Tuesday, November 19, 2013

We Plough the Fields and Scatter (Strength in Hymn)

“We Plough the Fields and Scatter”
Author: Matthias Claudius (1782, German)
Translator: Jane M. Campbell

We plough the fields, and scatter
The good seed on the land,
But it is fed and watered
By God's almighty hand;
He sends the snow in winter,
The warmth to swell the grain,
The breezes and the sunshine,
And soft refreshing rain.
All good gifts around us

Are sent from heaven above;
Then thank the Lord, 
O thank the Lord
For all His love.

He only is the Maker
Of all things near and far;
He paints the wayside flower,
He lights the evening star;
The winds and waves obey Him,
By Him the birds are fed;
Much more to us, His children,
He gives our daily bread.
All good gifts around us

Are sent from heaven above;
Then thank the Lord, 
O thank the Lord
For all His love.

We thank Thee, then, O Father,
For all things bright and good,

The seed-time and the harvest,
Our life, our health, our food:
No gifts have we to offer
For all Thy love imparts,
But that which Thou desirest,
Our humble, thankful hearts.
All good gifts around us
Are sent from heaven above;
Then thank the Lord, 
O thank the Lord
For all His love.


Thanksgiving is next week, and I wanted to share at least two harvest time hymns of gratitude before then to prepare our hearts.  It's funny that my first memory of this hymn is not from church, but from the pop musical "Godspell" which came out when I was a child.  Next week's hymn will likely be "Come, Ye Thankful People Come."

The concepts somehow seem so alien to me in my suburban-techno lifestyle so far removed from farm and field, even though my mother and sister and brother and I did grow fruits and vegetables when I was a child in California. (I'm growing golden poppies now as a remembrance!) And yet, though I'm not living in an agrarian society, as another little table grace song reminds me, "Back of the bread is the flour, and back of the flour is the mill, and back of the mill is the sun and the rain and the Father's will."  I don't want to take for granted all of the labor and divine providence that goes into even just a loaf of bread.

Trying to apply it to my own life in a metaphorical way, I think of the seeds I plant in the lives of my own children and my students.  I do my little part, but the real growth is up to our Gracious God. (See A Mother's Seeds.)  There is simply no point in trying to force feed other people into spiritual growth.  Instead, we plant our ideas and inspiration in their hearts and nurture them with our loving example.  In my middle school class later this week, I'll be sharing this hymn as part of our poetry unit in preparation for Thanksgiving.  Maybe it will make some small difference so that it's not just Turkey Day?

I also think of folks in the underdeveloped regions of the world, or even in my own city, and the sheer struggle it is to just eek out enough food for the table.  I'm grateful for the organizations and individuals who make sacrifices to help make it happen.  A couple of weeks ago, I stopped by a local church's annual Global Christmas Market and browsed the international gift booths hosted by groups like Heifer International (providing food-producing, money making "living loans" so families around the world can become self-sufficient and share with others) and The Society of St. Andrew (Gleaning America's Fields, Feeding America's Hungry -- such an awesome concept!).  I bought a Kings Mantle Thunbergia butterfly bush for my garden from the booth of Alliance for International Reforestation (AIR) which works in Guatemala and Nicaragua to establish community run tree nurseries, agroforestry systems, fuel-efficient stoves, environmental education, and the packaging of medicinal plants.  There are other organizations listed on my posts from last year, What You Can Do to Make the Holiday Season a Little Merrier for Others and Global Hunger Relief.  There are also more thoughts in this essay and advent poem: A Note Wedged into the Window on My Van.

I could write more, but that's enough to think about for now.  Ask three things:

"Am I grateful for my blessings and aware of their True Source?" 

"Am I investing spiritually in the lives of others through wise words and kind deeds?"  

"Am I caring for the poor and hungry in a way which reflects the love of Jesus?"

Now I'm going back to think about this hymn some more, and offer it as simple worship from my own heart.

Grace and peace,
Virginia Knowles

P.S. This post is the 25th in my Strength in Hymn series.  I invite you to explore the rest!  Most of them have a lot of nature photography interspersed with the verses, but for this post, one simple picture of apples and wheat crackers seemed most fitting.  After I published the post, I remembered this photo of me working in my grandfather's vegetable garden in my mother's back yard years ago.

1 comment:

  1. This post really puts things into perspective! I will stop complaining that I have to work on Thanksgiving. At least I have a job and at least I don't have to worry if I will have food. God has blessed me for sure.This is a nice series.