When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.” Matthew 9:36-38 NRSV
From the beginning of civilization, across all cultures, harvest has been a time of celebration. Many of these festivals survive today, as we still celebrate the gathering of needed sustenance.
But, before the celebrations there is a time of great urgency, of a race along a razor’s edge in time between the harvest not being ready, and the harvest spoiling in the field. If there are insufficient laborers to bring in the promised bounty, it is likely the opportunity of a good harvest will turn to rot in the field.
Jesus is telling us in this passage that the present moment – always the present moment – is such a time of urgency. We live in a world “harassed and helpless,” constantly in need of the love of Christ. It is this love that Jesus was sharing immediately before this passage, spreading the good news, healing the sick of heart and body, and sharing the love that God has for us all. As followers of Christ we are called to follow that example, to look with compassion on the world about us, and to lean into the work of the harvest.
This harvest is a harvest of opportunity – the opportunity to share Christ’s love into the world. In sharing this love we strive to emulate the grace of God, which never weighs our worth. This is not a harvest in which we scythe down the faithful, or separate out as chaff those who do not share our beliefs. Scything and sorting is the work of God alone.
Our work as God’s harvesters is to fully reap the rewards of each opportunity to share Christ’s love with our neighbors. We harvest by selflessly sharing, and we are fed by faithfully feeding those in need. This harvest urgently demands our attention. The work will be hard. But the fruits of our work will sustain us, individually and as the Body of Christ.
Lord, help us today to share your love with grace, reaping to the fullest every opportunity to share your word and transform this world in your image. Amen.