Plough Sunday Jan 15th 2023 – Rev Alison Way

Genesis 1:9-13 and Matthew 6:25-end – Rev Alison Way

In the name of the Living God, the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit Amen

One of the grounding things about living in a more rural community, is being surrounded by the natural world and land that is worked to produce food by our farmers. Today as we mark Plough Sunday, we do it at a time when farmers no longer plough. Mostly the land is ploughed and prepared pretty quickly after the last harvest, many farmers practice ‘minimum’ tillage to retain the soil structure and are careful not to overwork the ground. Frankly, with the amount of rain we have had recently not ploughing in January is a very good thing, as attempting to plough right now would be pretty difficult, and a very muddy experience. Another reason for our changing farming practices are the winter crops like wheat, barley, oats, beans and rape which benefit from vernalization over the winter – that the seed is in the ground through the winter months to promote it germinating in the spring. Farmers like all of us, are looking at ways of reducing their carbon footprint and not using their machinery so much in relation to fuel costs.

I think it is important however, to pray for our farmers at the start of each new year, and to give thanks for all they do to keep food on our tables. Jesus told many stories about the land and how things grow. I know for many in this church family growing things is an important part of the cycle of each year in our gardens or the local allotments. Even I (who is notoriously lacking green fingers) has been growing things in the Rectory greenhouse for the last 3 summers. In 2022 we may remember I was going to plant some seeds and germinate my courgette and tomato plants for last summer. This was the first time I had done this. This worked ok for the courgette plant, which went on to be pretty prolific, but my first attempts at tomatoes were less than successful. I re-coursed to planting out some tomato plants bought at both the Pen Selwood and Wincanton May plant sales along with a butternut squash.

A tomato with a green stem

Description automatically generated with low confidenceA few weeks later, however my tomato seeds did finally germinate after I had ignored them for a bit, producing 3 rather weedy looking plants. I had a little space left near the door of the greenhouse so I planted them too. I have to say I was not very hopeful they would amount to much, but like everything else they soon where springing up and forming healthy growth, flowering and so forth. I have to say I had the most prolific tomato crop as a result, which were delicious fresh and when I am making a tomato-based pasta sauce, I am still even now using tomatoes I have frozen from the greenhouse! This is also partly because I was still picking them in early November (as it was so mild!).

I am going to pause before I think about that to bless the seeds that you have brought for this year’s growing season – let’s just have a look at what we have got around the church.  

Blessing prayer on page 4 of the order of service

Thinking about my 2022 tomato harvest, there is something in this about not judging a book by the cover (when I thought my seedlings looked pretty ropey), about not giving up on things that don’t look very promising to begin with or take significantly longer than we want to happen. In today’s world we very much prize speed and having what we want exactly when we want it (and instantly!). It is good to remember that this is society thinking and not necessarily the ways of God’s love for us, and as your grandmother probably used to say – Good things are worth waiting for!

Our gospel today is about moving away from worrying about all the stuff in our lives, and concentrating on today and what it brings us. Sometimes we can be so caught up with stuff that we don’t see what is going on around us in the moment, and we definitely miss out.  Our reading from Genesis reminds us of how all our created order was made by God, and how all the plants and trees were made to yield seed and fruit for us to enjoy. Taking this forward this also reminds us of our need to be good stewards of our environment, and like our farmers be mindful of our carbon footprints and look at ways to reduce our fuel consumption along side this.

I have used the LOAF principles for some years to help with thinking about living lightly on the earth. And here are some Canon Alan Loaves (from the Wincanton raise the roof cook book) available in the parish office!

The L stands for Local – using local suppliers for things instantly reduces how far what we eat has travelled before we eat it (this is the concept of food miles).

The O stands for organic or own grown – using things that we have grown ourselves vastly reduces our food miles, we do need to be mindful of the chemicals we use to help in growth too.

The A stands for animal friendly – using products where the animals have been well cared for where we can.

And the F stands for fair trade – this makes sure when we buy products the farmer is getting a fairer share of the proceeds rather than the middle men.

A new year affords us an opportunity to pray for our farmers, reflect on our approach to our tables, and our approach to growing things where we can, and refreshing our approach to caring for the wonder of our natural world. There is always more we can be doing, but let’s do all of this in thankfulness for God’s wonderful creation and thinking of others near and far in our approach and concentrating on living in the moment. Amen.   

 ©Arthur Rank – Beyond Consumerism – Plough Sunday 2023 –  The New Revised Standard Version (Anglicized Edition), copyright 1989, 1995