Rev. Glen Shoup is the Congregational Care pastor for members of the Resurrection family who have last names beginning with A – C.
I must confess that I’ve read this passage of scripture countless times, especially verses 35-38; I’ve taught from it, I’ve preached from it…I thought I had studied it. But as far as I can recall, this is the first time I’ve ever really seen this scripture—particularly Jesus’ teaching about “the harvest” in direct relationship to it’s context within the story of Jesus’ interaction with the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well (which—of course—makes me wonder, did I really study this passage in the past, or did I just bring my own pre-conceived notions of what it meant to the text). But whatever the reason, to miss the context of Jesus’ teaching about “the harvest” is an awfully big miss!
Now, I must say that I think I may know why I might have missed this important context in the past; for you see, I come from a branch of Christians who place great emphasis on having a personal relationship with Christ. Desiring for everyone to come to the place where they recognize that their sin separates them from God, and personally receiving the forgiveness of God by receiving Jesus Christ as their Savior and Lord is the primary objective of the branch of Christians that I grew up with and come from. And you know, I am not knocking that objective because I do believe that God desires for all of us to personally know the love and life God longs to give us through daily opening our lives to the teachings and grace of Jesus Christ—so the important truth of knowing and being in relationship with Christ is not really the problem. But here is the problem: when that important truth (personally accepting Jesus), becomes the only truth, you can wind up with this idea that that the only thing God really cares about is getting the whole world to come to the place where they recite the sinner’s prayer and ask Jesus in their heart (I’m not saying that does happen for all who value this important truth, I’m saying it can happen). And when that does happen—when we come to think that all God cares about is getting people to pray a prayer—well then (among other things) we miss the context of Jesus’ important teaching on “the harvest”.
When we miss that what Jesus said about look around you, can’t you see that the fields are ripe for the harvest was completely enveloped in the context of Jesus caring for and seeking to stand in solidarity with the outcast—when we miss that Jesus’ teaching about the harvest comes surrounded by Jesus’ complete shattering of the sexism and classism that sought to define human worth and destiny…when we miss this important context, we can tend to miss that the harvest might not primarily be about getting everybody to simply pray a prayer, but it might be rather about seeing justice come to the oppressed and seeing good news heard, felt and received by those whom the establishment (both religious and cultural) has long since disregarded.
Indeed, when we miss the context, we might miss that the Lord of the harvest is saying to the outcast…come to me, all of you who are weary and heavily burdened and I will give you rest and Christ is calling those who would be his disciples to join him in this life-giving mission of preaching good news to the poor and the marginalized—wherever and however we might find them…and if we would just open our eyes, we would notice that the fields are already ripe for this harvest!
Lord, help me to not miss the people outcast by circumstances or society; help me to open my eyes and see them wherever they might be around me and then be your arms and voice of love and acceptance to them, Amen.