My daughter runs a small family farm in the rolling hills of Vermont. In early spring, even while the snow is still on the ground, her rickety old front porch turns into a plant nursery as big wooden planks are attached to the walls and flats of vegetable starts all find their place in the sun. Tenderly she presses seeds into the soil of each small container. With time and patience, each cup cradles a longing for bountiful harvest. Each seed a gift of life that will, within the dance of sun and soil, take root and offer its fruit to nourish her world. If you can pay attention, it is a moment filled with the essence of life.
There is however, a lot of pressure to get things going. A good quick start will get the roadside farm stand stocked and generating income, fill CSA boxes for delivery, and create the bounty needed to survive as last year’s canned goods run thin. There is a mountain of pressure to hurry. And yet, before she places the vegetable starts on those thick wooden planks, she pauses and takes a deep breathe of time to write some words of longing, words of hope, words of trust onto one of those old wooden planks. Words that are a thanksgiving for the relationship that is about to unfold. Words that capture some of the mystery of life’s gift. Poetic words that will linger beneath each small start that now rests within the nursery. Those words…
They are the farmer’s creed.
A credo, the language of faith, the words that entrust one life to another; this is the way we construct a creed for our time.
It is the speaking of language that can bind us to the very gift of life wherever we find it. When I was growing up, we stood in the heart of four concrete walls, some stained glass and an eternal flame, and spoke ancient creeds that created a world apart from our own. Today, my daughter scratches language beneath the very soil that nourishes her family.
I may be biased, but I think Jesus was probably doing something similar until organized religion got in the way. He spoke a poetic language written beneath the lives of the farmer, the beggar, the widow, the fisherfolk, the wedding. And yet, to this day, church people continue to integrate ancient creeds into their collective expression of faith in a way that seems to give some assurance that we have mastered some world beyond our own. Was Jesus really describing a metaphysical world, or helping us understand the one in which we live? Sometimes I wonder if we might be better off to put a shelf life on a creed so that we take caution before we swallow it whole. Especially if it’s been around a while. I would much rather listen to the poetry that can help me pause and find myself held in the wonder, the pain, the grace and the mystery of the life that I live, than a complicated narrative dripping with theological code language.
Maybe I need my own farmer’s creed.
When the seedlings grow strong enough to enter the furrowed rows of rich soil, those heavy planks get thrown behind the garage until next year. Over the long cold winter, the words will slowly dissolve beneath the falling snow. Come spring, a new credo will need to find its way onto a wooden plank. The circle of life will fulfill its promise and my daughter will pause to mark her family’s place within the dance.
This is the Farmer’s creed.
What credo will you write beneath the gift of life?