Say pitchfork and immediately I see a scene of angry villagers. They’re probably in a black and white movie about Dracula, each of them wielding a different harvest-tool to fight against a common enemy. Terrified and terrifying in equal measure they band together and attempt to root evil out from their community.
When I heard God say that I should paint a pitchfork in action today, I decided that the angry farmer motif wasn’t going to fly, so I did a little bit of research on what seemed to be the more peaceful use of a pitchfork – winnowing.
Wheat has to be threshed – a fairly violent process which loosens the grain from the stalks and chaff (husks and little bits of straw). And then winnowed – separating the grain from the rest. I grew up on grain-growing land, surrounded by fields of golden corn every summer, but I had no idea about winnowing because for a long time there have been machines that do the job very efficiently.
In Bible times, however, and in parts of the developing world still, the job is done by throwing the pile of mixed grain, straw and chaff into the air and allowing the wind to blow away the straw and chaff while the heavy grain falls to the ground.
To winnow is to separate. To remove that which is unwanted. To purify.
That made me smile: It turns out that whether it’s used by a mob against a vampire or by an individual on a windy summer’s day; a pitchfork is for separating out evil from good and removing it.
In the Bible itself winnowing as a metaphor is often about God coming and getting rid of sin; about purifying the nation; about blowing away all that is bad.
This awkward and difficult task is part of what we’re called to as his people. It strikes me as important though that the pitchfork doesn’t poke about and separate stuff while it’s on the ground. It has a very specific task – that of lifting the whole mess up into the wind.
The wind itself does the work.
Perhaps this postcard is personal. Perhaps you are aware that the job of threshing has been done.. that sin or shame in your life has been loosened, but is still in there in the mix. Perhaps you need a time of lifting up your own soul into the wind of God, of surrendering to his work.
Or perhaps it’s about your part as a voice to your nation.
I listened to a radio programme this morning about mobile phones. One part of the discussion was concern that we’re becoming a generation of bystanders, that rather than intervene when something isn’t right, we’re more likely to take out a phone and video it. I wonder if this pitchfork is a challenge to become more of an intervener than a watcher. Perhaps it’s time to take your voice and use it – to pray, to expose truth, to not just be a bystander. To lift up the way our society works into the wind and see which way the grain falls.