Lent and Sweat in the Garden

This week we planted potatoes, spinach, a lettuce mix and more beet roots.  And this week, the lectionary texts tell us – among other things – to “eat what is good” and to “delight [ourselves] in good food.”  Ahhh…what’s not to love about Isaiah 55?

But the lectionary passages don’t stop in Isaiah, and many are dark – appropriate, I suppose, for the Lenten season.  For Christians, this time of year is a time to repent, prepare our hearts, bodies and minds for the heavy week  before Good Friday and the celebration on Easter morning.  For farmers, this time of year is often slow and cold, but hopeful as seeds go into the ground, plants sprout and get ahead in the greenhouse and we anticipate the coming of genuine spring weather.  Here, on Oakleaf Mennonite Farm, we get the best of both worlds.  We shovel manure in the snow and try to turn from – repent – our immature habits.  We plant seeds in the ground and hope that God will make all things new.  We wait for the spouting.  We wait for the uncontrollable greed of the world to be overturned by something profoundly creative and new.  We whisper to the seedlings in the greenhouse and we nod our heads to the glimpses of the New Creation we spot around us. 

We planted potatoes in these ditches we dug.  We worked hard during the morning of this picture in preparation for easier hilling – later – in the heat of late spring.  The metaphors are just too easy!  But let us not mistake lack of obscurity for lack of profundity.  During lent we work, we sweat, we ask tough questions of ourselves and challenge ourselves to radical imitations of Christ.  During lent we remember our inadequacies and God’s anticipatory promise to be with us always.  Lent is, in many ways, the beginning of the darkest hour.  But, like the traditional spiritual says, it comes just before dawn.  Our work, our attention, our participation in the Lenten season is driven by the expectation of Easter morning.  Now is the time for Lent and sweat; soon we will harvest the first fruits.  So, until the New Garden has arrived, let us continue to sweat.  And thanks be to God.


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