by Andrew Ratcliffe
This summer for part of our vacation, my wife and I took our annual trip to visit her family’s farm, the Russell Dairy, in Emmett, Idaho. Her dad, Steve, is not just the hardest working farmer but the hardest working man I know. And it runs in the family! Whether it’s the production of corn for silage or monitoring protein for milk production, Stew simply knows his stuff. Henry has a love for cars, mechanics, people, life. Wesley is the friendliest dude you’ve ever met and will succeed at whatever he sets his mind to. Liz is a rock star ag teacher who is passionate about her work and her students. And once you’ve eaten in Claudia’s kitchen, you will never want to eat anywhere else again. I love visiting my wife’s family every year in the Treasure Valley!
Though this city boy doesn’t know much about the farm (my family hails from Kansas City, Mo.), the Russell family allows me to assist with some of the farming chores. While sitting on the swather, winrowing alfalfa hay, I was struck by the similarity between agriculture and our biblical, Christian faith. In its simplest form, you daily work in the midst of everything that God created: the crops, sun, precipitation, livestock and even the heat of the day!
But the similarity between agriculture and our faith runs much deeper than that. Even in the dairy business, everything begins with a seed. Our lives as God’s children also begin with a seed. As Martin Luther explains in his Small Catechism, “I believe that . . . the Holy Spirit has called me by the Gospel.” God plants the seed of faith into lives, faith worked by the Gospel, the Good News that Jesus died on the cross to wash away our sins and put us in the Father’s hands.
That is only the beginning! That seed needs to be watered. Emmett, Idaho, is lucky if it receives 11 inches of rain a year. Stew and my father-in-law, Steve, devote a lot of time to the irrigation needed to feed those crops. Likewise, the Lord not only plants the seed of faith, but He waters that seed as well! “The Holy Spirit has . . . kept me in the true faith.” As promised in Phil. 1:6, “He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the the day of Jesus Christ.” Yes, He gives us Christian fellowship and other daily blessings, such as food from the farm. But the most important way He waters and nourishes our faith is in the means of grace we gather around in His Divine Service, through the Word of Scripture and the Sacrament. “In this Christian Church He daily and richly forgives all my sins and the sins of all believers.” In other words, He gives us Jesus. He feeds us Jesus. He sustains us and makes our faith grow with the forgiveness of Jesus, won when He died and rose for you and me.
Next summer will not come soon enough. Visiting Emmett, Idaho, the saints at Our Redeemer Lutheran and my family at the Russell Dairy is certainly like coming home! But it’s not only because I love learning the tricks of the trade from Stew or serving it up (well, eating it up!) in Claudia’s kitchen. In addition to my wonderful family, it’s what I learn each time about the Christian family, the children of God. He plants the seed of faith. He waters the seed of faith. And in Jesus, that seed most definitely grows!