The Word on the Week

Plough a Straight Furrow

Record crowds marked this year’s championship with the total attendance at 283,000 over the three days. 700 acres of land at Screggan, Co Offaly, were hired from local farms to cope with the 1,700 exhibitors. They were prepared to pay anything between €1,000 and €100,000 for their site, the latter figure locating you in the centre next to the Organisers.
It originated in 1931 when JJ Bergin of Athy challenged Dennis Allen of Gorey to produce the best drill. The resulting plough-off was the start of the annual competition which has become the biggest outdoor event in Europe. All this has been managed, as far back as one can remember, by Anna May McHugh and her family.
The President Michael D Higgins and his wife Sabina were there. Michael D can always be relied upon to produce a speech and in it he picturesquely described the Ploughing as the Olympics of the Land! Indeed he has just had published a book of the speeches he has delivered since he came to the office some 5 years ago. An answer to the Christmas gift problem perhaps!
One of the best laid out displays of old farm machinery and implements I have ever seen was on view. In addition to the re-creation of the farm kitchen and neighbouring shop etc. were the many original Ferguson tractors. These were the ‘little grey fergie’ TE20 model which popularised the three point hitch now used universally by tractors when operating machinery. Harry Ferguson who invented the machine was a Christian. The Ferguson was sold all over the world and continue to be sought after today.
Each year there is an innovation that catches the imagination. This year it was the use of drones to assist in crop-spraying on difficult to access areas of the farm. These carry up to 15 litres of fluid and can be programmed to recall where they finished spraying so as to avoid overlapping. They also were being used for stock control such as counting the cattle and incorporated a small sensor which gave a bio-feedback as to how the animal is doing. I think it may be some time before they replace the farmer as a herdsman!
Jesus used many agricultural terms when communicating truth. He referred his words as seeds which could be sown into good soil i.e. people to produce a harvest of righteousness. He knew that a seed is never going to reproduce itself unless it dies and is planted into good soil. “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit (St John Chapter 12 verse 24). This is the miracle of the new birth which takes the word of God and regenerates new life from those who are dead in sin. You see it in plants with seed and in people with the words of God.
“Jesus said, when I am lifted up from the earth I will draw all men to myself” He said this to show the kind of death he was going to die (verses 32-33). His death secures for the believer – life. The invitation is the same today as it was in times past – to look and live. The parallel Jesus said was with the serpent in the wilderness when the blood poisoning could be stopped by looking in faith to the symbol of death, “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life (Chapter 3 verse 14 and Numbers Chapter 21 verse 9).
The only way to plough a straight furrow is to fix your eyes on a marker and go for it. The only way to plough a straight furrow through life is to look straight ahead to the cross and not take your eyes off it and follow Jesus. “I am the way, the truth and the life” (Chapter 14 verse 6).