June, 20917. Dear Friends, Supporters, Neighbors, and Members of Siloa Lutheran Church,
I want to share something special with you, and it is special because it is one of my favorite quotes. This is a quote from an essay by the author, teacher, poet, and farmer, Wendell Berry:
"To use knowledge and tools in a particular place with good long term results is not heroic. It is not a grand action visible for a long distance or a long time. It is a small action, but more complex and difficult, more skillful and responsible, more whole and enduring, than most grand actions. It comes of a willingness to devote oneself to work that perhaps only the eye of Heaven will see in its full intricacy and excellence, Perhaps the real work, like real prayer and real charity, must be done in secret."
--------- Wendell Berry, from "The Gift of Good Land", 1979.
This is a thought, a meditation that should be encouraging to parents who are taking care of children at home, to farmers who are caring for family farms, to teachers working away in classrooms without a lot of support, or materials or recognition, to pastors in out-of -the-way, small, rural congregations, to a waitress in a small cafe, to the aide in the nursing home, to members of township boards, and to volunteers who show up with dedication month after month, week after week, caring for folks who cannot ever repay the kindness they receive.
The "heroic" and work that Berry is talking about is the "grand" accomplishments or well known lives of the kings and queens, wealthy celebrities, people who become famous for great achievements, who win the elections for president, who become the surgeon who oversees a large nero-surgical practice, or a governor, or a supreme court justice, or an Oscar winner.
Most of us, most of the folks in this world, work day-to-day, doing simple, quiet, unseen tasks that actually make the world run. We keep families together. We tend to small flocks of sheep or cattle, or run a small veterinary clinic. We spend a day at work, making just one person's contribution to running a large business or building a new state highway or constructing a new school. Berry calls this the "real" work. This is the work that we are sent out to do every week when the pastor dismisses us with the words, "Go in Peace. Serve the Lord!", and we respond with the words, "We will! Thanks be to God!"
This takes knowledge. We have to be carefully taught over many years to live a mature and responsible adult life. We have to teach the children in our care. And we need good tools; tools that help us to be more productive and effective. And we have to pay for and take care of those tools. Such tools can be a good axe, a large semi-trailer truck, a tractor, the car we drive to work, the textbooks and science lab equipment we need to teach, a decent set of kitchen knives, or the Bible that guides us, and so many other books that fill our libraries. Knowledge and good tools can lead to skill with careful practice. You have to live in one place and get to know that place and those people well.
Let us pray that our congregations will be the kind of communities and places where people learn the knowledge they need to serve a broken world and where we work together to create a society where people get the tools they need to build a just and peaceful and verdant world. And, let us give recognition and prayerful support to the "real work" that we need and to the skilled people who do it. This is Love in action.
Peace, Pastor Dan Olson