Miracle in the Country
It’s so easy to fall away from spirituality, from pausing to consider the big picture and give thanks for all our blessings. You just go along with the fast-paced madness, working and frowning and worrying, hardly breathing, tense, cynical, slowly dying on the vine.
It’s easy to return when you visit places like Pleasant Corners United Methodist Church, and watch the faithful loving life out in the country.
Young and old still gather weekly at Pleasant Corners, a lovely little church organized in 1864 southwest of Kasson.
The close-knit congregation totals no more than 30 people on a recent Sunday. Some have the gray hair creeping in, others have no hair at all.
A little one plays with his toy tractor – rumblerumblerumble – as Pastor Joel Xavier smiles.
“It’s good to be here,” he says.
The folks still pray before a large portrait of Jesus and beautiful stained-glass windows, and they sing joyful hymns.
They smile for real and they are kind, for real. They stand for a prayer, heads bowed. A man holds his wife close.
A guy raised in the Big City often forgets – or didn’t realize, or didn’t believe – that farm country traditions are still strong.
But here the faithful come to have their tractors and seeds blessed, marking another growing season.
They believe. And they wouldn’t miss this for anything.
Xavier says his mother was raised on a farm, and that’s as close as he ever got. But he caught the rural spirit. He has pastored mostly in farm communities like Kasson.
“It is a different culture than in the city,” he says. “It’s about diversity. It’s not saying the city is a bad culture. It just says, ‘This is a different culture, and it’s well worth preserving.’ It takes a bit of effort sometimes.”
His sermon is a classic, regarding the Bible passage from Ecclesiastes:
“To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven.
“A time to be born, and a time to die. A time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted.”
“That’s just such a strong theme in agriculture,” Xavier says. “You have these seasons, and you do what you need to do now. It is about connecting all of life and vocations into God’s plan, God’s kingdom.”
It feels so rural out here. So far out in the country. Busy, big-city Rochester seems light years away. Impossibly, it’s just 16 miles.
It is far from that place and time where you had to attend church every Sunday, like it or not, and the feeling afterward was usually bad, so much guilt and shame and confusion and anger, and you eventually fell away and grew cynical.
There’s comfort and simplicity, and what appears to be real love here at Pleasant Corners.
You try and give your cynicism a rest. You breathe and relax, and smile and laugh along with all these good, genuine country folks.
You’re thinking what these people have known all their lives: life is good, way out here in the country.
And it’s too short, so you might as well try and turn back toward the light.
Maybe you’ll even build on it – to stay.
You close your tired eyes, sigh, and say to yourself: Thanks, God, for yet another miracle.
And you smile.
Not bad. Not bad at all.