Ploughing a Subversive Furrow | Connecting with Culture
Sunday’s coming and I’m going to take part in a subversive act.
To the outside eye it may look decidedly quaint – a benign relic of a bygone age, like Morris dancers outside Tesco. But the reality will be different. In a society where, with the exception of Remembrance Day, almost every trace of the divine has been expunged from our national rituals and shared imagination, where Christmas has become Snowmas, Easter Chocaholiday, and Whitsun BBQit, Christians face a challenge.
How do we create a rhythm to our year that does what the original biblical calendar sought to do: remind us of our dependence (economic included) on God, and enable us to ponder the implications of God’s past actions for our present lives? How easy, for example, for Advent to cease to be a season to reflect on the liberating implications of Jesus’ second coming for our lives today. And how easy not to invite God into our economic year.
Which brings me to Sunday.
It’s Plough Sunday, the day in the Anglican year when a plough was traditionally brought into the sanctuary and the community dedicated their ploughing to God, seeking his help and his blessing on the work that was so vital to their very existence.
As it happens, I will be celebrating Plough Sunday as a visitor in a Baptist church in a non-agricultural town. And there will be a plough at the front. There will probably also be memory sticks and corporate coffee mugs, Nordic walking poles and football boots, two ladders and a mop, van keys and Allen keys, schoolbooks and a stethoscope… all brought by the people who use them in their week. And each person will dedicate the work of their hands – home and away – to the Lord their God, in the hearing of their fellow believers. And each person will be commissioned for their work, in the presence of their fellow believers.
And this communal act will quietly subvert the self-vaunting ideology of our age, that it is by algorithms and systems, hi-tech and nano-tech, human strength and human ingenuity that nature yields its bounty and that economies and nations thrive.
As we go into the new year, Plough Sunday reminds us of our total dependence on God, and that, whatever we do, with him we plough a different furrow.
Mark is the Executive Director of LICC
This week the Church of England is launching Everyday Faith, a series of reflections and prayers to help you find and follow God in everyday life, featuring thoughts and stories by Mark Greene. You can sign up here to receive them straight to your inbox, every day for three weeks.