A GOOD DAY TO PLOW
READ: Luke 9:61-62
“A man came up to Jesus and said, ‘I will follow you, sir, but first allow me to say good-bye to my people at home.’ Jesus said to this man, ‘Once the hand is laid on the plow, no one who looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.” – Luke 9:61-62
In the neighboring field, a farmer is about the work of his spring plowing. As he turns over the soil, plowing under the remains of the last year’s harvest, my mind drifts back to slower times. This farmer is quite efficiently pulling a many-bladed plow by the strength of a large John Deere tractor. He is making quick work of his fields, yet in its way, it is still the same work done by farmers through the generations. Years ago, I watched another farmer plow his field, an old, grisly farmer cutting one furrow at a time with the help of two Clydesdale workhorses and a one blade plow. Quite a difference between that John Deere tractor and those two workhorses, but the faith of the farmer is still much the same quality. That first furrow turned on that virgin field is a farmer’s declaration of faith in both Providence and hard work and a declaration of hope that a harvest will one day fill that now empty field. It is the faith of first beginnings. It is the faith of emptying the barn of seed in a risk-it-all quest for a bountiful harvest. It is the faith of taking the first step into a promised tomorrow, a tomorrow the farmer simply must believe is there waiting.
In His teaching about discipleship, Jesus draws on the image of a hard-working farmer about to plow that first furrow. Quite possibly, Jesus observes a farmer about to dig his primitive plow into that first bite of earth, to begin the slow, slow work of plowing a very, very large field, one step at a time, one furrow at a time. Jesus teaches that faith fulfilled sets out as faith first begun. Once you start, then there must be no turning back; once you take that first step in the Great Journey, you must be ready to journey all the way; once you start plowing, you must keep looking ahead.
A person in the crowd is thinking about following Jesus. This would-be disciple has an urge to make the journey to and further into the kingdom of God, but yet … he is still not sure … maybe later … maybe he ought to go back home and take time to “say his good-byes“. But Jesus knows the soul of this man is much like the soul of most people … “putting off to later” means, most often, “putting off to never.” If this is the day to plow … then sharpen the plow and harness the horse …. and turn the first furrow, today … for that first furrow will lead to the second, the second to the third, and eventually to the plowed field, and then, in its time, the coming harvest. But the harvest will never come … without that first furrow being turned.
The Benedictine Way… is to do always this day what this day does require … for tomorrow will be needing our faithfulness. Let me slow you down so that you might not gloss over this principle … “to do always this day what this day requires for tomorrow will be needing our faithfulness.” And its meaning? Today sets the stage for tomorrow. No room for procrastination; no room for putting off; today is the necessary day that brings us to our tomorrow.
For those who attended college, you might remember the matter of prerequisite courses. When you went to register for your courses, you found that this certain fundamental course must be completed before proceeding on to the more advanced course. Why? That second course,(or that second furrow, you might say,) will require the knowledge acquired in the first. Such is a most overlooked aspect of becoming a Christian disciple. The first steps lead us to the next steps; the first lessons lead us to next lessons; the first experience leads us to the deeper experience; the first furrow leads us to the next. Christian discipleship is not a suit of clothes that one puts on in a whim; rather Christian discipleship is a life that is to be lived day after day into its full maturity.
Another Benedictine principle is the affirmation “Today, we begin again.” It is the principle that this very Day will have its beginnings, beginnings best begun in these present moments. So, my loved ones, it is a good day to begin plowing … in hope of a harvest just beginning to arrive. Christian discipleship is about turning empty fields in bountiful harvests.
Brother Anthony of the Cross
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