Sunday, July 10, 2011

A Harvest of Souls

July 10, 2011
Proper 10
Fr. PHILIP EBERHART


The Harvest of Souls

Have any of you driven lately out toward the east on I-70? If so you have probably seen the wheat fields that are standing ready. This is a very stressful time for the farmers these days, especially with all the rain we’re getting, as the harvest stands ready in the fields, but we can’t get at it because of all the rain. And with each rain storm, the possibility looms overhead that the harvest itself will be damaged by wind, hail or even flooding.

Do you know that the Father of souls takes a similar view, in the light of the winds and the storms of change in our culture, and the potential damage to the crop – whole generations lost because of the perilous times – and moreover, some of the crop is being lost because of inattention to the harvest by those who are the appointed harvesters!

Jesus, in our gospel this morning, tells a story to His disciples as they are walking through the countryside, observing the planting of seed and he likens it to the sowing of the Word of God into the lives of non-believers. I call this the parable of the soils. Jesus describes, as they walk, the types of soil that seeds fall on top of, 4 types to be exact:

The Road itself – Hard packed and impossible to penetrate, the seed falls vulnerable and open to the elements and the critters, who come for a meal themselves and take away the seed that is thusly sown.

The Road Side – where all the rocks have been kicked off the path, gotten covered a bit by some dust or soil. The seed falls there, but the soil has no depth for the seed to take root, and so it withers and dies.

The Bar Ditch – where the soil is deep enough for roots, but everything is growing there, including the thorns and weeds in abundance. The seed itself takes root but cannot grow because of the competition for nutrients and water, and so the seed dies.

The Field – where the soil is tended, broken, and open to receive the seed – then the seed itself is tended, watered and weeded, as the farmer sees to it that the seed will flourish and produce its intended result – a crop for harvest, reproducing itself a hundredfold, or sixty fold or even just thirty fold.

Having grown up on the farm, I can’t find adequate words to begin to convey to those who have lived in the city all their lives, the importance of this image and the weight of this metaphor in the life of the church. The point is what happens to the Seed, the Eternal Word of God, in the process of its getting planted in the life. And for the farmer who hears this, the point is the responsibility of the farmer, the sower, for the life of the seed after it is sown!!

Anyone who has been a farmer or even a gardener, knows the process of preparation of the soil to receive seed, the process of planting, specific depths and distances for each plant, the process of watering, not too much or too little, the process of weeding and tending that goes into a garden. The same is true on the grand scale for the farmer.

What we are seeing around us at this time of year in Colorado is the culmination of the other 50 weeks of work on that crop. And those 50 weeks have a definite plan and progression on the way to the harvest. But when harvest comes, everything else stops.

The challenges of this parable in the mouth of Jesus are twofold:

1. What kind of soil are you? What kind of reception does the Eternal Seed of the Word of God have in your heart and life? Is your heart hard packed, strewn with rocks or weeds? Or is your heart broken and soft, to receive the planting of the Word that springs up to eternal life?

But the next question isn’t about you as soil, it’s about you as a seed!

2. What kind of seed are you? What is the level of fruitfulness in the life you are living? A hundredfold, sixty, … thirty? How many can say that thirty others have come to know Jesus, because you have led them there?

The question is a challenge isn’t it? … And an invitation.

When Jesus sent his disciples out ahead of him, in Luke 10 with these words: “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Pray to the Lord of the harvest to send forth laborers into his harvest!” And do you know what the next word is?

GO!

STEP ONE: PRAY!
STEP TWO: GO!!!!!

The harvest is on the heart of God, and all the more as we near the day of His coming.

This morning I want to reiterate what you have heard already from me on numerous occasions: You are God’s Plan A . . . and there is no plan B!

So like we prayed last week for the turning of our nation, we are going to pray this morning for the salvation of our nation, and of our state and city, and then specifically for those whom God is placing on your heart. I want you to take the Operation Andrew brochures here and write the names down – first names only, and we are going to offer those names on the altar this morning and every morning we meet together for worship.

The harvest is on God’s heart!! The function of prayer for the harvest is to get it on our hearts! Prayer focuses our attention in the direction that God’s heart is focused and in the direction that the Spirit moves, whenever He moves. Outwardly! Once God has our attention He urges us to GO. GO. GO!!

“When the Holy Spirit come upon you, you will receive power, and you will be my witnesses – outwardly moving from Jerusalem, to Judea, and then to Samaria and then to all the ends of the earth.”

Every move of the Spirit of God has this outward component to it – the Holy Spirit isn’t a toy God gives us to amuse ourselves – He is the inner motivation and locomotion to take on the mission of Jesus, who told us that he came to “seek and to save that which was lost!”

So there you have it.

I want to pray this morning, as we move through our prayers, for the needs of our world, but most specifically I want you to begin naming names. The harvest begins as we name names. If you don’t know any names of lost people, then that’s a problem! We have a tendency in the church to insulate ourselves from the world – from the lost! But that is not God’s design! His plan isn’t for us to become a fortress, but for us to be a field!

Let us pray.

Lord Jesus Christ, you stretched out your arms of love on the hard wood of the cross that everyone might come within the reach of your saving embrace. So clothe us with Your Spirit, that we, reaching forth our hands in love, may bring those who do not know You, to the knowledge and love of You, for the honor of Your Name. Amen.

(Please add your own petitions for a time as we pray for the Harvest in our City, especially in regard to the upcoming Rock the Range outreach and our part in the process of invitation, preparation and planting of the seed.)

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