Kate Campbell sings a song about Jesus and tomatoes that tells the story of an especially blessed tomato grower, who grew a tomato that bore, at least in the grower’s mind, a resemblance to our savior. The song starts out like this:
I bought a pack of seeds
The best homegrown you’ll find
How it happened I don’t know
Must’ve been the Miracle-Gro
Oh I could not believe my eyes
In my tomato bed
A holy image blood red.
I was reminded of Kate’s song this week, as I had an encounter of a different sort with Jesus and tomatoes.
We had been visiting for a good while, and it was time for me leave. She was about to have a supper prepared by her grandson. My visit had, no doubt, delayed their meal. Before parting, we joined hands and offered thanks for a good visit and the meal that they were about to eat.
Hugs, handshakes, prayers, and good-byes completed, my mind was already in the truck headed for my next destination. She said something about tomatoes. I noticed them when I arrived. At least a third, maybe half, of her kitchen table was covered with homegrown tomatoes. She spoke again, “Will you take some tomatoes?” I was moving toward the door and almost said “no” — or maybe I did say “no” — but then I had my Jesus-and-tomatoes moment. Jesus’ words from the tenth chapter of Luke were suddenly in my mind, “. . . eating and drinking what they provide . . . eat what is set before you.” He was instructing His followers to receive hospitality. As Jesus’ words to the seventy people that He was sending out into the world bounced around in my head, I suddenly felt compelled to stop and receive what was being offered to me.
We love to give to those who have need. I know that is true of most churches and other faith groups that see those needs of others as an opportunity to put the moral teachings of their faith into practice; but it seems especially true at Ball Camp. In giving, we impact the life of the One we are giving to, and we encounter the One who said, “When you have done it unto the least of these my brothers and sisters you have done it unto me.” To give is to be blessed. Yet, to always give without ever receiving deprives someone of the joy of giving to us. In giving to and receiving from others, we become participants in God’s redemptive activity in the world.
In a good year, tomatoes are abundant. Sometimes those who grow them have so many that they do not know what to do with all of them. Our neighbors in Grainger County engage in tomato battles, using them as projectiles as part of their Tomato Festival celebration. Tomatoes are, after all, just tomatoes. Yet, when a few are taken and offered to another as a gift, they can become an occasion for blessing and grace.