Ten years of drought in southern Australia could be finally unravelling with the return of normal spring rainfall. Is the puddle in our own back paddock harbouring delusions of grandeur – of becoming a dam again?
Seriously folks, it’s been dry for so long down here that last year a farmer fainted with the shock of being hit by a drop of rain. He only came to after a third bucketful of dust was thrown in his face!
And when another farmer found he had won a ten-million dollar national lottery, he told everyone he might keep farming for another six months – if the money lasted that long!
A new-found panorama of greenness is transforming atmospheres and attitudes. Farmers are looking to reclaim export markets that many thought had been lost forever. Optimism is surging through rural areas, with planning underway to restore recreational activities like waterskiing, regattas, and fishing. Rivers that were scattered collections of parched waterholes are now becoming renewed ecosystems with fish, insects and birdlife all returning to interact within their own food chains.
But green grass can still seem just out of reach, as our newly-shorn sheep clearly showed me yesterday.
After shearing them we released them into a paddock crammed with fresh grass, almost waist-high. We’d kept them out of there beforehand, so their fleece would collect no seeds that would drop the wool clip’s sale price.
Checking them two hours later, I was surprised to notice several sheep ignoring the fresh green grass towering over them. Instead they were straining their necks through the wire fence to nibble outside on coarser, less-nourishing stubble
As a Baptist pastor - or, having so many sheep, a “Baa-aa-ptist” pastor – watching them reminded me why the bible describes us as sheep: easily disoriented; we follow the crowd; we’re so vulnerable – and so easily fleeced?
I recalled the twenty-third psalm’s green pastures; still waters; and the comfort, protection and the guidance of the shepherd’s rod and staff; imagery that Jesus fulfilled as the Good Shepherd whose love for the whole of mankind goes so far as to die for us.
It’s sobering to recognise the importance of caring for our flocks and ensuring their nourishment; which so many sermons and bible studies rightly stress. And it’s easy for pastors to beat ourselves up with guilt when members of our flock feel neglected and start bleating.
Sadly, many pastors fall into the trap of becoming introspective proprietors because they deliberately or unconsciously subvert John Wesley’s maxim “The world is my parish” into “My world is the parish!” Yet much bleating arises from those who ignore the fresh grass that’s already at hand. They strain themselves by reaching for fodder they no longer need, or from wanting their personal fantasies to be fulfilled instead of discovering a new level of maturity through meeting the needs of those around them.
Being a hobby farmer as well as a pastor has shown me an extra dimension within this rustic picture. Sheep don’t exist simply to be fed or protected. They are there to provide wool for warmth; to provide meat for nourishment - and to have more sheep!
God wants us to be green people – as individuals or as churches - who can recognise opportunities despite how tough things may appear: opportunities for personal nourishment and for greater influence that people around us don’t see.
And as we plug into his resurrection power to activate these opportunities; and as we enjoy the process; people who don’t know him will begin to see new relevance and credibility for the gospel. Some may react negatively, but others will be drawn to the Jesus they have never noticed before.
So the greenness of warmth, nourishment and multiplication will keep gathering momentum, and we will enjoy being partners with God in extending his kingdom.
The opinions expressed by authors may not necessarily reflect the opinion of FaithWriters.com.
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