Trinity 1 - 14th June 2020
Romans, Chapter 5: verses1-8
Matthew, Chapter 9:35-10:8
Maggie Cogan - Reader
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit – Amen
Christ's followers have been commanded to go and tell. This sermon, I hope underlines that command by reminding us of our field and the responsibility we have in harvesting, sharing our faith with others. In the movie, Schindler's List, one of the most moving scenes is near the end of the three-hour drama. Oscar Schindler had invested his energy and his fortune in saving the lives of hundreds of Jews who would have otherwise been killed in Hitler's holocaust. Because the war is at it’s end, the Jews he saved will become free men and women; while Schindler will become a fugitive. He walks to his car with his Jewish friend. The others are around them. Schindler begins to cry. He looks at his watch and knows that if he had sold it he could have saved another life. He looks at his car and knows that he could have exchanged it for additional lives. He says to his friend, "I could have done more." “I could have done more.” Oscar Schindler knew he could have done more to save Jews from perishing in the death camps. Could you and I do more to help people especially during these very trying times we are all experiencing?
Jesus did all he could. "Jesus went through all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and curing every disease and every sickness." But it was when he saw the crowds, the multitude of people, who needed to be saved from the eternal death camps he was moved. When you and I see the people as Jesus saw the crowds and as Oscar Schindler saw the Jews in Nazi Germany, it will move us. If we are to see lives saved and won to Christ we need to see the harvest as Jesus saw the harvest of spiritually, lost people dying and facing a Christ-less eternity. How did Jesus see the harvest? The harvest is plentiful. "Then he said to his disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful.” Our world is big and the number of spiritually lost people is overwhelming. In Jesus' day the population of the world was approximately 150 million people. The world's population exceeds 7.5 billion people with the population of the United Kingdom over 67 million.
The harvest is precious.
Not only was the harvest of people vast as Jesus looked upon it, but those people brought tears to his eyes. All those people, then and now, matter to him. Make no mistake about it: Jesus loves people. "When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them." The word used for compassion is the strongest word for pity in the Greek language. It describes the love that moves a person to the depths of their being. It is the type of love that moves people to cry for others as Oscar Schindler cried for the Jews. It is love that moves people beyond sentimental feelings to heartfelt action. Jesus' heart grieves over every soul. God grieves because those who die without Christ never know how much he loves them
The harvest is perplexed.
Jesus described the crowd as being "harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. "Harassed meant that they felt defeated by life. The toils and struggles had hurt them too many times. They are helpless and ready to give up. Helpless meant they were broken and without purpose. They were wandering aimlessly, a people without hope, without meaning, without a reason for living. Like sheep without a shepherd meant they would follow any new idea or way even to their destruction. Sheep are not that bright. They simply put their heads down and follow the sheep in front of them. If a guide or leader does not exist they will simply wander and wander and wander until they destroy themselves.
The harvest is perishing.
In John Chapter 4 verse 35 Jesus said to his followers, "Look around you, see how the fields are ripe for harvesting.” While I know little of farming, I do understand that ripened wheat takes on a golden hue when ready for harvest. However, if reaping is delayed, the grain begins to turn a pale white, and will soon fall over on the ground. To speak of the fields "white" unto harvest is to stress the importance of getting into the fields before it is too late. There is always a sense of urgency to bringing in the harvest. It is estimated that 41 percent of the people are unchurched and they don't go to church at all. Not at Easter or at Christmas or to weddings or funerals. They do not darken the doors of a church at any time in the year and would die without knowing the love of Christ. There is always a sense of urgency to bringing in the harvest.
The harvest is priority.
Feel what Jesus feels. He is overwhelmed by his love for people as he sees the vastness of the crowds, the perplexity of their problems, and the sense of urgency in reaching them. Then Jesus says, "The harvest is plentiful but the labourers are few. Therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out labourers into his harvest.” We need to realise that the Pharisees, the religious leaders of Jesus' day, saw the common people as chaff to be destroyed and burned up; Jesus saw them as a harvest to be reaped and to be saved. The Pharisees in their pride looked for the destruction of sinners; Jesus in love died for the salvation of sinners.
Here lies one of the great truths of the Christian faith: The harvest will never be reaped unless there are reapers to reap it. Jesus Christ needs men and women to bring in the harvest. Jesus followers today need to see people as Jesus saw them - as plentiful, precious, perplexed and perishing. What can we do? We can take responsibility for our field. Think of all the people we contact everyday: family, friends, neighbours, work associates, the staff at the supermarkets, the men at the car wash, that is our field. We are responsible for them. We will never have a sense of urgency and priority until we realize that we are responsible for them. We can pray. When we begin to see people as Jesus saw them then we will pray for the harvest. We will pray for the salvation of the lost, for the church to be trainers of reapers, and for men and women to go into the harvest. But we must do more than pray. We can go. When we see people as Jesus saw them we will go into the harvest. We can't bring in the harvest without first going into the harvest. Our job is not to save the harvest - that's God's work through us. Our job is to tell people about the Lord of the harvest. The gospel begins with go. Without going there is no knowing. If we don't go, who will? We can share our story. The great sin of the church is the sin of silence. People often say, "I'll let my life be my witness." How many people have come to Christ because they watched our lives?
But, we say, there are so many people. The harvest is so vast. The needs are so overwhelming.
What can I do?
There is a lovely story about a man walking on the beach at dawn, who noticed a young man ahead of him picking up starfish and flinging them into the sea. Catching up with the him, he asked what he was doing. The answer was that the stranded starfish would die if left in the morning sun. "But the beach goes on for miles, and there are millions of starfish," said the man. "How can your effort make a difference?" The young man looked at the starfish in his hand and then threw it to safety in the waves. "It makes a difference to this one," he said. I hope that all our hearts will be stirred to make a difference in the harvest. You see, when we begin to see people as Jesus saw people it makes all the difference in the world. When we see people as Jesus saw people it will cause us to take responsibility, to pray, to go, and to tell about Jesus.
Oscar Schindler said, "I could have done more." Can we do more when it comes to bringing in the harvest of souls?