In the past a farmer would pray before going into the fields to sow. The ritual of the seeds in his warm hand and the rhythm of his light steps did not change for centuries. The old farmers working in their fields were in perfect harmony with nature, and as they went through the process of growing the grain, they understood that nature was communicating God’s Word to them.
Today, we hardly ever see a lone farmer sowing seeds in his field. It was our parents’ generation that last witnessed the love of the farmer for the earth.
Nowadays we are accustomed to seeing big heavy machinery with great wheels and blades grinding through the ground. The seeds drop into the soil through a cold metal funnel. We can feel the artificiality of this process. And we can also feel this is not really progress, but rather a procedure now without heart. The devotion towards God’s creation has totally disappeared. Yet it is the new reality. We cannot change it. And so, this transformation and development has become a challenge for farmers and for us as consumers. We are no longer aware of the process. We do not always know what we are consuming, or better said: what we are fed. Our produce and our bread don’t come anymore from the loving hands of the old spiritual farmer.
What we now have to do is express our love for this earth. It is ours. But– do we love the earth with all its beauty? Do we love it in the spring, when we see the first green buds peaking out from the ground? Do we love it in summer, when the wind makes it dance? Do we love the droopy and slowly wilting plants in the last days of autumn? All these thoughts become relevant, only if we are aware that the earth is a spiritual entity.
Today, the word of God can speak to us through different pictures and in many different ways. But the question is always: are we open to God’s spiritual Word when we relate to nature? The truth is, we should not reap the gifts of nature and then forget about it.
Let’s think for a moment how it is said during the service for children: they can lift up their thoughts and feelings to the spirit, to the spirit that lives and works, that lives and works in stone, plant and animal, that lives in human thinking and human doing.
It is obvious that nowadays the children are already learning to appreciate these thoughts and feelings. During the Sunday Service for Children they are given this wonderful chance. And for us, as adults– could we become responsible for the word of God as it speaks to us in all these different forms? Then we can find in our soul a new morality towards all living things on this earth. In prayer we can also pray for the earth, that it will not be destroyed before its time. Only on earth can we– as human beings– fulfil our task for the future in order to become spiritual beings.
The paintings of Van Gogh have given us the possibility of looking at both sides, of looking at the morality in his art and also of looking at how it was in the past with the old farmers. From both we can learn and understand how God’s Word speaks in the world, and now we have to find our own way of seeing and hearing it, of becoming connected with it.
Photo credit: “Farmer’s Planting Potatoes”. Vincent Van Gogh. Painting, Oil on Canvas. Nuenen, The Netherlands: August – September, 1884. Kröller-Müller Museum. Otterlo, The Netherlands, Europe. http://www.vangoghgallery.com/catalog/Painting/123/Farmers-Planting-Potatoes.html