View the video recording of this service below.
Let us pray:
O LORD on this weekend of Harvest Thanksgiving, we pray that you would sow the seed of your Word in our hearts, and send down upon us the showers of your grace, that we may bring forth the fruit of the Spirit, and at the great day of harvest be gathered by your holy angels into the heavenly garner; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
I served for six years in rural ministry in Saskatchewan before moving here to Caledon. Previously I had lived only in cities. And I must say that the agricultural imagery of the Bible – encapsulated in that prayer I just prayed - really came alive for me out West like never before. We lived in a small town surrounded by endless fields of canola and wheat. Life in that farming community was deeply entwined with the cycles of the agricultural year: spring and fall were seedtime and harvest.
This time of year, Harvest, was one of excitement and thanksgiving, but also a time of hard work and urgency – it was always a race for the farmers to gather in their crops before the frost and snow, which tend to come rather early in Saskatchewan.
I mention this because we see that same mix of moods and activities in our Bible readings today: excitement and thanksgiving for what we’ve received, together with hard work and urgency for what we’re expecting and striving towards.
That is the mindset Jesus wants us to have as we go about doing the work of God. And He challenges the opposite view.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus quotes what seems to have been a common saying of His day: Do you not say, ‘There are yet four months, then comes the harvest.’ In other words, ‘Be patient, it takes time for things to happen, just as it takes time for a seed to be planted, to sprout, grow and eventually for the crop to be harvested.’
We have similar sayings today: ‘Rome wasn’t built in a day.’ ‘Slow and steady wins the race.’ ‘It’s a marathon, not a sprint.’
And the slow and patient mindset certainly has its place. But frankly, it can also be an excuse for inaction and complacency, even laziness.
Although in today’s Gospel, Jesus does not chastise anyone for that; rather, when it comes to doing the work of God, He wants us to be excited and inspired to seize the opportunity before us.
Bishop Jenny speaks of the need for churches today to have what she calls a ‘holy urgency.’ I take ‘holy’ in this case to mean, ‘Don’t panic, trust in God, hope in His sure and certain promises.’ But with that, be eager to engage in the Church’s mission: to proclaim the good news of Jesus, to make disciples, to gather in that harvest and also the harvest of the fruit of the Spirit in our lives.
As a church here at St. James, Caledon East, we might be tempted to say at this time: ‘Let’s wait until this pandemic is over before we really resume our church life.’ ‘Let’s hunker down and ride this out.’ ‘The best we can do now is just get by.’ There are yet four months, then comes the harvest.
But friends, this is an opportunity to reach people with the good news of Jesus like never before! There is a spiritual hunger out there. As I’ve mentioned before, one study has shown that Google searches on the subject of ‘prayer’ have skyrocketed since the onset of COVID-19. This global crisis is stirring many people to search for God.
In other words, the soil has been cultivated – the disruption caused by the pandemic has been like a plough loosening hard soil. The soil is the hearts of people; and that soil is now fertile and ready to have seeds planted therein. Hearts that previously may have been hardened to the gospel have now been ploughed.
People are more ready for the good news of Jesus than we think. Think about it. We believe that:
Can you see how people might want to believe that at such a time as this? Friends, we have the greatest, most hopeful message in the world – and the world has never needed it more. The soil is cultivated and fertile, ready to have that seed planted.
Jesus wants us to look out to the world – and particularly this community of Caledon - as a harvest of people eager to be gathered. Look, I tell you, lift up your eyes, and see that the fields are white for harvest.
The seed of the gospel can be sown and yield produce immediately. When it comes to God’s farming, the harvest does not have to come four months after seedtime; rather, these go together. Sowing and reaping happen simultaneously. You see, that’s the exciting part of all this: the potential for instant results.
As Jesus says, Already the one who reaps is receiving wages and gathering fruit for eternal life, so that sower and reaper may rejoice together.
And friends, to this end, here at St. James, Caledon East this fall, we have several different courses and workshops aimed at planting and nurturing the seed of the gospel.
There’s something for everyone at every stage of spiritual growth. And the goal, the harvest we hope for, is an increased engagement with the community, increased church membership and also an abundant harvest of the fruit of the Spirit for all of us – a harvest of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Gal. 5:22).
In our reading today from his letter to the Galatians, St. Paul tells us how we can reap such a harvest. Just like in agriculture, the moral world has also has it natural processes.
For whatever one sows, that will he also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.
C.S. Lewis once said that every one of our thoughts, words or deeds, if good, moves us closer to heaven, but if bad, then it moves us in the other direction.
Here St. Paul gives us a similar idea with a different image: every bad thought you indulge, every bad word or deed sows a seed that will reap corruption, even destruction in your life, relationships and the world. But every good thought, word or deed sows a seed that will reap eternal life. So you’re either sowing seeds that will grow thornbushes and weeds, or, you’re sowing seeds that will grow grain and fruit trees that bring nourishment. So for example, on the bad side of things:
Whatever you sow, that will you also reap. There are no surprises here; and that’s part of the point: sin always yields destruction, never joy or life. But on the other hand, if you sow to the Spirit, you will certainly yield eternal life.
And again, you can sow to the Spirit by participating in one or more of our events this fall here at St. James and encouraging your friends and neighbours to join you!
Paul goes on to say: Let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. If you sow to the Spirit, the only thing that can hinder your harvest is to abandon effort. It’s tempting to give up when you don’t see good results immediately – that’s true in our own lives and in the mission of the church.
So in conclusion, Paul encourages us saying: So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.
We shall not reap our harvest until God’s right time comes, but again, with God there is always the potential for immediate results, as Jesus says. In any case, Paul says, now is God’s time to do good works, to sow to the Spirit, to share the good news of Jesus, to love all people, especially to our fellow church members.
Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen. (Eph. 3:20–21)