Harvesting in the Spring

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Harvesting in the Spring

John 4:27–42 (NRSV)

27 Just then his disciples came. They were astonished that he was speaking with a woman, but no one said, “What do you want?” or, “Why are you speaking with her?” 28 Then the woman left her water jar and went back to the city. She said to the people, 29 “Come and see a man who told me everything I have ever done! He cannot be the Messiah, can he?” 30 They left the city and were on their way to him.

31 Meanwhile the disciples were urging him, “Rabbi, eat something.” 32 But he said to them, “I have food to eat that you do not know about.” 33 So the disciples said to one another, “Surely no one has brought him something to eat?” 34 Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to complete his work. 35 Do you not say, ‘Four months more, then comes the harvest’? But I tell you, look around you, and see how the fields are ripe for harvesting. 36 The reaper is already receiving wages and is gathering fruit for eternal life, so that sower and reaper may rejoice together. 37 For here the saying holds true, ‘One sows and another reaps.’ 38 I sent you to reap that for which you did not labor. Others have labored, and you have entered into their labor.”

39 Many Samaritans from that city believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me everything I have ever done.” 40 So when the Samaritans came to him, they asked him to stay with them; and he stayed there two days. 41 And many more believed because of his word. 42 They said to the woman, “It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is truly the Savior of the world.”

The past few months I have come across several amazing passages of scripture that defy logic and common sense. I’m not talking about miraculous healing or stories of Jesus bending the laws of nature. What I found were stories of people going from sinner to saint in a moment. Well, that might be a little bit of an overstatement, but I do see them going from sinner to evangelist in a moment. Instantaneous transformation without years of schooling, mentoring, book reading, or church attendance. Even in the most contemporary religious settings, this goes against much of what we believe and how we function.

Last year, I was presented with a challenge. To us, baptism is a sign of invitation into God’s kingdom and His Church via our own local congregation. We don’t believe that water saves you from anything, spiritually speaking. Instead of an end, we view it as a beginning of a lifelong journey following Jesus with the hope the person will eventually mature into their calling – whatever that might be. When we baptize children, we usually hope to have 10 to 20 years to help them mature into that role. The challenge I faced last year was baptizing a young lady who would be moving out of the country in 2 weeks, to a place where churches were not prevalent or even legal in some cases. She was going from new believer to missionary and I only had a couple of weeks to prepare her. Where do I even start?

That is the dilemma that Jesus was talking to His disciples about here. They wanted to wait until they had graduated disciple-making school to go out and start the work of disciple makers… but Jesus explained that there was no time for that. Even while they were planting seeds here and there, diligently and strategically trying to bring about fruit for God, Jesus pointed out that there was already fruit in the field that someone else had planted. Who could have planted it? Who else could have come before Jesus and put people on the road to salvation?

God.

God is always working ahead of us, often doing the very work that He is calling us to do. Sometimes we get too caught up in wanting God to use us that we forget that He doesn’t need us for anything. He loves us, yes, but not for what we do. He can save this world without us. The whole motivation for calling us to follow Him is because He wants us to be with Him.

This Samaritan woman, along with the demon possessed man of the Gerasenes, and Zaccheus the tax collector were making disciples of Jesus before Peter and the twelve really got to work. They didn’t have the benefit of spending all the time listening to and learning from Jesus like the twelve disciples. They just took what little they knew and shared it obediently. They didn’t concern themselves with the season and the strategy of what everyone else around them was doing. Their focus was fixed on Jesus. Because of their faith, Jesus worked with them and changed the world around them.

What has God done that has changed your life?

How can you respond to that intervention with gratitude and obedience?

The Secret Season

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The Secret Season

“Beware of practicing your piety before others in order to be seen by them; for then you have no reward from your Father in heaven.
“So whenever you give alms, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be praised by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your alms may be done in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

“And whenever you pray, do not be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, so that they may be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. But whenever you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

The Holy Bible: New Revised Standard Version. (1989). (Mt 6:1–6). Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

Lent is a season of secrets. I invite you to think of all the times Jesus told people not to talk about Him. From one of the very first miracles, turning water into wine at a wedding party, to the healing of blind men and lepers… there were certain occasions where Jesus told people not to share about His work in their lives. Why did Jesus tell people not to mention Him? I don’t know for sure, but I suspect that He wanted to stay out of trouble long enough to do all the teaching and healing He was able to do before going to the cross. Some will argue “That was then, but now we should always share about Jesus.” I almost completely agree with that. However, Jesus did command His followers to be careful just how we share Him because if we share Him looking for a reward, we will be disappointed in the result.

In fact, any kind of spirituality we practice on earth for a worldly, immediate reward will ultimately be disappointing. Jesus tells us that our heavenly reward comes in secret. Now, I know Lent has probably waned in popularity over the years and most people do not advertise whatever kind of fasting they are doing, but our world has gotten louder in its boasting about good deeds.

Giving, praying, and fasting are all very popular ways to express a certain pedigree of spirituality. They are also great ways to grow in your relationship with God. Those are not necessarily the same thing. Growing closer to God is like growing closer in a romantic relationship. There are some things that are very appropriate to share. There are other things that need to stay between you and the one you love. Lent is our time of growing closer to Jesus in ways that may be too personal to be shared with everyone else… and there is nothing wrong with that.

“And whenever you fast, do not look dismal, like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces so as to show others that they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. 17 But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, 18 so that your fasting may be seen not by others but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you. – The Holy Bible: New Revised Standard Version. (1989). (Mt 6:16–18). Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

I pray God blesses you this season as He draws us all closer to Him, closer to the cross, and closer to the new life found on the other side.

Golden

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Golden,

across the heavens,

a path of light reaches

down

and lays out

a life

unspoken

and awaiting

the final booming

call

to return

to the sky

again.

 

 

Some say life is a circle

“What comes around goes around”

Or something to that effect

Maybe it’s a square

And we go around over and over again

That’s why we turn so many corners

But always end up back where we started

God help me

Let life at least be a spiral

Drawing me closer and closer to Something

to You