Jeremiah 31:7-14, John 4:35-38
October 16, 2016
A few weeks ago, I said that our words and actions reflect on the kingdom of God. Do you remember that? Does that change how you act or what you say? I think it’s pretty humbling, myself, and I’ve thought about it a lot!
Last week we talked about Stewardship as Mission. And I said then that everything we do, everything that we say, and how we give of ourselves reflects on the kingdom of God and has everything to do with the Mission of the Church. I said how the Mission of the Church, however it’s stated, must challenge us to be a community of faith, and to reach out with God’s love.
So once again, what we do, what we say, and how we act reflects on the kingdom, and how we conduct our lives and give of ourselves has everything to do with the Mission of the Church.
Well, today we look at that Mission. I had this scripture in mind while thinking of last week’s message. Jesus told his disciples, “Do you say the harvest is four months away? Look around you! The fields are ripe for the harvest! Right now!” That’s a great metaphor, and one that has been picked up on by many people over the years when thinking of reaching out to the world. There’s an organization called, “Harvest Ministries,” and there’s a lot of that sort of thing. Well, I want you to see today that, in those words, Jesus was saying something very interesting, and probably shocking!
First of all, I want you to look at the context of this statement. That’s always a good thing to do! This little story comes right after the story of Jesus and the woman at the well. What do you remember about that story? What do you remember about that woman? (She was, what?) She was a Samaritan! Right? She, and everyone else, was shocked that Jesus was even speaking to her. A good Jew would not speak to a woman who was not his wife in a public place like that. And no Jew would even speak to a Samaritan! And certainly not in any way that would show them respect!
Sorry, but that’s the way it was! And we can talk all day about the social and religious “norms” Jesus was challenging that day. But let’s set all that aside for now, and just ask the simple question, “Where was Jesus that day? He was in(?) Samaria! So for him to suggest to his disciples that “The fields are ripe for the harvest,” meaning that they were to reach out to others for the “harvest of the kingdom,” he was talking about the Samaritans, too! And that would have been shocking!
It’s funny! I never really put those two things together before. That’s how the spirit works in reading scripture. That’s what makes it so amazing! You can read a passage a hundred times and on the one hundred and first time, something jumps out at you!
As I think about this, it seems to me that these disciples were probably uncomfortable being in Samaria in the first place! But for Jesus to be talking to these people – and of course they were the wrong people – and then to imply that his ministry was including them, must have been very uncomfortable for his followers!
So, that’s the first thing. Our “Mission” might just include reaching out to people with whom we’re not comfortable! And I know I’ve said that before. But I think we in the Church need to be reminded of that often! It’s way too easy to fall back into the “habit” of associating with those with whom we’re comfortable. It’s way too easy to step back into our “comfort zone” and wrap ourselves in the “security blanket” of “the familiar!”
Ok, so that’s the first part of this story. The fields are white for the harvest, and that means reaching out beyond ourselves. That means seeing the world as God sees the world. And that may be uncomfortable for us.
The second part of this is story for today is what Jesus said about the “harvest.” He said, that some sow and others reap. That’s another part of this great metaphor! As he suggested in the “Parable of the Sower,” the “seed” is the word of God. That’s what we’re “Sowing and Reaping.” And, as Jesus says here, some people are just the sowers. Some just “plant” the word of God in others. They may not see the growth or the harvest at all!
Paul told the Corinthians the same thing. He said one person sowed the seed, another watered, another harvested. (I Corinthians 4) But he reminded them that, in all that, it was God who gave the growth! And that’s the important part of this!
I want to suggest to you today, in light of all we’ve been saying, that we are all the sowers. Because everything we do and say reflects on the kingdom of God! So we need to ask ourselves, “What are we sowing?” Eventually the seed we plant will grow and come to maturity. “What kind of plant will it be?” When Jesus told the parable of the sower, the emphasis was on the kind of soil it fell on. He was telling how different people would receive the word. But now he’s focusing on the sower, and what kind of seed is being sown.
Think about that. There are some who sow seeds of discontent. There are some who sow seeds of negativity. There are some who sow seeds they think are good seeds, but they’re really negative, and they grow into an animosity for God and his kingdom. Again, when Jesus told the “Parable of the Sower,” and it was about the good and bad soil. But I think he would agree that there are also good and bad seeds!
That’s one thing. But also, some don’t give a thought to the fact that they are sowing! They think they can turn that function on and off at their “convenience.” I think we all do that, don’t we? And that’s the one that scares me! Because I know there are times I’m not myself. I know there are times I forget that what I do and say reflects on the kingdom. Having a metaphor like this is very helpful. “What kind of seed am I sowing in others?” I try to think about that. I hope you will, too!
Now the last thing I want to say about this is that this is all about Stewardship – lest you think I’ve strayed from the theme of the month! A “Steward” is one who has been entrusted with something. It is someone who has been “given charge of” and who “takes care of” something, on behalf of someone else. Well, we are “Stewards” of the Gospel. We are stewards of the mission of sharing God’s love and bringing his message of love to the world.
Yes that means the material things we give. We do that in order to have such a place and such a ministry. But it means also the spirit in which we give those things. Because that’s all part of the “sowing” of the seed – the message of God. And we need to know that, because of all of that, there will be a reaping. We may or may not see the harvest. But if we care, if we sow the good seed, we can know we will be part of harvest.
We are “Stewards.” We have been entrusted with the message of the Gospel. Whether we realize it or not, at any and all times of our lives, we are sowing the seed. So then, what seed are you sowing? What kind of plant will grow from you’re your words and actions. And what will you reap?
Eternal God, help us to know we are your people, wherever you call us to be. Help us to know that we are indeed ambassadors for Jesus Christ, stewards of your Grace. Help us in all we do to sow the good seed, and to rejoice in your harvest and your kingdom. For this we pray in Jesus’ name, Amen.