Sharon’s Harvest

_CES4270I participated in another funeral today.  The woman who died, Sharon Cates, was a remarkable person on numerous levels.  Sharon was a retired school teacher and someone very involved in both her church and community.  For the past 22 years she was a full-time farmer.  She took over the farm when her husband died at a young age.  She expanded the farm and became, as noted in her obituary, an “advocate for local farmers, caretaker of the land, and passionate in teaching children and youth about agriculture with her vegetable garden, corn maze, and pumpkin patch.”  Sharon was also a champion for the poor and a strong supporter of missions.  It came as no surprise to me that our church was completely packed this morning for her funeral service.

_CES7414Jesus once told a parable about a sower who went out to sow seeds. (Mark 4:1-20)  In his story the scattered seeds fell on a variety of surfaces.  Some fell on the hardened path, some on rocky places, some among thorns and some on good soil.  Jesus indicated that how the seed responded was directly related to the surface on which it fell.  Some of the seed died quickly, some began to grow but withered due to shallow soil, some tried to grow but were choked by the weeds, while the seed that landed upon good soil produced an abundant harvest.  For some reason Jesus’ disciples didn’t understand the meaning of his parable so he had to go on and explain it to them.  He told them that the sown seed was “the word,” or what we might call the gospel.  The various surfaces were examples of people’s response to the word. In the end it was only those who heard the word and accepted it that were able to produce a crop—“thirty, sixty or even a hundred times what was sown.”

Since Sharon’s death a few days ago I have thought about Jesus’ parable a number of times.  It is quite obvious to me which type of soil she was—she was good soil, very good soil.  The gospel permeated Sharon’s life and it produced a remarkable harvest.  I saw that in her work at the church.  I saw it in her work on the farm.  I saw it in her work in the community.  I saw it in the way she bravely fought a long battle with cancer.

_CES8928Sharon’s farm produced what many would consider the best vegetables in Henderson County.  I know vegetables were her focus but when I think about her real harvest I think of fruit—the fruit of the Spirit.  In Galatians 5:22-23 the apostle Paul wrote “the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.”   These are the things I saw produced in Sharon’s life and they are the things I will remember her for.

Today I not only thank God for Sharon’s example, I am challenged by it.  In the lives of all of us who claim to be Christians there should be a great harvest.  In each of our lives there should be an abundance of the fruit of the Spirit.  Our time here on earth really ought to count and make a difference.  In the future when I pause to think about the difference one person can make, one of the persons whose life I will have to consider is Sharon Cates.  Her body, like a seed, now rests in the ground but I have a feeling the life she lived will continue to produce a harvest for years to come.


(I took each of the above pictures in Henderson County.  Unfortunately, none of them were taken at the Cates Farm.)