One summer during college, I got a job with a wheat cutting crew. It started on the Gulf Coast and were heading through the Breadbasket states, and on into Canada. My father was the pastor of a church at that time in Dodge City, Kansas. I had worked for one local wheat farmer, and burned up a belt on his wheat harvester, and he decided that he couldn’t afford to have me around anymore. So, when a friend told me that there was a big crew with a lot of equipment that just arrived outside of town, and they were looking for drivers, I decided that this was a good time for me to get out of Dodge.
The motorcade was an incredible sight with about ten new John Deere Harvesters with air-conditioned cabs, and about the same number of wheat hauling trucks. After a few hours hoping that I wouldn’t damage another piece of expensive equipment, I began to get the hang of driving this giant cutting machine, kind of like driving a big lawnmower. We went from farm to farm, harvesting fields in several hours that farmers had labored on all year. Every farmer paid cash on completion of harvesting their fields. Fortunately for that year there was a great harvest with good prices for wheat. That is not always the case, and you that understand the pitfalls of farming understand that.
I remember looking on the golden fields of wheat swaying in the soft breeze, and glimmering in the sunlight, in all four directions, as far as I could see, and thinking about the words of Jesus: “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.” (Matthew 9:37-38)
Just as Jesus has opened the gate for us to go out into this thing called a “journey of faith”, a journey as we go forward following Jesus who has gone before us, and now leads us on, so we are to carry on that message to others. Our Presiding Bishop, the Right Rev. Michael Curry says that if the people do not come to church, then the church needs to go out to the people. We are called to go out into the highways and byways and invite people to join us on this journey (Luke 14:23), this journey that promises green pastures and still waters.
The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures;
he leads me beside still waters;
he restores my soul
He leads me in right paths
for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk through the darkest valley,
I fear no evil;
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff—
they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me)
in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord
my whole life long. (Psalm 23)
The Psalmist says: May those who sow in tears reap with shouts of joy. Those who go out weeping, bearing the seed for sowing shall come home with shouts of joy, carrying their sheaves. (Psalm 126:5-6). We will reap what we sow. Our message is a simple one. The good news is that Christ has died. Christ is risen. Christ will come again! And, because of Easter we share this life with and in Christ. And, we are all invited to enjoy this Paschal mystery, right here, right now, in this present moment, and we are asked to go out from these four walls and share this good news with others.
Our job is not to force people to join this Jesus Movement. Our job is to invite them, to be creative in the way we share the good news. This love of God is for all people. Our message is this: “Come follow Jesus with us”. He is our gatekeeper. The Holy Spirit opens the gate and we are all called to follow Jesus into the blessings of God (the green pastures, the blessings of life in the present, and the blessed hope to come).
I’m excited about the journey. The destination is a blessed promise, but we will get there when we get there. In the meantime, let’s enjoy the journey now. “This is the day the Lord has made. We will rejoice and be glad in it”. (Psalm 118:24) Receive the love God, and invite others to walk with us on this journey. This journey to the New Jerusalem, the City of God, whose builder and maker is God. We are called to eat from the tree of life, the tree of life with healing, healing for all who will come. We shall see His face. There will be no night there, neither the need of a light. For Jesus will be our light he’ll reign and he will shine ever bright. (Rev. 22)
Taste and see that the Lord is good! Amen.
The Reverend Dr. David Madsen