At the heart of a Christian attitude towards life is a sense of community. For the second commandment after loving your Creator is this .. Love Your Neighbour!! It is impossible to be fully human without interaction!
This need not be an abstract idea or a theological statement. This is not simply a teaching from the Bible but a reality of life … and no more so than in the season of Harvest. The Harvest is a shared task. Indeed the whole process of sowing and nurturing and cultivating and then reaping is a shared exercise. Humanity working alongside one another to produce the Harvest.
So Jesus teaches … one sows and one reaps .. so that the sower and the reaper may be glad together.
Jesus uses this earthly image of the Harvest to teach us about how the spiritual Harvest is to be understood. The growth of spiritual life in a community comes not simply through the current Vicar nor through single isolated moments of experience or flashes of inspiration within its worshipping community. A spiritual Harvest in a community will come through many different seasons and many different workers within it. The spiritual condition of this parish, of our Benefice, is able to be understood only in relation to previous workers, previous generations, previous tenants of this Vineyard as the parables put it.
Isn’t it a wonderful thing to feel we are connected to all those who have gone before and those who will come after us? One of the greatest causes of anxiety in our society is a sense of isolation .. but it is an absolute falsehood that we are isolated. We are connected in every way with those who have gone before us and come after us. No Harvest is ever reaped in isolation from that which has gone before. The kind of Harvest we have is deeply connected to the seasons in which it was sown. And we can be sure that the seasons to follow will be affected by the kind of Harvest we reap and its quality and quantity. The Harvest is a moment in a deeper cycle of connectedness whether earthly or spiritual.
Therefore the ‘Us’ in Psalm 67 is an important ‘Us’. Imagine if the Psalm had read
May God be gracious to ME and bless ME
and make his face shine on ME ..
This kind of self-focused sentiment is foolish on every level .. and it would not have been a logical idea in ancient times … without all people and all nations being blessed there is no blessing for the individual. The ancients knew this .. Jesus knew this .. do we know this?? Are we seeking blessing not only for ourselves and our families but for our communities and our nation and indeed all nations .. are we with the writer of the Psalm praying ..
May the nations be glad and sing for joy, for you rule the peoples with equity
and guide the nations of the earth.
May the peoples praise you, God; may all the peoples praise you
The message of the Harvest is this .. that we are all connected .. whether we are those who are reaping or sowing or storing or preparing the soil .. we do not live in isolation but depend on the work and the efforts of those around us and before us .. and those ahead of us depend on us too.
I want to ask you this morning to reflect on where we, in our churches, are in the cycle of the Harvest? Which season are we in … and how might we meet the challenges of this season in order to be those who bless the lives of others? This was Jesus invitation to the crowds at the time of His ministry .. look around you .. what do the fields look like .. what is you task at this time. It is the same invitation extended to us today ..
I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! .. What is it that we need to be doing at this time in this place to ensure the spiritual Harvest cycle in our churches continues .. as the Psalmist wrote:
May the land yields its harvest; May God, our God, bless us.
May God bless us still, so that all the ends of the earth will fear him.