Sunday, 15 May 2022

Hopeful for the Harvest - Luke 10

If you are going out, and you know the weather forecast is for rain, you are likely to dress appropriately and/or take an umbrella. If you know you will be out in scorching sun your mum will probably send you off prepared with sun cream. Jesus sent off the disciples, and did so with an expectancy that there is a harvest to be reaped.

He said 'The harvest is plentiful' - there are people out there open and seeking for God. Maybe they don't even know it themselves at this point, but their hearts are open. It is for us to go and discover them, to help them find God, tell them about Jesus, His Kingdom and the Good News.

So Jesus is telling them to go with expectation, to go hopeful for the harvest. That is actually our experience as a church right now. With a strategy of 'lifeboats' - small adaptable small group settings to explore faith in Jesus, we have recently been able to launch a lifeboat springing from one of our regular works. We are also aware of other people either ready or potentially open to an invite to such a group Over in Africa one of our young people on a mid-term mission endeavour writes back: 'The harvest is ripe here - we have seen 580 people receive Jesus, over 30 deliverances and over 30 healings ...'.

Now of course different places have different 'spiritual atmospheres' - people's readiness in one place may be much higher than here in England. Yet extensive research just published here shows that 75% of people describing themselves as not-Christian, but who have a friend who is, would be 'comfortable' having a conversation about faith. It also shows that of those who have a conversation, 35% are then more positive about Jesus, and 33% want to know more (see Talking Jesus). Of course this doesn't mean that people are bound to accept Jesus immediately - typically in the UK context the journey is much slower. But it does remind us that the harvest is there. If you think no one is at all interested, you are mistaken - that is simply not true!

Jesus did cite a problem, however: 'The workers are few'. We would love people willing to launch lifeboats. We would love people willing to walk alongside people in a faith journey (a long haul enterprise). We would love people to invest their time in the harvest fields.

When Jesus sent the seventy-two, he wasn't sending them for a picnic on the beach. He said 'like lambs among wolves', i.e. into danger and hardship. That might not encourage us, but Jesus did promise to go with us! Jesus continues to tell them to go effectively empty-handed - in other words to rely on Him and His Spirit.

So we can be hopeful for the harvest - for Jesus is not depending on any clever things we think we might take. He is simply asking us to go!

Jesus sent them in pairs - we don't need to do this alone, but with each other, in pairs, or groups, and with the support of the whole church. When we go let us be aware of two broad categories of people. The first is the people we can think of: the friends, neighbours, colleagues that we are praying for. The second category are the people we least expect, those we haven't thought of. The possibility with this category arises by us going and being available, having eyes and ears open to who the Spirit puts in front of us. Let us not discount this second group - it might actually be a bigger harvest and more fruitful than the first category.

A final thought. None of this makes any sense if we do not have any heart for the lost. If we never wake up in the morning to think 'Dear Lord ... what about the people who do not yet know you', then none of this is relevant. Without a heart for the lost you simply will not go anywhere. Without a heart for the lost you for sure won't make time available to speculatively invest in people. And there is no way you will venture into anything risky.

Jesus had a heart for the lost, and in sending the disciples he had a hope for the lost. Let us pray: 'Lord open my heart to see your harvest - may your hope be my hope'.

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