A few weeks ago I was hiking up at Chautauqua Park in Boulder. As we descended a hill, I spotted on the ground the fallen fruit of an apple tree. Mushed and rotting on the way, the apples were inedible, but I managed to leap up and snatch a fresh one from the tree, and I happily munched on it as we continued on our hike.
That was the beginning of a marvelous season for me, this late summer in Denver, as there are apple trees EVERYWHERE. Between my apartment and the church, there are at least three trees conveniently roadside – there’s one tree literally on my apartment complex’s property. On a daily basis, as I wend my way from place to place, I’m plucking apples from the trees and happily chomping on tart and sweet alike. I’m getting fiber and nutrition and an inordinate amount of joy from the simple act of eating apples along the way.
Now, it is undeniable that I am a Westerner. I grew up in Paul Bunyan country (ol’ Paul’s pile of dirt from digging out the Puget Sound loomed over my mountain home – Mt. Rainier is a deep part of my consciousness), but I have always had much greater affection, personally, for Johnny Appleseed.
There’s a lot of historical data about a man named John Chapman, which very boringly tells of a man who lived and worked in the lower Midwest. But the idea of Johnny Appleseed reached far beyond his nursery skills, and every time I take an apple tree, I think of Johnny Appleseed and of the spirit that, after the first pioneers passed through, moved the settlers to plant for the future.
Last Sunday, Priscilla Sanchez and I sang a song about planting seeds, paraphrased from a beloved parable of Christ. The thing that truly inspires me about that parable, though, is the idea of a planter who drops a seed in the earth that she will never see grow to fruition. Imagine with me, if you will, planting seeds for the distant future, planting seeds for the generations to come that have nothing to do with you.
Could we plant God’s word this way? Could we share the Gospel and be ready to share the Gospel not for our children, or our children’s children, but for the unknown generations and strangers that will hold this ground long after we do? Some fifty-odd years ago, some settlers planted this congregation. See how it has flourished, how it still bears fruit for sojourners from far away! Can we plant the seed of the Word of God, seeking no harvest for ourselves, but dreaming of a day when neighbors and friends we don’t yet know will feast and be blessed by the work of our hands?
I’m pretty sure that we can.