Then Jesus made a circuit of all the towns and villages. He taught in their meeting places, reported kingdom news, and healed their diseased bodies, healed their bruised and hurt lives. When he looked out over the crowds, his heart broke. So confused and aimless they were, like sheep with no shepherd. “What a huge harvest!” he said to his disciples. “How few workers! On your knees and pray for harvest hands!”
Matthew 9:36-38 (The Message)
Autumn is my favourite time of the year. Growing up on the farm, autumn meant harvest and harvest meant long hours with, sometimes, extra workers. I loved harvest time.
Our lives are called to the harvest. But sometimes I miss the significance of that we are both workers in the harvest and recruiters for the work. I was recently reminded of the command to pray for workers in this passage as I was reading David Platt's Radical. We are to be entreating God to send plenty of workers, but that does not exclude us from doing the work ourselves. We are to be doing both.
I can remember my Dad watching the crop and watching the weather and waiting for the best moment to start harvesting. (Those things don't change. For the last couple of weeks our phone conversations were totally about how close the crop was and we haven't spoken in several days--a good indicator that the crop is ready and that they are reaping it.) Although he farmed a lot of acreage, it was done by himself, my grandfather and a couple of full-time workers. Most years, they could manage it. But there was the very occassional year when the timing of the crop ripening and the predicted weather did not converge with a broad enough window to get the crop harvested in time. It was those years that additional help was needed. It was in those years a traveling crew would be hired to work alongside the regular crew. I truly only remember an extra crew once or twice in my childhood. What I remember was the excitement of all the machines going at once, the lights going late into the night and the air filled with a sense of urgency.
The air filled with a sense of urgency. That is the scent of harvest.
In a farming community that comes not only when the weather is limiting, but also when health or circumstances is limiting. I remember neighbours encountering illness or tragedy just as harvest approached. I can imagine the prayers those God-fearing farmers breathed silently as they coped with what was happening. And I have many memories of seeing my community become the answers to someone's prayers for workers. Farmers leaving their own crops for a day to all join together and bring in a harvest for one who was unable. The harvest was great, and God provided the workers. The scent of urgency combined with the aroma of community.
In our spiritual lives we are to be out there sowing seeds of faith, discipling and watering those seeds and harvesting the results. Oftentimes we are able to harvest the crop we are tending on our own. But there is a vast field and we as individuals are not able to do it all. That is the point of praying for harvesters. It is not to sit and watch someone else do it. It is to ask for enough people to work alongside and bring in the harvest. In order for us to feel the requirement to both tend to the harvest and to pray for co-workers, we need to get a sense of the urgency. We need to catch the scent of harvest--the urgency that the time is now. Although I first read Ann Voskamp's post Harverst Storm four years ago, I have it in my writing inspiration file and return to it again and again. She captures the urgency of harvest. Go and read it, you will be blessed and challenged. Once we smell the urgency of harvest then we can capture the need for workers. Then we can pray for them to come and as they come be blessed by the aroma of community. May you find your inspiration in the scents of the time of year.
Father God make me a faithful worker in your harvest. Help me not to lose the scent of urgency and may I seek the community of fellow workers in the task. Send me and send others into your fields I pray. Amen.