My first real job after graduating from college with a degree in biology was working in an agriculturally-based bank in Clarissa, Minnesota. I knew nothing about dairy farming, the vocation of the majority of the bank’s clientele.
Much of what I did learn took place during the daily morning and afternoon coffee break at Joe’s Cafe. We’d all go together…the owner of the bank, the bank president, the two senior loan officers, the insurance guy, and me, the junior loan officer. We’d sit around the largest table Joe had, pulling up chairs as needed for our customers…farmers…who relished the chance to take the bankers’ money playing liar’s dice.
I learned a lot sitting around that table rolling dice with our farm customers. Things like the importance of moisture content in the harvested corn cobs, the need for cattle trainers in the barn stalls, and the annual early spring rock harvest. When I first heard them talking about how their rock crops had come in, this seemed like a gag being played on the new guy: “Let’s see if we can hoodwink Davick into believing we harvest rocks, too.”
Turns out that rocks are the first things harvested at the beginning of each growing season. There’s even a piece of machinery to get the job done called a rock picker. The rock harvest is needed to reduce the amount of wear and tear on the equipment used to plant, till and harvest. The farmers loathed this infuriating, but necessary, spring job.
Now, I have nothing against rocks, but they can certainly be more annoying and pesky than they are useful or helpful. I wonder if the same can be said of Peter’s confession in today’s gospel reading? How does Peter’s confession sound to those persons of faith still wrestling with questions or living with doubts? Today we’ll explore the pesky, infuriating, “rocks” that get in the way of living faithfully, what happens when we harvest them, and how harvesting them can clarify the bedrock elements of faith, both as individuals and as a community of faith.