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‘Cut at the knot’ and other lessons

A knot on each hay bale in the wagon

As the word “essential” takes on daily meaning during the health crisis, the Rev. Benton Heisler recalls an early lesson taught in the barn by a knot in the twine.

Director of Connectional Ministry, Michigan Conference

Benton Heisler“Cut at the knot.” My grandfather’s words were simple yet profound. A nail on the massive hand-hewn post that supported the crossbeams in that 1860s barn, held years of evidence to this simple truth of stewardship. Reduce, reuse, recycle was the essence of honoring the creation. “Saving for a rainy day,” “use it up,” “do without,” “remember the Sabbath and keep it Holy,” were all mantras of essential life lessons.

“Cut at the knot” is a lost phrase in today’s major agribusiness of rolled bales, massive silage piles, automated grain and feed distribution systems. Few farms anymore stack rectangle bales on a wagon and then reload them as neatly stacked interlocking piles in the barn any longer. But that early lesson of “cut at the knot,” provided a fist full of twine always nearly 6’ long when you needed some. Cut anywhere else, and you had two pieces of three, or a two and four.

That twine would later bundle stacks of newspaper to take to the recycling or bundle campfire wood that became a summer memory, or keep the top of a burlap bag tied shut, so the potatoes didn’t spill out.

“Cut at the knot” was an essential lesson learned, that few may ever get again. Or maybe I am wrong! If there is a word we have heard only slightly more than “COVID” recently, it may be the word “essential.”

Essential workers, essential services, essential goods, essential activities, essential government functions, essential … the list goes on, and the apprehension only rises.

The scriptures offer us any number of “essential” verses that seem to apply to our current life disruption.

Philippians 4: 6-8 Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and petition with thanksgiving, let your request be made known to God. And the peace of God which transcends all understanding will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. [The writer continues.]

Finally, my friends, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable, if anything is excellent or praiseworthy, think about these [ESSENTIAL, caps added] things. 

Congregations, communities, and classrooms across the country have had to adapt, adjust, and accommodate for a new reality, and “the old barn beam covered with the six ‘long flowing dusty yellow hair mane” is not coming back. Well known church development consultant Paul Nixon recently spoke to us in one of our Field Staff Team meetings. “Friends, we are now hybrid forever.”

An online presence is “essential” to our current and future ministry of “Making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.”

You recently received the note about the “virtual Annual Conference” we will be engaged in on July 27th.

The Commission on the Annual Conference has wrestled with identifying the “essential” elements the Book of Discipline of the UMC requires the Annual Conference care for.

Micah 6:8 teaches us what the Lord requires of us: “Do Justice, Love Kindness, Walk Humbly with God.” It doesn’t take a formal gathering of 1,800 persons to live out these essentials. It doesn’t take three workshops, a keynote preacher, and a luncheon presentation to focus upon “whatever is pure, noble, right, lovely, admirable, excellent, praiseworthy.”

The prophet reminded us thousands of years ago of God’s capacity and desire for change. “Behold, I am about to do a new thing …” (Isaiah 43:19)  There has been great disruption, and it is not over by any means. There has been an incredible human and financial loss. And there have been amazing acts of grace and courage and sacrifice that have been nothing short of “pure, noble, right, lovely, admirable, excellent, and praiseworthy.”

What “essential” life lesson, what simple “cut at the knot” phrase has God given you through this Covid-19 pandemic? Share your story and give God the Glory. 

~ If you make my Word your home, you will indeed be my disciples. You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free. (John 8:13 New Jerusalem Bible) Each article I write for this column is based on the guidance of a scripture passage. I pray that these reflections, stories, and information will assist you in your witness and service as a Disciple of Jesus Christ.

Last Updated on September 20, 2022

The Michigan Conference