Just a Thought or Two

The Nose of the Tractor

Author: Mark Fenstermacher
May 13, 2022

Carlton was our next-door neighbor when we lived on the edge of the country, just south of Mishawaka. He was a small, red-faced, bald, retired farmer who was a pure soul. Every chance he got, he would sing whether in the church choir or a country and western trio. When he would sing, his face would glow as if Jesus himself were in the trio and they were all together up on the Mount of Transfiguration. Carlton also loved to help his son, Allan, work the family farm.

One day, Carlton told me that the key to plowing straight was to keep the nose of the target squarely on a “target” on the other side of the field. It might be a tree or a fencepost or a large rock, but the key was pointing the tractor in that direction and not veering off left or right.

I’ve never forgotten what Carlton said to me.

Living the life God created us to live is often about keeping the “nose of the tractor” on a target. Stephen Covey would say “begin with the end in mind.” Jesus said (Matthew 6:33) to seek first the Kingdom of God and God’s righteousness.

As we go through a time of change here at First UMC (I’ve gotten to the point where I believe there is never a season when change isn’t a factor!), and as the United Methodist Church attempts to respond faithfully and honestly to the creation of a separate denomination (the Global Methodist Church), and as our country continues to be roiled by political and economic uncertainty, I think this is an important time to remember the target we are moving towards: Jesus Christ who is the way, the truth, and the life.

It’s easy to let a political party or leader shape our attitudes, words, and actions.

It’s easy to quickly take sides on one side or the other of the debate around abortion and reproductive rights. It’s easy to quote an author or preacher or even a verse in the Bible when the conversation gets around to human sexuality. 

It’s easy to let our own wallet have the last word when we are discussing the treatment of the poor, healthcare and education for children, and housing policies. 

It’s easy to let the realities of power politics control us as we try to assist in the birth of a new denomination or defend the UMC as an expression of the scriptural, gracious, world-changing Wesleyan movement. 

It’s easy to let our own comfort and convenience have the last word when scientists raise the issue of global warming and climate change.

It’s easy to let the commentary on a news channel or a favorite writer have the last word about what to do with the people who arrive at the border.

What would it look like if our deepest allegiance was to Jesus of Nazareth? What would it look like to “keep the nose of the tractor” on the Sermon on the Mount, on the Beatitudes, on Matthew 25? 

This will cause trouble.

This will cause controversy.

So did Jesus.

As you and I look ahead, I pray that we will have the courage at First United Methodist Church to “keep the nose of the tractor” on Jesus and his way. 

Don’t veer to the left or right, but seek first the Kingdom of God.

I am so blessed to serve with you,
Pastor Mark


First United Methodist Church
1203 E. Seventh Street | Auburn, IN 46706
office@auburnumc.church | 260.925.0885