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Thinking of the harvest

August 26, 2013 No Comment

thinking-of-the-harvest

by Robert Bugbee

Summer may be almost gone by the time you read this. It often passes quickly, especially here on the prairies. Soon farm families and others will get busy, gathering in from the fields what the land has brought forth.

Those who study population trends tell us the world is “urbanizing.” More people are crowding into cities. With modern machinery, it takes fewer labourers to do the work of farming. As a result, perhaps few Canadians give much thought to the life farmers face. You can easily forget the truth that we are all dependent upon the land. (Actually, from the Bible’s point of view, it would be better to say we’re all very dependent upon the Lord of the land!)

In our daily gatherings for Bible study and devotions, my co-workers and I in Winnipeg hold farmers and their land up to God in our prayers time and again. Their life is a challenge. Even if they work hard, their best efforts can be wrecked if spring comes too late, or winter too early, or if it doesn’t rain, or if in the midst of favourable temperatures it rains too much and the land floods… again. Even if you—like me—have lived nearly all your life in cities, I encourage you to treasure these rural partners of ours. Name them in your prayers on a regular basis. The harvest is not something you can take for granted; the harvest is always a gift.

Jesus used harvest-talk to describe people who could be reached for His kingdom. “The harvest is plentiful,” He said (Luke 10:2). That may sound like a fairy-tale. After all, our country seems to be secularizing. A great many people appear to have little interest in Christ and the love He wants to give them. Local churches are struggling in some cases with a dwindling number of members. To put it in “farm” terms, it can look like a bad harvest season right now! I remember a retired pastor telling me about his first years working in a growing congregation that was located in an expanding area of a prosperous city. He described the openness of people in those days, and how the parish added about sixty adult members every year. In a time like that, Jesus’ words “the harvest is plentiful” probably didn’t feel like fairy-tales. It’s as though you could see it right before your eyes!

Let’s dig deeper than your eyes do for a moment. What kind of world was out there when Jesus said the harvest was plentiful? Was it a friendly, receptive, 1962-in-a-growing-Canadian-subdivision sort of world? Not by a long shot! Jesus said this in a land where “church leaders” and many others ended up pushing Him away! In the years when believers were first reading Luke’s Gospel-book, they lived in the Roman Empire—an empire which put dreadful pressure on Christ’s followers, and kept doing so for generations to come. It was in that sort of unreceptive-looking world that Jesus spoke those words: “The harvest is plentiful.”

In the years when believers were first reading Luke’s Gospel-book, they lived in the Roman Empire—an empire which put dreadful pressure on Christ’s followers, and kept doing so for generations to come. It was in that sort of unreceptive-looking world that Jesus spoke those words: “The harvest is plentiful.”

There’s comfort for you in that. Wearying as the spiritual and moral decay in our country is right now, Christ calls His harvest “plentiful.” There are still any number of people to be reached, men and women who will listen to Jesus’ Good News of pardon, won for us by His dying and rising. Will it be as easy as gaining new church members was when people were still watching “Leave it to Beaver” or “Ozzie and Harriet”? Nope. But there are people to be reached, just as there were in that tough moment when Jesus first spoke of the harvest.

In the challenging spot where you live your Christian life these days, it’s necessary to get deeper into Scripture as daily Bible readers, so that you think more of what’s on God’s mind and can take His truth more constantly into your conversations with others. It is important to devote ourselves to a sweeter love toward our church family, so that membership is not shallow, but so that the congregation becomes a truly nurturing place where newcomers—and long-timers!—want to take root. Our pastors must sense how vital it is to preach messages that reach deep into God’s Word and yet strike people where they are.

In this time and place, it is also crucial to pray. And pray. And pray. After all, the harvest is a gift, whether you’re talking wheat on a prairie farm or people who need drawing to their Saviour Jesus. It never just happens. It cannot be taken for granted. The Lord has to give it. As fields ripen around us, and as things in your church get ramped up in September, you and I will surely benefit from prayers like that.

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Rev. Dr. Robert Bugbeeis President of Lutheran Church–Canada.

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