Every fortnight people from a farming background, or who have a heart for the countryside, offer a personal reflection on faith and rural life. They hope that you will be encouraged by it.
Many years ago when I studied chemistry at school, this was one of the first chemical formulae that I learned: H2O - water! I also learned that water is absolutely essential for life. Farmers, of course, are very aware of the importance of water, as well, of course, of its possible destructive effects. Too little and plants don’t thrive or die; too much and they can be ‘drowned’ or washed away.
Every year it seems we can find ourselves anxious about the weather. Back in May this year we had a dry month (after a fairly dry winter) and many crops could have done with more rain. I saw fields of winter wheat with yellowing leaves because of stress from lack of water in soil that was caked hard.
On the other hand, we have had summers that were so wet cattle had to be brought in from the fields in July and harvesting in September was difficult because of waterlogged ground. Some of us will remember a few years ago the floods in parts of the Lake District which even washed away some roads and bridges.
In Israel (where Jesus lived) the farmers are no less dependent on the weather than we are, but the agricultural year is very different. Generally speaking there is no rain from April to October and then they look for the ‘early rains’ to soften the ground for ploughing. The ‘latter rains’ from November to March keep the grain crops growing, with harvesting taking place in April or May after the rains have stopped.
But whatever country we live in we are dependent on a good, but not excessive, supply of water – for agriculture and for life itself.
In John chapter 4 we read of a time when Jesus had a conversation with a Samaritan woman, based around the subject of water. They met at a well, and, although Jews and Samaritans were not usually on speaking terms, Jesus entered into a conversation with this lady.
Jesus told her the obvious truth that anyone who drinks the water from this well will ultimately thirst again and need more water. But He also said that He could give this woman ‘living water’ so that she would never thirst again.
Now Jesus wasn’t talking here about ordinary water, but about eternal life. He was telling us that just as water is essential for life, so we need to know Him as our Saviour if we are to have eternal life in Heaven. In John 17:3 Jesus said that ‘this is eternal life, to know… the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom (He) sent’.
In the course of His conversation with the Samaritan woman, Jesus also put his finger on the serious problem of sin in her life, and in so doing reminds us that like her, we must turn from our sin with true repentance if we are ever to know eternal life.
So just as our earthly life is dependent on water, our whole eternity depends on our knowing Jesus who alone can give us living water, eternal life. And nothing could be more important than that!
Rev. Dr. Kenneth Patterson is a former GP who was ordained for the ministry in 1990. He retired in 2013 after 19 years as Minister of Castledawson and Curran Presbyterian churches in South Derry. Having worked on farms during his student days, before coming a minister, as a hobby he now enjoys restoring vintage farm machinery.
If you would like to talk to someone about any of the issues raised in this article, please email Rev. Kenny Hanna at firstname.lastname@example.org or call him on 028 9753 1234.
o The Farmers’ Mission will be held, God willing, on the 3rd, 4th and 5th November 2017 at 8.30pm at Ballymena Livestock Market on the Woodside Road, Ballymena. Everyone will be made very welcome.