Today you can buy any number of genetically designed seeds to grow any number of fruits and vegetables. There are crosses between pears and apples, locally engineered boysenberries, drought resistant strains of nearly every plant, summer and winter wheats for the large crop farmers, and my personal favorite, seedless varieties of fruits! But there are two things that all of these crops need that can not be bred out of their DNA: cultivation and harvest.
Cultivation is the preparation of ground to receive a crop – this much is common knowledge – but it is more than that. It is also the attention that crop needs to succeed. It involves loosening the soil around growing plants, the removal of weeds that can sap the nutrients from the soil around the desired crop, it is the removal of rocks… In short, it is not a one-time affair performed immediately prior to planting! It is an ongoing, attentive labor that requires diligence. Scientists have yet to produce a variety of strawberry that send out tendrils to strangle competing wildflowers – or anything like it! Harvesting is very specifically the act of bringing the crop in. Again, no botanist has dreamed up a crop that upon maturing delivers its own produce into silo or barn. To cultivate and to harvest both require one very important person: someone. Someone must go out into the fields and commit to doing the work right there under the hot sun where the dirt gets under your nails, where your sweat gets in your eyes, where your back starts to ache…
Time and again, Jesus likened the work of his disciples to the work of the farmer. Whether the parable is about a vineyard, a sower, a mustard seed, or a fig tree, the agricultural connection is never far from the teaching of our Lord. In all of these parables we are reminded of the miracle of new life, of the industry of kingdom workers, and the need for careful attention and timely harvest. All of which come to my mind in July.
In Maryland where I grew up, silver queen ruled. “Silver queen” is not a rock band. It is a variety of sweet corn that bests all others in texture, color, taste… And for the crop to be promising, the farmer had to hope for and work towards a crop that was “knee high by the fourth of July.” The cultivation to get the crop there was what occupied his month of June – he prayed for rain and he kept his rows clean (weeded). And when the crop ripened, much to the delight of all Marylanders, he went out into his fields and brought his harvest in.
This summer I want to invite you to consider your role in the cultivation and harvest of souls. Jesus said in Luke 10:2-3 that
“the harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field. Go! I am sending you…”
Kids in Maryland hope that the farmer will be willing to get up early and work late to ensure that the crop is cared for and brought safely to barn. But children of the kingdom, according to the opportunities God provides, must get out under the hot sun themselves, break some nails, allow their eyes to sting and hearts to ache in order to see the harvest home. Look around your neighborhoods, your workplaces, your families. Is the harvest knee high this fourth of July? Don’t you desire freedom from the power, guilt, and stain of sin for your neighbors, friends, and coworkers this Independence Day? Let’s commit ourselves to getting out into the fields and work and pray to that end!