Ed, my neighbor next door, recently joked, “What do call a farmer who lives in town?” Without waiting for my reply he answered, “A town house commuter.” Ed is a farmer who lives in town and drives out to his farm. Ed and Ruby’s farm house became worn out about ten years ago. It was either open heart surgery on the old house or build a new one. With retirement a growing spot on their horizon, they decided to build their new home in town instead of in the farm yard.
Town life has its perks for Ed, who now doesn’t need to drive into town to have coffee at the café with his buddies. It is not all positive for Ed. The downside is being a next-door-neighbor to me, a retired clergyman. Ed feels pastor types should be kept at a healthy distance – like the next province rather than the next yard.
Ed is not alone in his aversion to ministers of the Christian religion. Near Ed’s farm is a deserted country church. Ed’s family attended there as long as it was open. Gradually, after the church closure, they stopped attending any church. Through the years, God has become a matter of indifference to Ed. His main objection to any church is that they all take a collection of money every week.
Money was not plentiful for those who took on the difficulties and hardships of settling the prairies. They squarely faced overwhelming challenges with trust in God and in the fellowship of the country churches they built together.
Many of the first farm settlers held God and His word in high regard. Today farms are bigger, but generally respect for God has grown smaller. Our roots remind us of the wisdom that generations before us built on God the rock. It is not uncommon to be indifferent to God today, like Ed, but thankfully God is able to bring new growth from old roots.
We tend to put a lot of importance on what we build with our human hands. We write history from the perspective of homesteading and developing farms, towns, and cities. We act as if we control the destiny of our world and our lives. It is our human nature to take pride in what we have done which can be hard to distinguish from arrogance. Who will take warning that, “pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall?”
When the settlers came to the prairies were the challenges so great that there was less boasting and more reliance on God? With God before us there is no boasting or pretending there is only the truth that everything depends on God. The Bible says it this way, “Unless the Lord builds the house its builders labor in vain.”
Those who cut down trees know that from the tree stumps may come new life. In every generation there are those who cut God down and dismiss Him as dead or as useless as a tree stump. In the Old Testament David Son of Jesse was a great King. It was God who would bring a shoot from the stump of Jesse and David, a shoot of new life generations later. This shoot would be Jesus Christ the giver of eternal life for all who have faith in him. You cannot get ride Jesus – better to let him give you new life.