Thursday, February 27, 2014

A Plentiful Harvest

The harvest is plentiful . . . (Matthew 9:37)

Everything I know about crops and harvests I learned in the great state of North Carolina. Let me hasten to add, I know very little.

I learned mainly by watching and listening. As I recall, the most common crop in western Wake County at that time was tobacco, but the tobacco fields were beginning to disappear. Growers were having a harder time making money with that particular crop and developers were poised to buy the land.

On one occasion Marnie and I offered to help with the work of harvesting, or ‘priming’ tobacco. We lasted less than an hour. We were so slow and inept at the task that we were hindering the crew that actually knew what they were doing. It didn’t take long to learn that harvesting tobacco is not for the faint of heart or soft of hands.

Summers were not always kind to tobacco crops. When the skies were stingy with rain and the sun was brutal with its heat, the tobacco would wither and turn brown in the fields. An older member of my church told me that there was a time when the church held specially called prayer meetings to ask God for rain. She said they would come to those prayer meetings bringing their umbrellas – a bold act of faith. You didn’t need an agriculture degree from NC State to spot a bad crop, and there was something heartbreaking about the sight of an entire field of pale drooping plants.

Watching that annual rhythm of ‘setting out’ and ‘putting in’ tobacco comes to my mind when I read Jesus’s words about the harvest that God is bringing in.

Jesus used harvest language as he looked at crowds of people, crowds that were harassed and helpless, suffering with every disease and every affliction. But in the eyes of Jesus those afflicted masses of people were not expansive acres of a failed crop. Jesus looked upon them and saw a plentiful and healthy harvest.

So what do you see when you look at the world?

You don’t have to look too hard to be discouraged. Harassed and helpless masses along with every kind of affliction – economic, political, and social – are seen all over the globe. But Jesus tells us the fields are ‘white unto harvest.’ They are ripe and ready. I recently heard someone make the point that the harvest is just fine. God has long been at work in the world and the harvest is plentiful, ready to be gathered. What is needed are laborers.

But before the laborers are sent there are people praying. “Ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest” (Matt. 9:38).

Bringing in the harvest requires people in the fields and people on their knees. Ideally, those who are in the fields are also on their knees and those who are on their knees get up and head to the fields. Either way, whether by praying or going, all of us are involved in bringing in this harvest.

God is at work in this world and the fields are ready. The harvest is healthy. Two questions remain: What do you see when you look at the world, and what will you do about what you see?

We ask you, O God, to send out laborers into the harvest. And help us to listen closely enough to know when you are sending us. Use us as you will, whether praying or going, and give us eyes to see a plentiful harvest in this world, we ask in Jesus’s name. Amen.

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