In the autumn of 2001 I had an experience that made me think. Maybe it would be good for you to think about it too…
I made pastoral visits yesterday and enjoyed being out of the study on a perfect autumn day. In the late afternoon I drove to Mr. Smith’s house. It was a nice drive, past neat Amish farms, through a section of National Forest, over the White River, leaves floating downstream on the water. The Salmon are running and fishermen eagerly worked the water. The sun was shining and it was sweatshirt-cool.
When I drove up Mr. Smith was standing in the door of his shop. There was a box of apples sitting on the machine nearest the door. I saw them and coveted one. He must have seen me. “Try one of those,” he offered. I happily obliged.
It was picked fresh from an orchard down the road, the perfect apple, Gala Royal, my favorite variety. I have been known to pay obscene prices for a Gala. It was sweet, crisp, fresh, thin skinned, perfect.
An apple is miracle, a marvel and a wonder of God’s creative power. In the three of four minutes it takes to eat an apple on an autumn afternoon you have enjoyed the hope of springtime blossoms, the product of long summer days, and a piece of autumn in the palm of your hand.
I tossed the core away and made small talk with the Smiths while the farmer across the road harvested corn. A breeze swept leaves across the lawn in a melancholy steady flow.
Mr. Smith got a small box and put a few apples in it. I smiled. This is one of the fringe benefits of my job. Sometimes parishioners give you Zucchini, sometimes garden-ripe tomatoes, sometimes even banana nut bread, and almost always a cup of coffee. (You know you live in a small town when you have to lock your car… to keep people from putting Zucchini in it).
When I left he surprised me. He kept the small box for himself and insisted that I take the big box. I offered a weak objection and happily put the box in the car.
We drove home the back way down a gravel road so we could see a pretty little white country church on the way home and we ate apples. And we thought about being the kind of people who keep the small box for ourselves and give away the big box to our friends.
The book of Proverbs says; “A generous soul will be made rich and he who waters will be watered himself.” (Proverbs 11:24 NKJV)