December 19, 2012

Restoration as holy health

SCRIPTURE: Psalm 80:1-7 (NRSV)

“Restore us, O God!” a chorus of ancient voices cries in this song of lament. They address their tears to God the Shepherd and in verses following our selection, they compare themselves to a battered vine on an abandoned farm.

This fall, I visited a farm that not only produced food; it also trained pastors in the meaning of restoration. The owner, Jeff Hawkins, is a Lutheran pastor who offers monthly retreats for church leaders. Pastors come to HOPE CSA for a day each month to become better shepherds of human flocks by tending flocks of farm animals.

Jeff’s word for restoration is “holy health.” He believes that Creation is an ideal place to learn about God’s intentions for human communities. On the day I visited with the students participating in Merry Lea’s Sustainability Semester in Residence, we spent time with a flock of chickens and the ducks that were charged with weeding the grapevines.

We also helped out in the tomato patch. The vines had already frozen and were hanging limp and dejected. Our job was to disentangle them from their stakes so that the stakes could be reused and the field could lie fallow for a year.

As we worked, I was struck by how much care the plants needed in order to be fruitful. Even though this year’s vines were dead, they still needed tending, and that care would result in vigorous new vines and juicy tomatoes in another season. The dead vines were depressing to look at, but they were just one part of a larger system that was healthy and brimming with life.

SCRIPTURE: Psalm 80:1-7 (NRSV)
To the leader: on Lilies, a Covenant. Of Asaph. A Psalm.
Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel,
you who lead Joseph like a flock!
You who are enthroned upon the cherubim, shine forth
before Ephraim and Benjamin and Manasseh.
Stir up your might,
and come to save us!
Restore us, O God;
let your face shine, that we may be saved.
O Lord God of hosts,
how long will you be angry with your people’s prayers?
You have fed them with the bread of tears,
and given them tears to drink in full measure.
You make us the scorn of our neighbours;
our enemies laugh among themselves.
Restore us, O God of hosts;
let your face shine, that we may be saved.



Comments (10)

  1. The “retreat” into a literal pastoral setting to learn the art of being a better pastor of people is a wonderful life parable. Thanks, Jennifer, for exegeting the text and life so well.

    Jim Brenneman, GC President December 19, 2012 |
  2. Thanks for the reflection! I love the idea that even though the vines (we?) are dead, they still need tending and through such tending can provide abundant living again! – We are “just one part of a larger system…brimming with life”! Absolutely beautiful!

    Jonathan December 19, 2012 |
  3. Jennifer, thank you for the beautiful words of hope.

    Betty December 19, 2012 |
  4. Thanks, Jennifer, for the wonderful message.

    Marian December 19, 2012 |
  5. Thanks it reminds me that my hope is only in God!!!!!!!!

    Bob December 19, 2012 |
  6. Our only Hope is in Jesus….

    Mary Helen Wade December 19, 2012 |
  7. Thank you for this wise and evocative directive toward seeing the wisdom that lies in creation, creation as rich resource for living in genuine shalom.
    (Frances as in Ringenberg : )

    Frances December 19, 2012 |
  8. I loved the images you used in getting ready for a future harvest.
    This so applies to my every day life….to let go of what is not
    life-givng so new fruit can again be birthed.

    Mary December 19, 2012 |
  9. Very cool, Jennifer!

    Joan December 19, 2012 |
  10. poetic and lovely. thank you.

    Diana Thomas December 19, 2012 |