Monday, April 06, 2009

The Gospel According to H.V.

Dear H. V. Shellmeier,

My husband has spoken of you many times throughout the years of our marriage. You gave him his first job, picking peaches in a New Jersey orchard.

During the years when we lived in N.J. We passed your homeplace many times, and when we did, my husband Steve would tell H.V. stories. I've heard about your truck and your temper, your employees and your obsessions. He has quoted verses of your wisdom from what he called, The Gospel According to H.V. such as, "Don't eat the peaches when they are hot," and "I remember when you could hire a good worker for 35 cents an hour."

Today, Steve told me of the time you watched a beautiful box of grade A peaches spill across the packing yard. Now, anyone who has ever watched peaches being packed, knows it is an interesting and automated process. Peaches arrive from the fields in sun-hot crates. The peaches are hard, not quite ripe. Now, there is nothing like a tree-ripened peach. You do not get those in a grocery store. Ripened on a tree, a peach glows with sweetness. The first bite of such fruit explodes with a holy flavor that blesses each tastebud with glory. Business is business, though, and tree-ripened fruit doesn't sell. Too fragile.

From crates, the peaches are dumped into pools of cool water to be cleaned, chilled, sorted and checked. Each box is precious especially to a man like you, Shellmeier, who has framed your years around the seasons of clingstone and free stone.

But a clumsy set of hands dropped one of the solid waxed cardboard boxes with peachy forms on the lids and Shellmeier Farms on the sides. In response, you stopped, bowed, stooped and knelt, turning from all else to the task of the salvation of many of the the Flaming Fury variety peaches that had not been marred by the gravel of the driveway, minding not at all the cracked stone boring the epidermis of your own knees. You brushed off the surface and eyed them for bruising, tossing the loss in the little bin that held rejects, and carefully replacing the still perfect peaches in the box.

Yesterday, as our family read together the story of Palm Sunday, we were once again reminded of the words and times of H.V. We read that Jesus had retraced the two miles from Jerusalem to Bethany after the parade of palms and the action at the temple. He relaxed there with his friends Lazarus and Mary and Martha. But in the morning,
Matthew 21:18 Now in the morning, when He was returning to the city, He became hungry.

19 Seeing a lone fig tree by the road, He came to it and found nothing on it except leaves only; and He said to it, "No longer shall there ever be any fruit from you." And at once the fig tree withered.

20 Seeing this, the disciples were amazed and asked, "How did the fig tree wither all at once?"

21 And Jesus answered and said to them, "Truly I say to you, if you have faith and do not doubt, you will not only do what was done to the fig tree, but even if you say to this mountain, 'Be taken up and cast into the sea,' it will happen.

22 "And all things you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive."

At those words we were back again in the Gospel of H.V., in an orchard looking at trees, not yet bearing fruit, but with a man who loved fruit; loved it enough to kneel and bow for it.

"Boys," he was saying to my husband and his brother, "Boys, we've got to take out these trees, now, while they are still in blossom and we can tell which ones are which." The boys, who knew the painstakingly slow growth of trees were stunned at this new task, so unlike the tender instructions they had been given in the past, such as, "And if you break one of the limbs of those trees, I'll break your leg." But you were serious, and by the end of the day, seven trees were hacked, stripped of limbs and blossoms, and down.

Why would a man who loved his trees and loved his fruit take such action? In this case, my husband explained, it was because those trees bore lesser fruit than the trees in the rest of that orchard. And that fruit tainted the pickings of the whole. The only solution was to remove the trees while they were in blossom and it was clear which fruit was which.

I suppose that Jesus was doing something like that, in this passage from Matthew. And he was teaching his disciples how to do it too. "Boys," he said, "This is how you tend fruit. Really good fig trees bear fruit all year round. That is the kind of fruit we want to grow."

So, thanks for the illustration of what it means to tend fruit and do it painfully right.



cadh 8 said...

From AsDh 8, according to his studies:
The fig tree also represents Israel. The tree had leaves on it, which indicates that it had a source of nutrients, but even though it could be bearing fruit, it wasn't. Just as Jesus had been in Jerusalem with the leaves waving among the people who were supposed to be the tree bearing fruit. They were the people of God, but they were not bearing the fruit of God. They were merely waving leaves.

That is, the purpose of a fig tree is not to bear leaves, but fruit.

cadh 8 said...

Dad telling this story and making this illustration was so cool to me. He was telling me something that I had never known. And it was nice to have that father daughter teaching moment. (that didn't have to do with plumbing). I miss those.

brd said...

Thanks for the further comment AsDh8. It's like a son mother teaching moment. This comparison of the fig tree with the people waving palm branches is really right on.

I guess if our spirits are not really open to the full path of God, (cross and all) and are only open to the circus of God (with all the hoopla) then the withering of life begins.