Easter and spring are seasons of new beginnings. To a farmer, spring is a time for lambing, calving and plowing. However no matter what season it is, a farmer is always nurturing his animals and overseeing the beautiful land bestowed upon him.
I was recently reminded of the relationship between a farmer and nature while attending the funeral of a friend, John Thresher of Peacham, Vt. Like so many farmers, John stayed on the family farm and raised his family on the same fertile fields he worked as a child. The Rev. Bob Potter, pastor at Peacham, Vt. Congregational Church, presided over his service. He eloquently captured the spirit of all farmers by entwining Psalm 23 (also known as the Shepherd’s Psalm) into John’s life story.
Bob, who grew up on a family farm in Connecticut, used metaphors from this popular Psalm including “the Lord is my shepherd.” He portrayed all farmers as shepherds, and John’s role as the master caretaker of his herd of cows. “I shall not want” means that farmers know the good life and enjoy the simple pleasures of working the land and with animals.
“He maketh me to lie down in green pastures.”
To a farmer, the pastures are always green and full of life, not dried up.
“He leadeth me beside the still waters.”
Imagine sheep drinking from the quiet still water that is so rich in farm country. These words were written for people who love the land, and farmers like John know what the water of life is all about.
“He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness.”
Farmers know that they are part of something greater than themselves. John always said he was not a religious man but deep down had faith in the Lord.
“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death.”
This is a reminder that land and lives have valleys and mountains. All people go through periods of valleys and are forced to walk through them, not run. John thought of the majestic Vermont hilltops as his mountains. He insisted that his ashes be spread on the hilly pasture of his home farm.
“Thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.”
The rod and staff are a shepherd’s most familiar tools. When life is tough we all go back to what is most comforting for us, and to a farmer it might be a pitchfork and shovel.
“My cup runneth over.”
To a farmer like John, life was essentially good because of the green pastures and the comfort he derived from his animals.
“Goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life.”
Goodness and mercy do follow a farmer even after his death because his spirit lives through all farmers. This spring when I look over a green pasture, I will think of the farmer who seeded that land years ago. When I see a son or daughter taking over a farm, I will think of the farmer who passed down his work ethic to his children.
Farmers will “dwell in the house of the Lord forever;” but I also believe their spirit will dwell forever in the heart and souls of all good farmers here on earth.
During this Easter season, God bless John and every farmer.