Ask the Lord of the harvest
Bishop James Swanson Sr. just preached his heart out. It was the 11:00 worship service, one of two services scheduled for Saturday, and these words reverberate: God (whether we like it or not) has put mission in the hands of people.
Come the end of the ninth chapter of Matthew’s gospel, Jesus is putting the mission in the hands of twelve. As discipleship gives way to apostleship, one wonders if they felt the gravity of the moment (10:2).
The mission and the metaphor Jesus uses for the mission are separate things. The mission is to go, proclaiming the good news (v.7). The mission is to “cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons” (v.8). The metaphor is a harvest. And because harvest pops up not infrequently in the Bible, it is easy to blow by it, missing what it adds to what Jesus has to say.
Some people hear “harvest” and see “fall”. But summertime is for harvesting too. This text takes me back to high school, when there was a boy who was tied to the combine for days on end this time of year. More than once he told me, “I’m sorry, but I’ve got to the grain out. And before it rains.”
Thinking back on that dynamic helps me to tune in when Jesus says that harvest is plentiful but the laborers are few. Except Jesus does not say that he has to stay put on a piece of machinery. Neither does he say that if the disciples would get in the field, the work would get done.
Jesus asks them (and us) to ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers (v.38).
I cannot recall the last time that I prayed for the Lord to send out laborers. Considering that much that has me considering what exactly this harvest is.
The harvest is God’s harvest and it is people—people who are ready, longing even, to be gathered up into an alternative quality of life characterized by all that Jesus lives and later dies and rises for. Who is responsible for the harvesting? Well, we are; alongside God, of course. “Therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers.”