Thursday, October 15, 2015

Setting Up the Sincere Pumpkin Patch

I am not as sore this morning as I expected to be.  Why might I be sore?

I spent a good chunk of yesterday afternoon and evening doing this:

Photo taken by Pastor Keith Spencer

Not the most flattering picture of me, I admit, but in many ways, my blogs capture my life, in most aspects (the ugliest, most unbloggable bits are on paper, waiting for some future grad student to stumble across them).

Yes, yesterday was the great pumpkin offload.  Every year in October, my church sells pumpkins, lots of pumpkins.  And before we can do that, we need to get them off the truck, an 18 wheeler.  That takes lots of people.

I've been part of the offload for three years now.  The first year, the offload lasted late into the evening.  We were still unloading pumpkins in the dark.  Last year, we finished earlier, but the experience still left me sore.

I'm less sore today.  I did get home and soak my entire body in the chilly pool, which might have helped.  I took ibuprofen last night, rather than waiting for my back to scream at me.

We had more people helping last night.  The first year I went to help, it was a skeleton crew.  I think that experience had many people asking people to help, instead of hoping that they would.  Hence, the less strenuous experience of last year and last night.

We also had fewer pumpkins to offload.  We only pay for what we sell, so the farmer who ships the pumpkins sent us fewer this year.

Photo taken by Pastor Keith Spencer

As always, I'm struck by the ways that our pumpkin patch serves as spiritual formation.  I love the way it brings our church together.  Much like Vacation Bible School, it's a time period where we need everyone to help out when and where they can.  Some of us offload pumpkins.  Some of us sell them.  Some of us show up in the evenings to turn the pumpkins to keep them from rotting.

It's church service that also supports the community.  We use the money that we raise for education--some years VBS, some years sending youth to the national gathering, some years for supplies.  One year the money helped repair the roof--it might not seem like supporting the community until one thinks about how many community organizations use our building, from AA groups to the drama group for developmentally disabled youth. 

The sight of a pumpkin patch in front of a church does provide some visibility in the time of year when most motorists aren't noticing us.  We have lots of people stopping by who would ordinarily never give us a second thought.  We have brochures that tell people about our church.  But I doubt that pumpkin purchasers ever come back for worship.

Last night, though, as I watched the first pumpkin patch customers stop by, I thought about the small children and their joy at choosing pumpkins.  Would that ever translate into a later yearning for church?

Of course, that's not why we do it--if we wanted to plant that kind of seed, we'd do something less labor intensive. 

This morning I'm full of gratitude.  I love having seasonal markers, even when our weather hasn't shifted.  I'm happy that I can still carry pumpkins, even though I've had more aches and pains in the past year than I'm used to.  I'm happy to be part of this wonderful church community.  I'm grateful for the workers who grew the pumpkins and the soil that nurtured them.  I wonder how much longer those distant fields, in the parched western part of the U.S., can sustain this life.

Photo taken by Pastor Keith Spencer

It's a potent reminder of how much life changes.  I want to adopt a more sacramental approach to life.  I want to see evidence of God's grace all around me, in the lowliest gourd, in the greatest pumpkin, in every human who crosses my path.

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