For a perspective on spirituality and agriculture that remains unique even today, Consider the life of John Chapman aka Johnny Appleseed

Observing the large number of children present at a recent church barbecue, when the time to say grace came, the host opted instead to lead us all in the song we call “The Johnny Appleseed Blessing”, or at least this version of it:

Ooooooooooooooh,
The Lord is good to me
And so I thank the Lord
For giving me the things I need
The sun and the rain and the apple seed.
The Lord is good to me.

And every seed that grows
Will grow into a tree,
And one day soon there’ll be apples there,
For everyone in the world to share.
The Lord is good to me.

When I wake up each morning,
I’m happy as can be,
Because I know that with God’s care
The apple trees will still be there.
The Lord’s been good to me.

I’ve sung it so often in church that I rarely recall that it was actually composed for an animated film on the legend of Johnny Appleseed by Walt Disney Films.  In the film, the song is sung with a bridge inserted between the second and third stanza, the lyrics of which are:

Here am I, blue blue sky,
doing as I please,
humming with my feathered friends,
buzzing with the bees.

For fun, here is a link to the Disney short (Disney likely holds the copyright, by the way, or if not Disney, then someone associated with their organization, so please be respectful of the rights of the copyright holder if you choose to use it somehow):

The Legend of Johnny Appleseed, as told by Walt Disney in American Legends Volume 1: Johhny Applessed

Separating fact from fiction can be a difficult process sometimes, particularly when a stories about someone have been told or retold many times, including through animated shorts or children’s picturebooks.  Johnny Chapman aka Johnny Appleseed was a real person though, and one who clearly saw a connection between spirituality, poverty and agriculture.  I encourage you to take some time to learn about, and consider, his thoughts. Two good places to start are:

http://www.worldcat.org/title/johnny-appleseed-and-the-american-orchard-a-cultural-history/oclc/793973547

http://dev.swedenborg.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/The-Core-of-JA-web.pdf

The former book is a well-researched and documented scholarly work on the life of John Chapman, paying close attention to the cultural context in which Chapman lived and worked.  The relationship between Chapman’s work and his religious views are carefully examined through an academic lens.

The latter is also well-researched and documented.  However, it was written for, and published by, The Church of New Jerusalem (the official body of Swedenborgianism in the United States).  Consequently, the author views Chapman through the particular religious lens of the Swedenborgians. The Swedenborgians are justified in doing this as Chapman was an influential member of the sect during his day.

For other views of Chapman, a good place to start is searching for sermons that mention Johnny Appleseed.  Here’s a few links to sermons we found (these are  also not the work of anyone at bountifulchurchyards.org, so please give credit where credit is due):

http://www.swedenborg.org/sermons/pastsermons/03-09-28/Johnny_Appleseed_Compassion_is_Needed_for_Our_Children_Today.aspx

http://www.emorypresbyterian.org/sermons/Matthew13v1-9_JohnnyAppleseed.pdf

http://stpetesrock.blogspot.com/2007/10/sermon-johnny-appleseed.html

http://traceylind.wordpress.com/tag/johnny-appleseed/

An interesting observation we made while looking for sermons referencing John Chapman, however, was that few actually tried to explicate John’s Chapman’s personal nature-based spirituality.  Rather, the sermons tended to focus on Chapman as a model for instilling faith in children.  Along those lines, we found a large number of sermons for children featuring John Chapman.  It is the former perspective we recommend you pay attention to.

Finally, consider these words by poet William Henry Venable:

“Remember Johnny Appleseed,
All ye who love the apple,
He served his kind by word and deed, In God’s grand greenwood chapel.”

May those words be true of all of our lives.

About the Author

Our Executive Director, Stu Richardson, is a former teacher with 25 years in K-12 classrooms. Currently an MDiv. student at Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary preparing for ordination in the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, Stu has an M.Ed from Chapman University and an Ed.D. from the University of San Francisco. Outside of work, Stu is a beekeeper with 30 hives of his own set in an organic herb garden. He uses a Worksman Low-Gravity Platform Bike with Extra-Cycle Freetail and a 6 foot Bike-to-Work Trailer for most local errands.