it go, because it’s offensive to remember or even admit. Still, it exists in less overt ways. Systemically alive in practice, if not name.
Saying “Black Lives Matter,” is not a revolutionary call to arms. Nor is it a way to imply that other lives don’t! Rather, it is a reminder of that Sunday School Song: “All God’s Creatures got a Place in the Choir.” Acknowledging “Black Lives Matter,” is a call to see our culture’s past for what it was, rather than ignoring or making something other. It was what it was, just as things are, what they currently are! But we all know, things are yet to be, where they should be! Because, “We can only know what we know,” and we know better than we once did.
My grandfather never wanted farming to change, but, he always wanted his harvest to increase. These are incongruent. You can’t have both! In many ways, I/we are like my grandfather. In many ways, we are like the sower in Jesus’ story, knowing what worked then is not smart to do today. After all, we can only know what we know and do what we can do! The thing is, we know a lot more than we once did. It’s our decision as to what we do, or don’t do, with it!
“Don’t be misled: What a person plants, he will harvest. The person who plants selfishness, ignoring the needs of others—ignoring God!—harvests a crop of weeds. All he’ll have to show for his life is weeds! But the one who plants in response to God, letting God’s Spirit do the growth work in him, harvests a crop of real life, eternal life.
So let’s not allow ourselves to get fatigued doing good. At the right time we will harvest a good crop if we don’t give up, or quit. Right now, therefore, every time we get the chance, let us work for the benefit of all . . .” Galatians 6:7-10 MSG
Rev. Keith Haemmelmann, D. Min.