Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Shepastor: "Preparing for the Harvest..."

"The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; 38 pray therefore the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest." Matt 9:35-38 (RSV)

Harvesting is the process of gathering the crops up after they’ve grown. There is a harvest season, that after the farmers have planted their vegetables, or their fruit, they wait for the harvest or their crops to produce whatever they’ve planted.

I’ve never lived on a farm or worked on a farm, but I understand that harvesting can be one of the most, if not the most labor-intensive activities of the growing season. I’m sure, before the days of modern industry when most of the harvesting was done by hand - farmers wanted to be sure they had as many field hands as possible to help in the gathering process. That may be one of the reasons why farmers tended to have large families with lots of children so that they’d have built in help to keep the farm going.

Because much of the community was agricultural, as Jesus spoke of the harvest being plenteous, but the laborers being few, the people of his day readily understand what he meant. Some years ago, a man by the name of Clarence Jordan, (he was actually a Greek Scholar) wrote a version of the Gospels called, The Cotton Patch Version. In it he used the colloquial language or the common language of the southern community. Consider the Cotton Patch Version of Matthew 9: 35-38:

Now Jesus went on a circuit of all the cities and villages, teaching in their churches, telling the good news of the Movement, and healing every disease and affliction. The sight of the crowds moved him to compassion for them, because they were as discouraged and disorganized as sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his students, "There’s a big crop, but not many workers. So beg the Harvest Master to recruit workers for his harvest."

There’s a big crop, but not many workers. As we know, Jesus was not talking about crops of food. Jesus was talking about crops of people. Isn’t it strange that with all the religious people, with all of the temples and synagogues, with all of the elders, priests, with all of the Hebraic laws passed down through out the centuries of their nation - isn’t it strange that Jesus would say, the harvest was plenteous, but the laborers are few - pray for the Lord of the harvest to send forth laborers into the harvest?

This same story is told by Luke, however, Luke begins it differently. In Luke, this story is couched between Jesus “setting His face resolutely” to go towards Jerusalem, where he will face persecution and crucifixion and his preparation of the disciples for the work that lay ahead of them. In each situation, he sent disciples before him to “prepare the way.” Listen to Luke 10: 1-2…

Jesus Sends Out the Seventy-Two
1After this the Lord appointed seventy-twoa others and sent them two by two ahead of him to every town and place where he was about to go. 2He told them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.
Prior to Jesus going to a new town or city, He sent “laborers” to “prepare the way.” Jesus instructed the current laborers to “pray to the Lord of the Harvest to send forth laborers into the harvest…the harvest is plenteous but the laborers are few.”

As many times as I’ve read that passage, something new jumped out at me this time. While the Lord would have us to pray for the lost, the “harvest,” the Lord FIRST instructs the laborers to pray for MORE laborers because the harvest is so big. It is interesting with all of the churches – large and small – that Jesus declares that there are still only a few laborers! Lots of church goers, but only a few laborers.

We must invest time in praying for laborers for the harvest. The Lord instructs the disciples to pray for the “Lord of the Harvest to send forth laborers into the harvest.” In addition to being a laborer, we are instructed to pray for the Lord to send more laborers.

Everyone is not interested in making preparation for Jesus. Every time we show Christian love and service, we are preparing the way for Jesus. Every time we obey the Holy Spirit’s voice and move as the Lord says move, we are preparing the way for Jesus. Every time we give and support the work of the ministry, we are preparing the way for Jesus. In other words, when we live a righteous life, when we obey the voice of the Lord, when we do the things of God, our light shines and the people of the world see our good works and they in turn give glory to the Father in heaven. God uses us to prepare the way for Jesus.

Everyone is not interested in doing the hard work of harvesting the crops. There is work involved in harvesting. Harvesting takes time. Harvesting takes energy. Harvesting takes commitment. Harvesting takes determination and perseverance. You had to bend down to get the corn, the vegetables or the wheat. Maybe if the stalks were very tall, you had to reach up to pull the corn or the wheat. You had to get your hands dirty. You had to endure the heat of the day. You had to experience bugs and various kinds of insects in the process. Harvesting was not an easy task.

It’s no wonder why people did not want to go out and labor to bring in the harvest! The “harvest” today is lost souls. But it takes spiritual “work” to win lost souls. The term “labor,” suggests work. Jesus was telling his disciples to pray for more folks that will do the work of the Kingdom!

What does that work look like? Work…pray with intentionality. Work…tell others about Jesus…work, serve in the church with your time, talent and treasure…work, encourage somebody, work…be a good steward and tithe…work, see things that need to get done and help to do it instead of being critical and complaining…work…volunteer to mentor or tutor some young people in the community…work…stand up for what is right…work…obey the voice of God’s Holy Spirit!

While we are not saved by works, but by grace through faith in Jesus Christ, faith without works is dead! The Lord wants us to pray for more laborers in the vineyard. The Lord tells us exactly what to do to make preparations for bringing in the harvest…pray to the Lord of the harvest to send forth laborers.

The Lord of the Harvest is saying that it is ready, it is big, it is plentiful! But only a few laborers are working to bring the harvest in. The church needs laborers. The church not only needs membership. The Church needs discipleship. The Church needs men, women, boys and girls that are interested in following Jesus. The Church needs men, women, boys and girls that are interested in obeying Jesus…learning and following His Word, His way, His voice, His heart. The Church needs laborers…not just people who will periodically come to “church service,” sit, nod and then go back home until next week…but the church needs laborers who will work, pray, serve, give, love, stand up, and be faithful.

The Lord of the Harvest is looking for some laborers - will you obey the Lord’s instruction to pray to the Lord of the harvest that He will send laborers into the harvest? Will you be a laborer and help prepare the way of the Lord? Will you be intentional about asking the Lord to send help, laborers into the ministry so that we, together can go and reap the harvest?

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Have you registered yet for the “Addressing the Elephants in the Pew: Pursuing Knowledge, Wisdom and Healing Conference,” July 31 – August 1st? For more information, visit, Addressing the Elephants in the Pew.

Until next Wednesday,
In Faith, Hope and Perseverance,
Pastor Chris

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