“The Harvest is Plentiful”

July 8, 2007 – Luke 10:1-11,16-20

I remember growing up heading to my grandparent’s place and ending up in, or hiding from, the hay fields. There was always one week, or weekend where the weather was just right, and the hay had been mowed, and was ready to be baled and hauled into the barn. For long days, my grandfather, uncles, cousins, and neighbours would work in the field. Getting all the hay in before the rains returned, which would force them to wait again until the hay was dry enough to bale. It was a lot of hard work, and the timing had to be just right. The right weather to dry the hay and enough time to get it all into the barn. To miss the opportunity might mean the rains could come and rot the hay in the field. Which also means there wouldn’t be enough hay for the horses, and plenty of money would be spent as hay would need to be bought.

Jesus sent out 70 people to go about the countryside visiting towns. Preparing the people of the villages for his arrival. He told the 70 it was time for the harvest, and he needed their help. The harvest metaphor is interesting. We often don’t quite understand it, especially since we’ve largely moved on from being an agricultural society. Harvest time is a critical time for a farmer. Miss harvesting the crop and an entire season is lost. You can’t sell rotten crops for profit! Often farmers need extra help at this time to make sure the crop is harvested.

I believe it’s in areas of New Brunswick where schools close for a few days each year so the students can help harvest potatoes. Think of stores who hire all kinds of extra help in November and December so they can be ready for handling customers during the Christmas rush. Or a toy company not being able to deliver the hot new toy until the middle of January? There are critical times in the year where important work needs to be done. To miss out on that critical time means failure instead of success.

Jesus is working on a similar time line in his ministry. He is heading towards Jerusalem, toward the end of his earthly ministry, and he wants to share his teaching and healing with as many people as he can. This is harvest time for him. And he needs help. Jesus wants to reach as many people as he can while he’s walking on earth, and it can only happen with the help of others who make people aware of who he is and what he is doing.

There’s one thing I’d like to bring up while I’m talking about Jesus asking for help. Especially since most of us we’re brought up to think it was just Jesus and the 12 disciples who did all the traveling and ministry work. But this reading from Luke reminds us there was far greater involvement. Earlier in Luke we can learn of the women who helped Jesus in his ministry. Today we hear there were a whole other group of 70 people spreading the word that Christ was among them.

And what of the work they did? Well, they were evangelists. Spreading the Good News of Christ to everyone who would listen. They would set up shop in someone’s home and teach and heal from that location. Jesus told them not to move from home to home, but to enjoy the hospitality of the place they were in. They were not to go about the village looking for better food or accommodation. How would it look if these people spent their time looking for such things? Looking to serve themselves instead of those they were instructed to reach? Looking for a softer bed, or a lobster dinner each night would cause people to question the motives of their ministry.

Jesus would have none of that, they were instructed to take what they were offered and just do their ministry preparing the way for him to come in after them. Just cure the sick, and proclaim the kingdom of God is near were the instructions they were given.

What of those who chose not to welcome the messengers? Jesus told them to walk away, and leave them alone. Take nothing from the village, not even the dust on their shoes. Shake them off, leave everything there, for they refused to accept Jesus’ teachings.

When the 70 returned, they could not believe all they had done! They not only healed the sick, but they cast out demons! Often in biblical times illness was assumed to be caused by demon possession. This can also be seen in the old testament. Often people equated material wealth as a blessing from God. To suffer? That often meant you were cursed, apart from God.

Today we know differently. God does not curse us with illness, or reward us with riches. If we are doing well after accepting Christ into our lives, it could be result of simply turning away from sinful living, turning away from a lifestyle that caused us to live destructive or non-productive lives. When we are sick, it is not a punishment from God but rather God surrounds us with friends and families who care for and pray for us. God is present to us, caring for us in the actions of others.

In the example of the 70, we too are able to take part in the harvest. Jesus invites us to talk with people around us. Often it is the minister and a few people in the church who are seen as the ones who do all the work and ministry planning. Just like we often think of it being just Jesus and the disciples who provided all the ministry. Well, today we know that’s not true. There were many, many people involved with providing the ministry of Christ.

Here in Fairview, we’re reminded of this every time we open our bulletins! Right near the top of the first page, it says “Ministers: The people of the congregation”. This is echoed in the vision statement two lines below it. “Our vision: Fairview United Church is a community of people of all ages who share their talents, invite leadership, and grow the church.”

We are all taking part in the harvest! We’re all offering the various gifts, talents, skills we have to make this church and it’s ministries function. We invite people to take part in leadership of the church, which is more than just joining committees, but also taking part in worship through reading scripture and offering prayers.

And we grow the church. We welcome people who come through the doors. Certainly my friends from Edmonton felt very welcome here last week. But it’s a bit more than just welcoming people who come in the door. It’s also about inviting people to experience worship and ministry with us. Just as Jesus expected the 35 pairs of people to go out and invite people to hear Christ’s teachings and experience his ministry, we should be doing the same.

I’m not saying we need to be going door to door offering brochures, or standing on the corner of Joseph Howe and preaching during rush hour. It starts simply. Sharing our story and faith with our friends. Telling people about the good work our church does for families and those in need in this community.

This neighbourhood is experiencing a spiritual change. The Anglican church is no longer visible, yet it meets just up the hill now. The Catholics aren’t sure how much longer they may be around. We could be the last major mainline denomination in the area. People need to know that God is still here, that He isn’t giving up on Fairview. He’s not pulling out, shaking the dust of his sandals and warning us what we’re missing. They need to know that God is simply working in a different way. God is still working through the people of this community, but where the work is operating from may be changing. God is still very much alive in us, working and providing ministries that reach out to the community in which we serve. We, the ministers of Fairview United Church, we are people who share our talents, we invite leadership and help the church grow so it can provide God’s saving grace, love and comfort to those we meet.

This is not something only a few people can do. This is a big community, and we don’t know everyone who lives here. But together we cover a lot of the streets out there, seeing what is happening in our neighbourhood.

Together we are all messengers for Christ, in our own little way. And together we help the church grow, by sharing Christ’s love with those we meet. Let us all be labourers in this ever important harvest. People need Christ in their lives, and we are the ones who can help. The harvest is plentiful, my friends, the harvest is plentiful.