Proverbs 16:24 & Proverbs 24: 13 February 26, 2017
You don’t find maple syrup mentioned in the bible, but you do find “honey”. The taste and knowledge of sweetness is used to lift up the word of God as something desirable in the Psalms. The promised land – Canaan – is described as a “land flowing with milk and honey” meaning that it is a rich and attractive land, a desirable and productive land. And, in the book of Proverbs we find words of wisdom for living, also using the sweetness and appeal of honey as a metaphor.
Listen to the word as inspired by God
A Scripture Reading from the Book of Proverbs 16 & 24
24 Pleasant words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body.
OR Pleasant words are like maple syrup, sweetness to the soul and health to the body.
Proverbs 24: 13
My child, eat honey, for it is good, and the drippings of the honeycomb are sweet to your taste.
14 Know that wisdom is such to your soul; if you find it, you will find a future,
and your hope will not be cut off.
OR My child, eat maple syrup, for it is good, and the drippings of the sap are sweet to your taste. Know that wisdom is such to your soul; if you find it, you will find a future, and your hope will not be cut off.
Here ends the readings thanks be to God.
As we celebrate the gift of Maple syrup and sugaring in worship, you might wonder, how is this a religious topic, a spiritual topic? Well, I have a few thoughts on that – first of all, things have felt a bit heavy lately – with the onslaught of news, tweets and negativity. So, a celebration service, honoring something that is indeed a gift of God’s creation, seems appropriate right now. It is an act of gratitude and joy to acknowledge a simple gift of God’s creation – one that is foundational to many lives here in our area. Gratitude and joy are central tenants of our faith. We cultivate gratitude when we focus on sap as the gift that it is, not something to take for granted.
Secondly, the rituals around sugaring, and the family traditions, the way that knowledge is shared, is deeply communal. The welcome to the sugar house and the gathering of family and friends that happens there, are acts of hospitality and fellowship. Our faith, Christianity, is one of community, hospitality and fellowship.
And, sugaring, done at the local level is a sustainable industry. Using the wood sustainably harvested, the sap sustainably collected from the trees. Much research has been done to protect the trees, to develop the safest taps and to determine how long a tap stays in the tree. Sugaring is dependent on healthy maple trees, on a healthy forest. Protecting and respecting God’s bountiful creation is a tenant of our faith.
Finally, I have noted that for those who sugar, it is a ritual that feeds the soul. Many of you have shared family memories – during boiling season of the family actually living in the sugar house and eating meals there, of hours spent in the woods and knowing the individual trees, of connection to the wisdom of grandparents, of the time it takes in a process that can not be hurried – memories that imbue this season uniquely. Let’s be honest, it is hard work to sugar, physically hard and takes time – a lot of time – for sap to become syrup. And yet, the sugaring season, provides many with a sense of belonging, a sense of place and finally with a strong sense of home. So it is with our faith, knowing ourselves to be beloved children of God, we stand on a firm foundation of belonging, of place and of home.
Maple syrup feeds our sweet tooth yes, but sugaring and the maple syrup season feeds our souls. And that my friends is worth honoring in worship.
Thank God for the sweet gift of maple syrup!
A Song for the Season “Maple Sweet”
When you see the vapor pillars link the forest and the sky,
You may know the days of sugar making then are drawing nigh;
Frosty night and thaw-ey day make the maple pulses play,
Till congested with their sweetness they delight to bleed away.
Chorus: Then! bubble, bubble, bubble, bubble, bubble goes the pan,
Furnish better music for the season if you can!
See the golden billows! Watch their ebb and flow!
Sweetest joys indeed we sugar makers know!
When the farmer comes a-trudging with his dripping buckets home,
You may know the days of sugar making then have fully come;
As the fragrant odors pour through the open kitchen door,
How the eager children rally, ever loudly crying, “More!”
A Story for Everyone
The History of Maple is Steeped in Legend. (from Vermontmaple.org)
A native Chief returning to his village after a hunting trip threw his tomahawk into a sugar maple tree trunk. The spring sun warmed the tree and sap ran down the bark from the cut the tomahawk had made and into a birch bark container left under the tree. Thinking the crystal clear sap was water, the Chief’s wife poured it in with some meat she was cooking. As the water boiled away, a sticky sweet glaze formed on the meat, adding a wonderfully sweet maple flavor to the meal.
Native Peoples continued to boil down the sap every spring using hollowed out logs into which the sap was poured and rocks heated in a fire were placed in to make the sap boil, thicken and harden into chunks of maple sugar. Early explorers recorded maple sugar serving as the only source of energy sustaining Native Peoples over the long hard winter months.
When settlers came with metal tools, they drilled small holes in the trees, whittled wooden spouts and replaced the wooden troughs used by Native Peoples with wooden buckets and covers. They made their maple sugar in large iron kettles suspended over a fire by wooden poles or tripods.
Making maple sugar was common in Vermont, being some distance from any seaport where white sugar was imported.
As maple sugaring evolved, arches were built, containing the heat from roaring wood fires and holding large flat pans on top. Buildings to house these “boilers” was the next step. Sugarhouses today still resemble those early structures with the characteristic cupola on the roof allowing the sweet maple scented steam to billow forth.
Children are invited to Church School.
A Poem “Evening in a Sugar Orchard” by Robert Frost
From where I lingered in a lull in March
outside the sugar-house one night for choice,
I called the fireman with a careful voice
And bade him leave the pan and stoke the arch:
‘O fireman, give the fire another stoke,
And send more sparks up chimney with the smoke.’
I thought a few might tangle, as they did,
Among bare maple boughs, and in the rare
Hill atmosphere not cease to glow,
And so be added to the moon up there.
The moon, though slight, was moon enough to show
On every tree a bucket with a lid,
And on black ground a bear-skin rug of snow.
The sparks made no attempt to be the moon.
They were content to figure in the trees
As Leo, Orion, and the Pleiades.
And that was what the boughs were full of soon.
A Reflection – several were shared, some planned, some spontaneous
Anthem: “Vermont Academy Evening Song”
Words by Dorothy Leavitt, Music by Gilbert Parker
O, Vermont, we’ve seen your beauty. Changing with each hour and day;
We have found your hidden trout pools, Where the light and shadow play;
Swirling sparks above a camp fire, Hemlocks laden down with snow;
Autumn hillsides flaming crimson, Where the sugar maples grow.
Morning mist upon the mountains, Frosty stars across the sky,
Snowy meadows turned to silver, when the moon is riding high;
O, Vermont, we will not leave you, Here behind us when we part;
We will take your beauty with us, Etched forever on each heart.
Maple Sugar Time (in Old Vermont)
Words by Dalhart Patton, Arr. By Clem Maples
Chorus: When it’s Maple Sugar Time in Old Vermont –
that’s the day when I’ll be coming home to you. I will greet you at the door.
We’ll have maple treats galore when its Maple sugar time again.
One by one the buckets go, Barrels fill with sug’ry flow
to the sugar house old Dobbin hauls away —
When the evening sun has gone beyond the hills.
And the silver moonbeams glow upon the snow.
I will see my Dad and Mom; and friends I know –
See the beautiful green mountains dressed in snow –
We will ski thru maples tall.
At the lodge our friends will call Oh its Maple Sugar time again.
Maple Syrup by Donald Hall
August, goldenrod blowing. We walk
into the graveyard, to find
my grandfather’s grave. Ten years ago
I came here last, bringing
marigolds from the round garden
outside the kitchen.
I didn’t know you then.
among carved names that go with photographs
on top of the piano at the farm:
Keneston, Wells, Fowler, Batchelder, Buck.
We pause at the new grave
of Grace Fenton, my grandfather’s
sister. Last summer
we called on her at the nursing home,
eighty-seven, and nodding
in a blue housedress. We cannot find
my grandfather’s grave.
Back at the house
where no one lives, we potter
and explore the back chamber
where everything comes to rest: spinning wheels,
pretty boxes, quilts,
bottles, books, albums of postcards.
Then with a flashlight we descend
firm steps to the root cellar—black,
with dirt floors and fieldstone walls,
and above the walls, holding the hewn
sills of the house, enormous
granite foundation stones.
Past the empty bins
for squash, apples, carrots, and potatoes,
we discover the shelves for canning, a few
of tomato left,
is this?—syrup, maple syrup
in a quart jar, syrup
my grandfather made twenty-five
for the last time.
coming to the farm in March
in sugaring time, as a small boy.
He carried the pails of sap, sixteen-quart
buckets, dangling from each end
of a wooden yoke
that lay across his shoulders, and emptied them
into a vat in the saphouse
where fire burned day and night
for a week.
Now the saphouse
tilts, nearly to the ground,
like someone exhausted
to the point of death, and next winter
when snow piles three feet thick
on the roofs of the cold farm,
the saphouse will shudder and slide
with the snow to the ground.
we take my grandfather’s last
quart of syrup
upstairs, holding it gingerly,
and we wash off twenty-five years
of dirt, and we pull
and pry the lid up, cutting the stiff,
dried rubber gasket, and dip our fingers
in, you and I both, and taste
the sweetness, you for the first time,
the sweetness preserved, of a dead man
in the kitchen he left
when his body slid
like anyone’s into the ground.
Donald Hall, “Maple Syrup” from Old and New Poems. Copyright © 1990 by Donald Hall. Reprinted with the permission of Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved