Summary: What sort of world are you hoping to leave behind from your ploughing in life?

Plough Sunday 2016

Story: An old farmer who was about to die called his two sons to his bedside and said,

"My boys, my farm and the fields are yours in equal shares. I leave you a little ready money but the bulk of my wealth is hidden somewhere in the ground, not more than eighteen inches from the surface. I regret that I’ve forgotten precisely where it lies."

When the old man was dead and buried, his two sons set to work to dig up every inch of ground in order to find the buried treasure.

They failed to find it but as they’d gone to all the trouble of turning over the soil they thought they might as well sow a crop, which they did, reaping a good harvest.

In autumn, as soon as they had an opportunity they dug for the treasure again but with no better results.

As their fields were turned over more thoroughly than any others in the neighbourhood, they reaped better harvests than anyone else.

Year after year, their search continued.

Only when they had grown much older and wiser, did they realize what their father had meant.

Real treasure comes as a result of the hard work of ploughing and sowing the land. (Source unknown).

Plough Sunday appears to be a very ancient festival. Often the plough was fêted and drawn through the streets to be blessed in church.

This was thought to ensure food for the coming year.

However it was abandoned following the Reformation but revived by the Victorians.

Traditionally it is celebrated on the first Sunday after Epiphany, January 6th.

The following day, Plough Monday, was the first day that work in the fields recommenced after Christmas.

For me Plough Sunday reminds us that we should be grateful for God’s rich provision for us

Story: I don’t know if you are anything like me – but when I go to feed the ducks and the chickens, I grumble to myself.

You see the whole area where they are reminds me of what the Battle of the Somme was like

– walking on duckboards that are partially submerged in water.

But grumbling about the weather is a wrong attitude

It is good that we give thanks to God for our earth – and the rain for we need it for our agriculture to flourish.

The importance of agricultural life was something that was commonplace to the people of Biblical times.

God wants humanity to be involved with the land.

Until I had to prepare this sermon, ploughing wasn’t something I had particularly paid attention to in the Bible.

However it turns up a surprising number of times in the Old Testament.

Take the call of Elisha in 1 Kings 19: - he’s ploughing when Elijah comes to wrap his cloak around him and calls him to follow.

We read

19 So Elijah went from there and found Elisha son of Shaphat.

He was ploughing with twelve yoke of oxen, and he himself was driving the twelfth pair. Elijah went up to him and threw his cloak around him.

20 Elisha then left his oxen and ran after Elijah. “Let me kiss my father and mother goodbye,” he said, “and then I will come with you.”

“Go back,” Elijah replied. “What have I done to you?”

21 So Elisha left him and went back. He took his yoke of oxen and slaughtered them.

He burned the ploughing equipment to cook the meat and gave it to the people, and they ate. Then he set out to follow Elijah and became his servant.

Elisha burns his plough – indicating that if he is going to be a full time minister of the Lord, he cannot be a part time farmer too.

Farming is often a full time occupation.

Farming was so commonplace the people of Biblical times that we see the metaphor of sowing and ploughing use to get over spiritual truths.

Take Hosea. Look what he says:

Sow for yourselves righteousness, reap the fruit of unfailing love, and break up your unploughed ground; for it is time to seek the LORD, until he comes and showers righteousness on you.”

Hosea 10:12

And of course the very famous passage from Isaiah where he says

2 In the last days

the mountain of the LORD’s temple will be established

as the highest of the mountains;

it will be exalted above the hills,

and all nations will stream to it.

3 Many peoples will come and say,

“Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD,

to the temple of the God of Jacob.

He will teach us his ways,

so that we may walk in his paths.”

The law will go out from Zion,

the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.

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