The Hope of Zion’s Harvest

May 10, 2023 | Heath farm | 0 comments

This is a guest post from LIRA partners Rev. Timm & Hannah Heath, whose humble homestead grows in New York State’s Southern Tier.

…let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.

Galatians 6:9-10

The world is too big for you to save. Too hungry for you to feed. Too many hollow stomachs. Too many hollow hearts. How can you do good to everyone? Standing before a field of work that stretches beyond the horizon, you’re weary even before you begin. That scale seems better left to the rumbling machinery of big programs with big resources, whencever they come. Why even pick up a spade?

Happily, the whole world is not your responsibility. God created you as an inherently limited creature (a very good thing – Gen 1:31). What is your responsibility is faithful work with what resources (Matt 15:32-37; Matt 25:20-23), strength (2 Cor 12:7-10), and opportunities (Eph 6:10) God has given you, to serve the household (Eph 2:19; 1 Tim 5:8) and literal neighbors (Mark 12:28-31) he has given you. Like it or not, the Lord has put a spade in your hand–but only the ground right in front of you to work.

So what opportunity to do good has God given the small rural congregation of Zion? First and foremost, feeding the souls the Spirit has gathered here with Jesus, the bread of life (John 6:35), so that we and our children would endure in the faith to the resurrection. Then we call our neighbors alongside us to join us in the faith and at the feast. The harvest is ripe! (Matt 9:37-38) Jesus fills our hollow hearts from the altar and the pulpit.

There is still more good God has given us to do. Hollow stomachs threaten faith with fear of hunger and want (Prov 30:7-9). The devil leverages this fear to pry us apart from the Lord who feeds us (SC, 1st Article) and the Christian family who join us at the table (Matt 12:48-50). Indeed, in his spite, the devil “is sorry that any one has a morsel of bread from God and eats it in peace; and if it were in his power, and our prayer (next to God) did not prevent him, we would not keep a straw in the field, a farthing in the house, yea, not even our life for an hour, especially those who have the Word of God and would like to be Christians.” (Large Catechism, Lord’s Prayer, 81)

Talk of hollow stomachs may have once seemed dramatic. But now we’ve seen grocery shelves empty of food. We’ve seen food rising in price and declining in quality. We’ve seen how the thin-stretched system we trust to feed our families is so brittle, vulnerable to distant disasters and the decisions made far from our homes. Our little congregation can’t salvage such a system and save the world. God has given us neither the ability nor responsibility. But we can feed our family right here and our neighbors right next to us. And that work of love is personal and powerful, filling stomachs and hearts both. This is the hope of our congregation’s project, Zion’s Harvest.

Jesus said, “They need not go away; you give them something to eat.”

Matthew 14:16

We can’t feed everyone, but God has given us the opportunity to help. Zion’s Harvest works to support wholesome, seasonal, and sustainable food security for our local family of faith and neighbors in our community. We grow food using regenerative methods on our congregation’s land (as well as my own). We share it in a market-style CSA model for 20 weeks each year, with subscribing members picking up fresh baskets of produce on our Harvest Market days. For now we are limited to providing for 15 households weekly, but we plan to expand this as the Lord provides for it.

More than just feeding people, we plan to teach and demonstrate the skill, art, and gift of hospitality and foster a hospitable culture among us. To that end, Hannah will teach a series of cooking classes (our Harvest Kitchen) to give members greater confidence in their own kitchens, whether it be cooking for themselves or for company. We’ll also host several seasonal Harvest Meals to encourage community and connections among members.

God’s blessings on this work at Zion already abound. I would not be surprised if God blessed the same work at your church, too.

The beauty of regenerative agriculture is that it is not infinitely scalable, but eminently replicable. We won’t grow beyond the community where God has planted us–but you can plant the harvest seed wherever you are. Churches with even a little land can become cornerstones of their communities–especially when members realize what their own lawns and lands can contribute (Mark 10:29-30). You don’t need much to get started. In fact, God has already put what you need into your hands. Bring what you have to Jesus in prayer, and watch what He will do (Matt 14:16-21). Jesus’ life and love is generative. Feeding hearts and stomachs both, Jesus makes your congregation an inexhaustible blessing for generations to come.

The ground right in front of you is rich with opportunity to do good. Take up your spade, and take courage (Josh 1:9; Is 41:10). Do not grow weary; the Lord will renew your strength (Is 40:28-31). In due season you will reap, if you do not give up.

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