From a sermon I gave a few years ago at the outdoor worship service at the LeSueur County Pioneer Power Show.
Somebody once said, “What was difficult to endure, is sweet to remember.” That isn’t always true, but oftentimes it is. That could almost be the theme of these Pioneer Power days, surrounded as we are by all the tools, implements, machines, and other items of years gone by. It is great fun to see this old stuff, and to see it all cranked up and running, snorting and smoking, doing what it was built to do.
It is lots of fun to see that all now, but anyone who is old enough to remember working with these machines and tools, can also remember how hard they worked years ago, when what is now interesting antiques, was then the tools of daily life and work– hard work. It is lots of fun now to get all these old things out and running, but years ago when new and more convenient machinery came out, most folks were quick to put the old aside and go with the new.
But as the saying goes, “What was difficult to endure, is sweet to remember,” and the enjoyment of a weekend like this comes from the sweetness of recalling those old times; from the pleasure of remembering that hard work put in on those steam engines and threshing machines and tractors that surround us.
The older you are, the more you have to remember, and a walk around here brings back so many memories. My wife and I were out here last Wednesday evening with my parents. We drove around the grounds and walked through one of the buildings, and it seemed everything they looked at reminded Mom and Dad of something. They would both be talking at the same time, recalling how ‘dad had one of these,’ or how ‘I used to work with one of those;’ or a specific day when this or that broke down and what a hot day that was, and so on. “What was difficult to endure, is sweet to remember.”
We enjoy this remembering. We like to talk about how things used to be. We like to have things around to help us remember. So it is good to do what you do here, working to preserve these things from the past so that they can be enjoyed and remembered.
But if it is ‘sweet to remember,’ it is a sweetness touched with a bit of sadness, because as we remember the ‘old times,’ we can’t help but also remember the ‘old-timers;’ the grandparents and parents and perhaps even spouses and friends that used to run this machinery. Our tools and machines are made of stronger stuff than we are, and with a little care those machines will last and last, and even keep on running. But no matter how much we take care of ourselves, we don’t last. And so even though a lot of the same old steamers and implements are here year after year, the same people aren’t. Perhaps some of us here right now won’t be around for this next year. In the words of an old hymn, “Time like an ever rolling stream soon bears us all away…” Any one of us could be swept away by that stream any day. You and I are the most fragile things out here.
That is how it looks to us anyway. But Jesus gives us a different view on the matter. Jesus points us to a different reality and gives us a larger perspective.
In Matthew 6:19-20 Jesus says, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.” And in I Peter 1:3-4 it says, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil, or fade– kept in heaven for you.”
These words point to the temporary nature not of ourselves, but of our earthly treasures. Those treasures will not last forever, but can be destroyed by moth or rust, and will indeed spoil, perish or fade.
But, says Jesus and Peter, you and I can live on for all eternity.
Jesus says we can store up treasures in heaven, which can never be destroyed or perish. Peter says that in God’s great mercy he has given us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.
To us, it looks to us like we perish, and it is our tools and tractors and machines go on. But Jesus and Peter say “No, it is the other way around; all of this and everything else on earth, even the earth itself will one day perish, but you can live.” We can go on. We will yet receive the goal of our faith, the salvation of our souls, says Peter. Just have faith, just believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and it will be yours, forever.
It is great to preserve the treasures of the past for our enjoyment and for the enjoyment of future generations. It is of infinitely greater importance to preserve yourself for the future, indeed, for all eternity. We will all one day leave all of this. We can do only so much to hang on. The time comes when we do let go of everything. For that time, we must look to and trust in Jesus, the one who will never let go of us.
We are able to hang on to some of the objects of the past, but one aspect of farm life that is disappearing is the old farm places themselves. You can restore an old tractor or steamer to look exactly how it used to, but the inevitable march of progress has left few farm places looking like they did years back. Operations expand and change, and the small, old buildings give way to larger, new ones. Land use changes, and what once was rural, is now city, and the old buildings, and even hills and woods and fields, give way to houses and swing sets and streets. And sometimes, as farms get larger, whole farm yards become fields again, and houses, barns, fences, and everything are all gone.
And all we can say is “That’s where the old place used to be.” (continued…)