The Harvest Is Plentiful
The harvest is plentiful! Jesus says in our gospel lesson.
Reminds me of the summer we planted a raised bed full of swiss chard, and then moved one town away.
We hadn’t sold the house, and since we weren’t on site, we just let it grow.
When we finally harvested in September, we filled a trash can with the deep green leaves and rainbow stems.
That’s what it was like at this point in Jesus’ ministry.
Jesus has been preaching God’s Kingdom, healing the sick, casting out demons, even raising a girl from the dead.
Jesus’ ministry was like an overflowing harvest of peace and justice, a sign that God was coming to his people
A sign of better times to come.
This was the feast the people hungered for, and the crowds multiplied.
The harvest is plentiful, Jesus said, but the workers are few.
Jesus ministry wasn’t just about overflowing bushel baskets or feasting on the produce;
It was also a lot of work.
It was like my farming cousin and his four sons working 15 hour days during haying season
or the like plant where my brother works, where they are doing round the clock shifts
As they manufacture home gym equipment and PPE.
The harvest is a common image from scripture.
It describes God’s loving intention for the world, a creative partnership between God and people.
God has charge of the cycles of growth and God is the source of the bounty
The people get to participate in this life-giving cycle by sowing and reaping, doing the work of the field.
As a metaphor, the harvest describes the ideal relationship between God and God’s people—
God providing, and the people trusting in God, praising God as the Giver of all good gifts,
and doing God given work so that all may share in God’s abundance.
The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few.
Sometimes in the history of our religious forebears there were times people people didn’t do the work
They didn’t hold up their end of the bargain in their relationship with God.
The harvest then became an indictment of people’s inability to follow through with God.
The harvest fails when one of the partners isn’t up to the task.
In this sense, Jesus’ statement was less a signal that the disciples could give a sigh of relief
that the growing season was done and sit down to a bountiful feast
as it was a call to action.
It was a summons to the work of the Kingdom among the people
It was a call to be a part of God’s creative and redeeming work in the world.
Already Jesus’ ministry had shown that the people were ready for this ministry of preaching and healing
They were ready for change-- they want the Kingdom and they want it Now!
They were ready for the God’s harvest.
The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few.
This phrase has been echoing in my mind the past week as I have watched the protests around the world
At the death of George Floyd.
It seems different this time than the many other unarmed Black men who have been killed by police
I have seen it in the responses of my friends and family--
They are exchanging anti-racism reading lists and joining discussion groups,
Attending protests, making donations, and setting out Black Lives Matter signs.
It’s not that we didn’t care before, but there is a new energy, a new urgency among us.
We have seen a white police officer’s knee on the neck of a Black man, snuffing out his life.
We’ve seen our president use the Bible as a showpiece while ignoring the message of justice inside.
We’ve seen the world as it is, and it is not what it should be.
The time is ripe to learn and listen, to be challenged and to change.
The harvest of righteousness is NOW.
The time to work is NOW.
But what is the work?
That has actually been a big part of the discussion among my family and friends, because frankly
We all feel inadequate to the task.
We are in the midst of a societal reckoning with racism,
on top of a global pandemic that is already changing so much about our lives.
It is hard to know which end is up, let alone how we are to respond as representatives of God’s kingdom.
But as with all things, if we look to Jesus, we find our direction.
And here in this text, when Jesus says, “The harvest is plentiful, the workers are few,”
Jesus goes on to give his disciples, and us, the first step:
“Ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into the harvest.”
The first step is prayer.
Prayer about what we see in the news and in our communities around us.
Prayer about the scriptures we read and their connection to our daily lives.
Prayer about how God wants to use us, and how we might respond.
All other steps follow the first one of prayer.
Then Jesus did what any good manager would do:
he trained up apprentices to carry out the work and multiply the impact.
It didn’t matter that the apprentices were unqualified to be religious leaders
It didn’t matter that they would fail-- one betraying Jesus and another denying him
It didn’t matter that they didn’t see eye to eye on political issues
(one collaborated with the Romans as a tax collector while another fought them as a zealot).
What mattered was that Jesus selected them and trained them
Jesus modeled the work he wanted them to do
He showed them what healing and compassion looked like.
He gave them detailed instructions to “Proclaim the good news [of the kingdom]…
Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse of lepers, cast out demons.”
He personally equipped them for what he called them to do and sent them out.
Jesus is preparing us in these crazy times in the same way—
He has selected us
Showed us the way by his example, given us the instruction of our scriptures, and directed us through prayer.
He will keep doing so.
If you’d like to learn more or share your thoughts about how as a faith community
Can continue to pray, learn, and act, I invite you to reach out to me or PB.
We have a few ideas, but we’d like to hear yours.
None of us are experts here, but judging by this passage, Jesus is OK with faithful apprentices.
The harvest is plentiful, the workers are few.
May we be the workers of our Lord Jesus, guided by the Spirit
and sent into the world to share the nearness of the Kingdom,
The world as it should be.