This time of year, you don't have to go far to stumble over reminders that it's harvest time in our corner of the Midwest. It never ceases to amaze me how big a deal that "harvest" seems to have become to people who have never ventured anywhere near an actual working farm or orchard. All you have to do is visit a place like County Line Orchards on a warm October weekend to be amazed by all the ways our culture has found to market pumpkins, corn stalks, and bales of straw that do not involve using them for food.
On the Great Plains where I grew up, this time of year was also planting time for next year's crop of wheat. We called it "winter wheat" because it was a variety that is planted and grows into seedlings in the fall before going dormant during the cold winter months, only to spring to life again in the spring and early summer before being ready to harvest in late June or early July. To many parents, winter wheat must seem like a pretty good analogy to parenthood, you plant and nurture your seedlings with love and guidance, then hope against hope that your seedlings survive and eventually thrive after the "winter" that the adolescent and teen years can sometimes feel like.
Wheat has been with humanity for a long time, with evidence that it was cultivated almost 10,000 years BCE in the fertile crescent of the Middle East. Today, it is grown on more land area than any other crop, with total world trade greater than all other crops combined. The wheat genome is massive and complicated, with 16 billion DNA letters, compared to just 3 billion for the human genome. As recently as last summer, after a 13-year effort, a consortium representing 19 countries announced the first complete mapping of a wheat genome, and that for just one variety of wheat.
The secret of the complexity and ultimately the durability and value of wheat to humanity lies in the diversity of its genome, which is actually a combination of three different genomes. Locked within this amazingly complex genetic code are the secrets for better nutrition, better resistance to diseases and pests, and a richer harvest.
Throughout the Bible, wheat is used symbolically and literally in a number of verses to illustrate how God is at work in the world. As we continue to learn more about the beauty of creation, we are beginning to realize that God has written a parable of life within the genome of every living thing, a parable that we have only recently been able to start to read and understand. Like wheat, the history of God's people is complex, diverse and interconnected, embodying the strength and resilience of many races and backgrounds.
As Christians, it's up to us to be a community that nurtures seedlings of faith and love and encourages the Holy Spirit within all of us to grow and thrive, no matter what the season.
Elder Jerry Kahrs