Pray for the Harvest
Rev. Dr. Glenda Hollingshead; October 6, 2019
17th Sunday after Pentecost
World Communion Sunday
Psalm 30, Luke 10:1-11
Today is World Communion Sunday, which started in 1933 in a Presbyterian Church in Pennsylvania, for the purpose of reminding believers that, through Christ, we are connected. Our faith story does not belong to the Presbyterians or the Methodists or the Episcopalians or the Baptists down the street. We are all nourished at the Table of our Lord and we all have a role to play in God’s plan for the world.
While it is World Communion Sunday, today also marks the beginning of our 2020 Stewardship Campaign. “Pray for the Harvest,” is the theme, taken from today’s gospel reading, specifically Luke 10:2, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore, pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.” Notice how Jesus has faith in the abundance of the harvest. In fact, the harvest is so plentiful, there are not enough workers to accomplish the task at hand. But how can we recruit new workers? Well, we do not, in good Presbyterian style, begin by forming a committee. Instead, we pray to the Lord of the harvest to send more laborers.
Additionally, it is important to pay attention to who’s in charge of the harvest. Scholar, David Lose, points out, “God is responsible for the growth of our communities. We are called to be open to this growth; to plan, organize, and work in a way that anticipates, rather than impedes, such growth…”[i] Therefore, since the harvest is God’s, the last thing we should try to do is manipulate or coerce others. Instead, we trust God to provide and we pray. Prayer is how we gain access to the will and power of God to get the work done. Prayer is how we partner with God to bring heaven down to earth.
Then what do we do? Well, we don’t have a seat and leave the work up to everyone else. The language of harvest indicates something is coming to fruition that has been planted long ago. There is a sense of urgency because now it is harvest time—so it’s all hands-on deck. Imagine a field of vegetables ready for picking. If not picked immediately, they will be lost. Each vegetable is worth money to the farmer, and he is anxious to get them to market. Now imagine he calls on his workers to go quickly into the field to harvest—but instead they sit around complaining about the conditions on the farm or the inadequacy of the tools. Maybe they second guess the farmer because, well, the farm isn’t what it used to be. But now is not the time for such childish behavior. Now is the time to be obedient to Christ’s command.
2000 years have come and gone since the days Jesus walked upon the earth. Certainly, a lot has changed. But one thing that remains the same is people are still desperate for the love and mercy and grace of God. If there is any doubt in your mind, look at the news on any given day. There are stories of corruption, suicide, addiction, murder, rape, theft, bankruptcy, genocide, just to name a few. Still today the harvest is great. Still today, people are hurting and are in need of the peace of Christ. Still today, people long to be cured of what ails them in body, mind, and spirit.
Instead of pointing fingers and criticizing “those people,” we have the privilege of going into the world on a mission of peace, wholeness, goodness—God’s shalom. We cannot go with an agenda—intent on filling our pews and overflowing our coffers. No, we must go with love and compassion as our guides and with no desire for personal gain because we are on a holy mission. In the words of Henri Nouwen:
When the message has been delivered and the project is finished, we want to return home to give an account of our mission and to rest from our labors. One of the most important spiritual disciplines is to develop the knowledge that the years of our lives are years ‘on a mission.’[ii]
The mission requires sacrifice. With thankful hearts, we give up some of our time, some of our resources. And to whom will our mission take us? Some people say, “All of my friends already know Jesus.” Well, make some new friends. Others say, “Everyone I know has heard about Jesus and already has some opinion about God.” Maybe so, but might there be those who have been misinformed or misled, who have been damaged by the church or turned off by the religious nonsense often promoted as Christianity? Actually, it is estimated that in any given community, 60% of the people are un-churched. While some have never attended church regularly, others have tried the church, found it lacking, and have gone home. Some folks feel they do not have time for church, or church is no longer relevant to their lives—so worshiping at St. Panera or St. Starbucks has become their Sunday morning practice.
Then, what are we to do? What is our mission? Recognizing the harvest is God’s, and trusting God for the increase, we pray for others to join us in the fields of God’s bounty. Remember, Jesus promises the harvest is abundant. Do we believe him? Or have we given up? Have we settled on just getting by? The truth is we are not put on this earth only to eke out an existence. We are meant to thrive. What would it look like for First Presbyterian Church of Valdosta to thrive? What is your vision of our future together? I envision abundance. I see the church alive, spiritually maturing day by day, and busy harvesting the bounty God has provided. I see us going into Valdosta and our neighboring communities to share Christ’s love with open minds and open hearts.
If you believe First Presbyterian Church has already had her day in the sun, then you are not trusting in the Lord of the Harvest to work big things through us. We possess the greatest story ever told—the story of God’s powerful love that will stop at nothing to save the world. To imagine we cannot be a part of the harvest in this time and place, is to have a pretty low view of the power of the gospel.
Knowles Shaw was an American author and composer of gospel hymns. Born in Ohio, he was a member of the Christian Church/Disciples of Christ. A prolific evangelist, he baptized over 11,000 people in is lifetime. Of the numerous songs he wrote, the most popular was “Bringing in the Sheaves.”
Sowing in the morning, sowing seeds of kindness, sowing in the noontide and the dewy eve, waiting for the harvest and the time of reaping, we shall come rejoicing, bringing in the sheaves.
As a church, how can we bring God’s harvest home? First, we pray. To help us remember to do that, the children are about to pass out wristbands. And here is your invitation: Throughout October at 10:02 (taken from Luke 10:2), pray for our church—that the Lord will send more laborers to help us gather a great harvest in Valdosta and beyond. Pray that the Lord of the harvest will provide all the resources that our laborers need to accomplish the harvest work to which we are called. And pray for God’s will regarding your own contribution of time, talents, and treasures. Let us join our brothers and sisters around the world, harvesting what God has provided. Then, may we, too, come rejoicing, bringing in the sheaves. In the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
[i] David Lose, Feasting on the Word.
[ii] Henri J.M. Nouwen, Bread for the Journey: Reflections for Every Day of the Year, 132.
*Cover Art: Stushie Art used by Subscription