October 20

Blessings of Harvest

The evening was cool and the sky was clear. Off to the West, the sun had set but activity continued. Lights from combines and trucks moved slowly back and forth in the fields as the large engines groaned underneath the weight of the harvested crops. Voices could be heard from the tired farmers, hollering over the noise of the engines, working late into the evening to transfer soybeans and corn from the fields into trucks to be sold or stored. To the East, a different set of lights was shining. Those lights beamed down over a high school football field as families and friends gathered for the rival game.

Fall was in the air; the familiar smell of autumn leaves, the beautiful orange, red, yellow, and brown colors of the changing season, the final chapter of another growing season coming to an end. It was the beginning of the end and it was a new beginning. The dead leaves covered the ground like a plaid blanket, making it nearly impossible for golfers to find golf balls in the fairway and would soon turn into fertilizer and nutrition for next year’s growth. The excitement of summer vacations transforms into a new type of energy that comes with brisk air and the first flakes of falling snow.

The fall harvest season is a time to count our blessings. God continues to provide through the cycle of life. Farmers have spent all spring and summer investing physical labor, finances, and prayers into their crops. And now, they reap the fruits of their labor. Well, sort of…you see, the amount of effort that a farmer puts into the crops does have significance in the final outcome. Investing in fertilizer, weed-killer, and quality seeds can make a difference in the abundance of the harvest. But at the same time, the farmer has no control over the final results. Throughout the spring, summer, and fall, the farmers are at the mercy of the weather and natural disasters.

If there is too much rain, the crops will rot in the soil. If there is too much sun, drought may suffocate the life out of the plants. And if there is a perfect mix of sun and rain, infestation of bugs, severe storms, or other natural disasters could destroy their efforts. Yes, human labor can help nurture plants through their life cycle, but it is God that has the final say.

The cycle of life doesn’t always turn in a predictable circle. The Byrds were a 60’s band that wrote a song called “Turn, Turn, Turn” based on Ecclesiastes 3:1-8. I won’t ask you to sing it if you don’t make me sing it!The lyrics of a shortened version go like this…

“To everything there is a season (turn, turn, turn) and a time to every purpose under heaven. A time to be born, a time to die;

a time to plant, a time to reap;

a time to kill, a time to heal;

a time to laugh, a time to weep;

a time to build up, a time to break down;

a time to dance, a time to mourn;

a time to cast away stones, a time to gather stones together;

a time to love, a time to hate;

a time of war, a time of peace;

a time you may embrace, a time to refrain from embracing;

a time to gain, a time to lose;

a time to rend, a time to sew; a time for love, a time for hate;

a time for peace, I swear it’s not too late.”

None of these events happen when we want them to and for that matter, many of them are not wanted at all. But no matter how much we want to be in control, we are not. Our lives are reactions to the environments around us. Can we have an effect on these environments? Absolutely!But can we control the outcomes? No.

There are some who would read today’s Gospel text to mean that it is our job as disciples to save people before it is too late. But there is nothing further from the truth!It is not our job to save anyone. Only JESUS can save. Ok, so we must have to warn people of their impending doom so that they can be saved, right? That is not my translation of Scripture. The disciples are asked to live and teach like Jesus Christ. What does this text say that Jesus did? He went to the villages, taught in the synagogues, and proclaimed the good news of the kingdom while performing physical healings.

Personally, I have never physically healed anyone although Jesus said that the Disciples would have the power to do miracles even more miraculous than his. But I do have the ability to proclaim the good news of the kingdom, and so do you!In all of Jesus teachings, he never threatened the outcast and downtrodden, the lepers and the prostitutes, the tax collectors and the sick that they would be doomed if they didn’t believe in him. And the problem with instilling fear into people so that they will believe, is that Jesus said, “Do NOT fear!” The opposite of fear is love.

His message was and still is today, one of love and forgiveness. If people begin coming to church or try to put on the perception of transformation simply out of fear, it won’t last because it isn’t genuine. As soon as they feel the fear dissipate, they will go back to their true convictions. For someone to truly make a life changing transformation, they must FEEL the love of Christ!

Consider the crowd of people walking around like lost sheep that Jesus talks about. Those who grasp to addictions for hope, attempting to sculpt the perfect body for acceptance, some are workaholics without enjoyment in life because that is the only way that they feel worthy. The list goes on and on of what lost sheep are going through. Turn on the TV, read social media, look at our society, Jesus wasn’t judging but had compassion on them.

We are called to proclaim the good news of the kingdom. It is the source of hope. It is not our job to save or to change someone’s life. It is our job to proclaim the good news and let the Holy Spirit do the work from there. In proclaiming the good news, we are pointing others to whom? Verse 38 says, “ask the Lord OF the harvest to send out laborers into HIS harvest. It is not our harvest, it is God’s harvest.

Jesus used 5 loaves and 2 fish to feed the 5,000. The same miracles of abundance are happening in today’s harvest. One seed of corn grows a stalk that bears 1,2, and sometimes 3 cobs of corn, filled with hundreds of seeds. That is an amazing miracle of God for which we can give thanks. And in our discipleship, we are called to plant seeds for the Lord’s harvest. That happens by proclaiming the good news, witnessing our faith through our own actions of love, compassion, and mercy, and praying to the Lord for more laborers.

Today, as we give thanks for all of the blessings that we have harvested from God, we also ask for the courage to proclaim the good news and to live the faithful life that we have been called to live. Not out of fear or manipulation, but in the freedom of love. Amen.