In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
You’re probably not thinking about the harvest right now. And if you are, you probably wish that you weren’t. I mean, you just started! You just started the seeding and the spraying and the cultivating; you just started doing all the things you need to do to get the ground ready to receive the seed and produce as much fruit as possible. But there’s the point: you sort of have to be thinking about the harvest, don’t you? Otherwise, what’s all this work for? What’s all the dirt and sweat and worry for? It is all aimed at the harvest. In fact, in the big picture, almost everything revolves around the harvest. And it seems to me that in a farming community, everything is lived year after year from harvest to harvest.
The Lord has a harvest as well. I was just reminded this week that Pentecost is a harvest festival. Which may seem strange to us here in the middle of the spring. But if you look at Leviticus 23, you will see that the Feast of Weeks took place seven weeks after the Passover Sabbath, and they brought in the first-fruits of the first harvest in thanksgiving to the Lord who had given it. If the first harvest was good, then, surely, the later harvest would be even better. So, here we are fifty days (that’s what Pentecost means) after the Passover of our Lord from death to life, and we’re hearing words about a Pentecost harvest. There were those eleven Apostles plus Matthias, along with the rest of the 120 disciples, in Jerusalem, waiting as Jesus had told them to. They were there ten days after His ascension, and fifty days after His resurrection, during the harvest festival. Jesus had planted in them the seed of the Holy Spirit, and now He was going to bring a harvest. The rushing wind filled the place where they were, and the Holy Spirit came upon them in the form of tongues of fire, just as He had come upon Jesus in the form of a dove. They were filled with the Holy Spirit as He had been, and they spoke the Word boldly, and all the people from all the nations heard them telling them that Jesus and His forgiveness is for all nations, peoples, tribes, and languages. Peter got up to preach his first sermon, and when he was done, the number of those who received the Word of Jesus’ death and resurrection with gladness was 3000, and they were baptized into that same death and resurrection. The harvest was good. And if the first harvest was good, then the later harvest would be even better.
As you know, every harvest begins with the planting. And so it was with that Pentecost harvest. 33 years earlier (talk about a long germination and maturation period) the seed of the Word, the seed of the eternal Son of God, was planted by that same Holy Spirit in the womb of a Virgin. It grew and it entered this world—He entered this world; He lived, died, and was buried. Just as He said: “If a grain of wheat does not fall into the ground and die, it remains alone”–a single, unique seed; a single, unique Son–“but if it dies, it produces much fruit.” And so it did. Jesus rose from the dead, and His resurrection produced 12, and 120, and 3000, and more.
The harvest continues, and we live also from harvest to harvest. And, as you know, what happens in between the harvests often determines the outcome. So, in these last days, the Holy Spirit continues to be poured out on all flesh, male and female, young and old, and they prophesy: they tell forth the Word about Jesus’ death and resurrection. And those who hear are baptized and joined to Jesus, the Seed and Root from which we grow. The Lord has planted us here, with particular jobs and particular families in a particular community. He has (to switch metaphors), made us His laborers in particular corners of His harvest. We grow, and bloom, and bear fruit as the Holy Spirit continues to water us with the Word, and shine the light of the Son on our way, and feed us with the body and blood of the ascended, but very present, Jesus. There is not too much that is spectacular about the Spirit’s work among us—at least, no more spectacular than a seed that becomes a whole plant. There is not too much that is miraculous—at least, no more miraculous than the fact that one seed become many. We bloom where we are planted, but that sometimes means that we are plucked and picked. We bear fruit, and sometimes the fruit is squeezed and squandered and trampled. And the length of time we have to grow and the difficulties inherent in the work we have to do can sometimes tempt us to give up. To say, “I’ve had enough of being poured out for everyone else. I’m going to make a name for myself.” Which shows how far beyond Babel we have already come. We don’t say, “Let us build a tower to heave and make a name for ourselves!” We say, “Let me make a name for myself.” I’m going to get what’s mine, what’s coming to me, what I need or want or deserve. And trust me, I’m no martyr; I’ve never died for anyone but me. Selfishness starts simple enough: with a shiver of discontent. But it quickly grows until it affects root, stalk, and leaf. Selfishness kills, it sterilizes, and it produces nothing but stillborn fruit.
So Jesus says to His disciples, “When the Spirit of truth comes, the Comforter, He will teach you all things, and He will remind you of everything I said to you.” Because we so easily forget! We forget His love and His forgiveness, and we forget to hold tightly to the Word of Jesus, and it just splinters into just a bunch of words, from which we select and choose. But Jesus always gives Himself whole. He is the Word, and to keep His Word is to love Him. And He promises that His Word will never return void. Like the rain and snow that come down from heaven and water the earth, producing seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so His Word accomplishes what He sent it out to do. It is accomplishing what He sent it out to do, here and now, in you and me. We are being nourished right now by the Spirit, who is poured out on the earth, and the face of the ground is renewed. He continues to teach us all things, and to remind us of the Word of our Lord, which creates, sustains, and brings faith to completion. Just as none of us can bring the harvest of a field of wheat, because we are not the sun, or the rain, or the soil, so none of us can bring the harvest at the end of the age. Only the Lord does both, and He has promised that what He began, He will complete.
As we live from harvest to harvest, we live and grow, work and wait, knowing all the while that it is the Lord who wills and works in us what is pleasing to Him. And it is the Lord, in the power of the Holy Spirit, to the glory of God the Father, who will finally return and reap the earth, gathering the harvest into His Kingdom. All of us single grains of wheat, baked into one loaf; there is one bread, so we who are many are one body, because we all partake of the one loaf, who is Jesus Christ. And on that great and magnificent day of the Lord, the last Day of these last days, He will put an end to the confusion of Babel once and for all, as people of every tribe and language and nation, even you and me, praise our God with a single voice.
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7, ESV). Amen.
— Pr. Timothy Winterstein, 5/22/10