Margaret Feinberg was the final speaker at the Youth Specialties Conference. Some of our Sunday School classes at church have used “The Organic God” DVD series. I love to hear her speak because she is so authentic and she loves the Bible very much and this is obvious in the way she handles her topics.
Her new book is Scouting the Divine. She wrote the book after spending time with a sheperdess in Portland, a farmer in Nebraska, a beekeeper in Southern Colorado and a vitner in the Napa Valley. She did this because over and over in the Bible, there are references to sheep, agriculture, honey and wine.
The Shepherdess in Portland, OR
She told a story about how she went to the sheep pasture with the shepherdess, Lynn. Lynn whispered her instructions to Margaret. Margaret asked, “why are we whispering?” Lynn replied, “because at the first sound of my voice, they will all come running toward us.” And this was true. As soon as Lynn called, “Sheep, sheep, sheep!” the sheep all came running.
Margaret was reminded of John 10:1-5
2345‘Very truly, I tell you, anyone who does not enter the sheepfold by the gate but climbs in by another way is a thief and a bandit. The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep hear his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice. They will not follow a stranger, but they will run from him because they do not know the voice of strangers.’
Sheep are created to respond to the voice of their shepherd.
Margaret also listened to Lynn describe each of the sheep, calling each by name and listing their unique qualities. She listened as the shepherdess had her back to her sheep, but she responded to each one’s bleat, calling each one by the correct name without even looking at them.
There are times when we question: God did you hear me?
Make no mistake, God hears every voice.
The Farmer in Nebraska
Margaret tried her hand at driving the tractor. She had a very tough time keeping the machine going in a straight line. She asked the farmer about rows of corn–they are always so perfectly aligned. How is it that farmers are able to plow their fields in such straight rows?
The farmer affirmed that getting a bend in your row of corn is not good. I means that the alignment is no longer straight and that the corn growing in that area will not get enough nutrients. But every farmer knows the secret. As you drive the tractor, you fix your eyes on something in the distance and the rows will be straight.
Margaret was reminded of Hebrews 12:1-2
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of* the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God.
In youth ministry (and any ministry), it’s easy and tempting to look at what’s going on around us. We get distracted by what the other youth minister in town is doing or we wonder why we don’t have the gifts that someone else has. But we need to keep our eyes fixed on the distance and not be distracted by what’s happening around us.
The Beekeeper in Southern Colorado
There are nearly 70 references to honey in the Bible. Most of them are about the Promised Land.
Margaret learned about the beehive and the organization of the beehive. Every bee has a specific job that it was created to do. Queen bees, attendant bees, guard bees, water bees, fanning bees, mortuary bees–they each have a unique job.
Margaret paralleled this to the body of Christ. Each member of the body has a unique job to do.
For any land to be overflowing with milk and honey, it woudl mean that everything in that land is in order. Every thing and everyone is fulfilling the appointed job.
The Vitner in Napa Valley, CA
2‘I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine-grower. He removes every branch in me that bears no fruit. Every branch that bears fruit he prunes to make it bear more fruit. You have already been cleansed by the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing. 6‘
Margaret watched the vitner prune branches. The vitner did not use a machete, as Margaret had always pictured, but rather a very small pair of scissors.
The vitner said that it takes years–often it is as much as 20 years before the grapes you have planted are able to produce a wine to bottle and sell. This reminded Margaret that God does not deal with us in the short term, but in the long term.
Another thing to note is that vineyards are planted in rocky soil. Often vitners will plant stones in the soil. These stones produce the most distinctive, best possible flavor. Sometimes God allows us to be planted among stones and sometimes God allows stones to be placed in our soil. We want those stones removed, but God says no, because those stones will produce a distinct flavor in our lives that we could not have any other way.
Why is God revealed in such varied ways?
There is no single metaphor or word picture big enough to to contain the magnificence and goodness of God.
It is important to know God in each of these ways.