As a Volunteer in Mission in Uganda for the Anglican Church of Canada I have become aware that the Christians of the Global South can bring to scriptural interpretation understandings quite different from ours. Images or events found in Scripture can appear to relate more closely to the developing world’s experience. At the beginning of our last planting season I had such an experience.
When I started to cultivate on the farm I found the beans that I had harvested the previous season, and had saved to use for seed, were in our kitchen. We were eating my seeds! The cook was not pleased when I repossessed the sack of beans. There was a tension between eating the beans in the present and planting them for the future.
I now understood the meaning of “sowing in tears and reaping with joy,” (Ps. 126:5-6). This is the reality of many of the subsistence farmers of the world: the tension between feeding their family now and planting for the future. Children may have to go hungry in order to have seed to bury in the ground. Sacrificing one’s children’s food in the hope of a harvest is indeed an act of faith.
In Lent and Holy Week we experience another form of “sowing in tears.” Was our Saviour’s body not “planted” in the ground? Did he not sacrifice his very life in the hope of an unimaginably bountiful outcome? His broken and buried body, at the resurrection, would become the first in a new order of creation. His resurrection would open the way to eternal life for all people.
These experiences of sacrifice, of burying and leaving behind what one treasures, in the hope of more abundant life, must cause us to reflect on our own lives and Lenten practice. What is God asking us to sacrifice in order to know renewed life?
Each of us will have our own individual, God-given response to that question. As we listen, the Holy Spirit will guide us to wisdom, repentance and abundant life.
An area that I observe as commonly needing prayerful attention is our stewardship of money.
I believe God’s work is suffering because we fail in this area. We have lost the understanding that sacrificial giving of our wealth begins at 10 per cent of our income. We are so imbued with our societal norms of acquisitiveness and pride that we cannot differentiate between want and need. Our wealth has become a millstone around our necks.
Take a look at your 2006 income tax return. What are the totals for charitable givings and net income? What does it say about your priorities? Jesus was very direct with the rich young man as to what is required to be his follower and enjoy eternal (abundant) life (Matt. 19:16-23).
Organizing your finances around tithing will, at first, feel like dying. It will be dying to self. It will be burying your treasure in order to harvest abundant life; for yourself and for those to whom the church would minister.
We are not forced to tithe. Nor is the Ugandan farmer forced to plant his beans. He could allow his children to eat them and then turn to others for help when he has nothing to harvest. Jesus was not forced to give up his life – but he did, and we rejoice in the resurrection.
“May those who sow in tears reap with shouts of joy,” (Ps. 126:5).
Rev. Carolyn Langford is from the diocese of Ottawa. Since January 2006, she has served the diocese of Central Buganda by lecturing at the diocesan university and developing a model/demonstration farm.