Therefore said he unto them, The harvest truly is great, but the labourers are few: pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he would send forth labourers into his harvest. Luke 10:2
I would like us to consider a few verses from the Gospel we have just read together. It seems to me that most often when we are feeling down about things, or confused about the future, it is because we are not seeing things as God does, or as God would wish us to. Sometimes I wonder if we are looking at things in the wrong way because we are not aware of the times and seasons in God’s purposes.
What do I mean? Well, our Lord uses the image of the harvest, so let us consider things from the point of view of a farmer or a gardener. When the farmer has ploughed the field in preparation for sowing the seed he will not be discouraged if he does not see the fields heaving with wheat or corn or some other crop. He knows that it is not the right time, and is content to see that the fields are brown with freshly turned over soil. That is the proper condition of the fields for that time of the year.
Likewise when the farmer has sowed the seeds, and the first shoots are appearing, he is not despondent because the harvest is not yet ready. Rather he knows that he must spend much of his time in protecting the young growth, preventing the birds and other animals from carrying it away, ensuring that weeds and bugs do not overwhelm the fragile and tender plants.
It is the same in our lives. There are times of preparing the heart, and times for nurturing the young growth of our spirit. For a farmer this work of preparation often takes place in the cold, the dark and the rain. The thought of the harvest is a long way off, but the work still needs doing or there will never be a harvest.
Very often it seems to me that we fail to appreciate these seasons in the Lord’s will. We struggle to put in the hard and back-breaking work of preparing the soil of our hearts. Or else we look for the blessing of the harvest as soon as we sow the seed. It can certainly be the same in the life of congregations.
There are seasons of preparation, and seasons of sowing before there are times of harvest. There is a great need for faithfulness in prayer and worship, and for making the effort to be an obedient and spiritual Christian community even when it seems that there are few visible results.
But the Gospel today teaches us another lesson. It is that there are times when we do not see that the harvest is ready. There are times in our own lives, and in those of our congregations, when we have grown used to waiting, and have abandoned the sense of expectation that we once had.
Our Lord tells us that the harvest is ready. And from God’s point of view there are always those souls he wishes to unite to Himself, those souls He is calling and who will respond.
There are three points I would like us to take from this Gospel.
Firstly, the harvest is always ready from God’s perspective. Even today there are souls around us that God wills to bring to Himself, even if we are completely unaware of who they are. This is a matter of hope for us. We cannot see how God, the great spiritual husbandman, is working. But we can be confident that He is working, because we see him at work in our own lives.
Secondly, the harvest belongs to the Lord. It is very easy for us to come to believe that everything depends on us, but in fact the harvest is not ours, it is the Lord’s. We are workers in HIS fields, we follow HIS instructions, and whether the harvest is great or small, whether we begin to reap the spiritual grain today or tomorrow, is entirely in HIS hands. Therefore we can be at peace. If we are obedient to God’s will then nothing else matters. Whether our community remains small, or grows into a large congregation is not in our hands, it is all in God’s hands, who is the Lord of His own harvest.
And thirdly, it seems to me that the Gospel shows us that the Lord is well aware of our limited resources. He says, ‘the labourers are few’. We look around and see that all too clearly. But what else does the Lord say to us, ‘ask therefore….the Lord of the harvest to send labourers’. We can think of so many things that we could be doing to bring in God’s harvest of souls, but our Lord does not ask us to work harder, to do more, to abandon every other responsibility. Rather he asks us to pray, and promises himself to provide all that is needed.
So then, I hope that in our own lives we will reflect on the changing seasons of God’s dealings with us. Sometimes we experience a damp autumn, and a chilly winter, but there is a necessary work going on in our lives. Sometimes we have the sense of expectation in a spiritual spring as new shoots appear, and occasionally we rejoice in a spiritual harvest in our lives. We must be aware that these different times and seasons are not a sign of God’s displeasure or withdrawal from us, but a sign that he is at work in us, calling us always to be faithful and obedient, persevering to the harvest.
And in the life of our community we must have the faith and hope to believe that God is always at work, and always drawing hearts to himself. We need not worry about the numbers who gather with us, as if the numbers represented some absolute measure of success. Rather we must pray all the more earnestly that God himself will provide all of the resources we need here, and throughout the Coptic Orthodox Church, to serve the Lord of harvest and work with him in bringing in his own harvest.
To the salvation of souls and the glory of God, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.