At the Farm a few Springs back, I learned the difference between rocks and seed potatoes. Part of the Spring work at the Farm is picking out the rocks which the thawing of the frozen ground had worked up through the soil.
If you don’t pick out the rocks, they damage the ploughs. That’s a problem - damaged ploughs don’t work well. Until the ploughs get fixed, the soil needing ploughing and weeding has to wait. I walked slowly across the field and picked up all the rocks, large and small, I could find. Even small rocks can damage a plough.
A few of the rocks seemed softer than the others. They still were covered with soil like the harder rocks, but the soft ones all had one flat side and a rounded one. They weren’t much to look at -just another soil-covered rock.
Someone who knew about rocks and potatoes though watched me dump my bucket of many soft “rocks” in the dump truck to take the rocks away. That’s where I learned the difference between rocks and potatoes.
Once seed potatoes are planted, they look (at least to me) like rocks. But, that’s because each seed potato is a quarter or so of a whole potato, cut and then planted. Once the seed potato is planted, the moisture in the flesh of the potato is caked with soil and resembles a rock.
The difference of course is that seed potatoes grow shoots, and plants, and then the plants above the ground grow more tubers below the ground. At harvest the grown tubers, which have started as seed potatoes, are potatoes which feed many more people than the original stump of the seed potato ever could have fed.
Some of the potatoes become seed potatoes, cut into stumps which will again, once planted grow shoots to bear potatoes, fruit which feeds many more people.
About two weeks ago, the Farm’s volunteers planted thousands of pounds of seed potatoes. If you saw one of those seed potatoes now, you might, as I did, confuse it with a rock. But, from that seed that looks like a rock, will in a few weeks come up shoots. Shoots don’t come up from rocks... Or do they?
The “shoot” that Isaiah refers to of course is Jesus, descended as the Gospel of Matthew says from Jesse, the father of David, through the generations to Joseph. Isaiah also described Jesus (in Isaiah 53:2),
Who has believed our message, and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed? He grew up before him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of dry ground. He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.
Paul also refers to Jesus as “the Rock” (1 Corinthians 10:4); Peter calls Jesus the living stone (1 Peter 2:4) and filled with the Holy Spirit, the “stone who was rejected” (Acts 4:11). Jesus himself (recalling Psalm 118:22) tells the Chief Priests and Pharisees that he is the stone which the builders rejected, who became the cornerstone (Matthew 21:42).
So, there is one shoot, from a seed, who’s also a rock: Jesus. Not much to look at, says Isaiah, but a shoot out of dry ground who bore fruit of wisdom, understanding, might, knowledge, and fear of the Lord. The Rock who gives life, just as (in a much smaller but still important way) the stump that is a seed potato grows to sustain life. Just like the seed potatoes, too, this Rock always will look the same, if you look closely enough.
It's important to remove the “real” rocks from the field. So that we help to grow more life its as important to know the difference between “dead” rocks and live “rocks.” As you might look out now on the fields at the Farm, you won’t see any shoots from the seed potatoes. You will just see a lot of dirt. The live “rocks” are planted, though. They don’t look like much now, but they will grow shoots and sustain many lives.
Now is the time for patience after our personal “fields” have been planted. We need to remove as many “rocks” as we can from own fields, waiting as the Rock grows shoots and bears great fruit.