When Linda and I were first married I was a farmer, not a very good farmer but for 10 years I gave it a try. We suffered through drought, hail, too much rain, sometimes too many bugs and too many weeds but one year the harvest was beyond anything we imagined. The crops produced way beyond our expectations. The bins filled up, the granaries were filled right up to the top of the walls, and the corn crib couldn’t hold another ear of corn, so we made a pile right beside the pen of sows. The harvest was so great.
But there weren’t any extra laborers to help get it in, just Linda and me. Everybody was in the same predicament, a huge harvest and not an overabundance of people to help get it in.
That’s the way it is sometimes. Most of the time when I worked at Glacier there was more work than there were people to do the work so we would have to work 10-hour days five days a week and then work Saturdays and sometimes Sundays. After a while it began to wear on everybody and we became pretty grumpy. We complained a lot. And we wondered when it would end. Why didn’t they hire more people? We were getting tired of the overtime.
Our supervisors and their managers tried to explain that this was a short term thing. They didn’t want to hire folks and then have to lay them off. Well that kind of made sense but after couple years of the same thing we were ready for a break.
Jesus went out into the towns and the countryside preaching, teaching, and healing folks everyday. He quietly observed that they were like sheep without a shepherd. They were just getting by day by day, paycheck to paycheck you might say. Kind of like some folks today.
They were looking for something or someone to show them the way. Jesus could tell that their basic needs weren’t being met. They were seeking and no one noticed, except God. That’s why Jesus was there.
Jesus knew he wasn’t going to be here long and it was time for his disciples to learn what it meant to do ministry. He could see that the harvest was huge but there weren’t many laborers. So he asked them to pray, to get down on their knees and pray for laborers.
God answered their prayers then by showing them that they were the answer, the needed laborers were in fact they themselves. Jesus told them that they weren’t to start with the Gentiles or the Samaritans but with the people in their own neighborhoods, the lost ones of their own families and friends.
I believe that is God’s message for us today. We are to go out into our own neighborhoods and preach the good news to those who are lost or wandering looking for the way home. I believe we are to start with those from our own congregation who have fallen away from the church. You know who they are. You may have even taken the time to go visit them and try to understand why they quit participating. And you may have been rebuffed and so didn’t go back again. Or maybe you did go back another time and they just didn’t seem interested.
But then there are those others we haven’t visited, the ones who have just kind of quietly faded into the woodwork of the community. They’re really like lost sheep. They need God, they need healing.
Friends, the harvest is great. And God needs you to get down on your knees and pray for laborers. And when you get up and brush the dust off your knees I think you will find that your prayers have been answered. The laborers are you.
I would like to quote one of the contributors to Desperate Preacher.com. Glen in OH said this, “Jesus says, go to them. Go to them and confront their pain with them. Tell their illnesses and diseases, "You have NO power!" Tell the unclean spirits that torment their minds and distort their self-image, "You have NO power!" Tell the religious elite and scripture shouters who are quick to judge and slow to serve, "You have NO power!" Tell the politicians who court the votes and resources of the rich and ignore the poverty and desolation of the poor, "You have NO power!" Tell the presidents and kings of this world who are obsessed with making war at the expense of those with no voice, "You have NOpower!" Tell those who secretly laugh and scoff when humanity cries out for peace, "You have NO power!" Tell those who preach a message of fear and hate, "You have NO power!"”
“Going to the "lost sheep" is dangerous. Preaching good news to these dangerous ones is dangerous. Acknowledging these powerless ones isdangerous. Jesus said so. He warned his disciples, and he warns us, too.”
Too often we don’t think we have the power or if we do think we have the power we are consumed with a fear that keeps us from the fields. Friends, these are our family and friends who need healing. Some of them may be friends we haven’t met yet but they are our friends.
In the words of Paul, “Throw open your doors to God.” It takes faith to do this work. God has given us his grace. Pray that our faith will be strengthened.
Jesus isn’t waiting for us to get ready. The laborers have been sent out but more are needed. The sheep are wandering; the crop is heavy with grain and waiting to be gathered in.
I just realized that there may be some here who have never herded sheep or harvested grain and therefore may not understand the references to sheep and harvest. These words may have no relevance to the average person today.
But think about what it would be like if Jesus came to our school, our places of work, to our church, how do you think he might respond to what he sees, especially today with the crowds of people here looking for antiques and good eats?
Wow! What a bunch of people. There’s so many. They look so worn out. Some look about ready to give up. Who helps these people? No one helps them? We need each other so we can be strong enough to go on.
That’s the message today. Let’s pray that God will enable us to see the emotional and spiritual needs of our neighbors. Friends, this means that we are going to have to get out into the midst of things, ask questions, listen, lend a hand, give a hug, and share the good news that the kingdom of heaven is here. By helping each other we can all live better. Our social and spiritual needs will begin to be met.
It is dangerous work. Some may not want our help. That’s okay. Just move on. There is someone down the street who will accept our help, in fact they are praying for it right now.
Remember we aren’t in this alone. Jesus is walking right beside us. He has been there before us. He knows every danger and he will give us what we need to do the work. Have faith my friends. God hears our prayers. He has looked out over the crowds and his heart is breaking for those who are confused and wandering aimlessly in the world.
May God open our eyes so that we can see the harvest and then give us the strength to go out into the harvest. Thanks be to God for his grace. Amen.