One of the things we looked forward to on this trip to Las Vegas was visiting with some old friends, Mark and Beth Fordney. They are Young Life leaders in Henderson, NV about 10 miles outside Las Vegas. They used to live in Baltimore where they attended our church, working as youth leaders for several years, as well as being involved in Young Life there. Mark and Beth helped to shepherd our daughter through her teenage and high school years for which we are eternally grateful. They are a special couple, true mentors and we thank God for the gift they were to our family.
We went to dinner with them last night and this morning, Palm Sunday, we attended church with them. Even though it was a Baptist church, the musical worship leaned toward the charismatic (not that they would call it that). People raised their hands and got very involved in the moment.
The sermon was about evangelism and the need for workers to go into the harvest. This is familiar ground to a lot of us. The sermon was going well until the pastor turned his focus to the congregation and their call to help with evangelism. He challenged those in the pews to take part in the harvest by sharing the gospel with two or three people. The thing that was missing, at least for me, was the biblical connection between the harvest workers, who are evangelists, preachers, and teachers, and who make up maybe 5% of the church, and the rest of us. While you can call the other 95% to participate in some small way, what biblical model can you give them on which they can base their behavior?
As I was sitting there writing in my notebook, I was reminded of the image behind this call to spiritual harvesting, a real grain harvest in Israel. The workers would go through the field cutting and binding and carrying the sheaves to the processing area. But when they were done, that wasnt the end of the harvest. It was then that the ordinary people, the gleaners, entered the field. These ordinary people went through the rows of stubble searching for the remainders, gleaning the fruit that was left behind.
There it was, the missing connection I was seeking. Those of us not called to be workers in the main harvest, which as I noted most of us are not, are called to be gleaners, combing the stubble for the fruit that remains.
I believe God had two reasons for calling for gleaning of the fields beyond allowing the poor to have a means of feeding themselves. I believe that God wanted all of the fruit of his increase brought in. I also believe that gleaning was good for those who participated, because it allowed them to be part of the harvest, part of cycle of life.
This illustration translates well to the spiritual harvest. God wants every soul that he has called to salvation to be brought into the feast. In addition he wants everyone to participate in the cycle of salvation and eternal life. While we all cannot be harvest workers, we all can be gleaners. We can all be the agents of God, bringing our share of the gleaned fruit into the marriage feast of the Lamb of God.
I believe that God gives all of us an opportunity to shepherd someone into the kingdom. I was blessed to bring my wife, the night I first met her. She went from a young woman running from God to a believer praying for Jesus to take over her life during the course of one long discussion session on the floor of her sisters living room. Later that year, she led my sister in a similar act of commitment.
Neither of us are evangelists, far from it, but we were both blessed to be gleaners in the fields of the Lord.
What about you? If you are not an evangelist have you accepted your call to glean?
Dear Lord, I pray for all those who read this message. I pray that they will be moved to enter into the harvest field and glean the fruit that remains. I pray that by your grace they will able bring the fruit that you have prepared for them to harvest into the marriage feast of the Lamb. I thank you Lord that you call all of us to participate in the cycle of salvation and eternal life. Amen.
Grace and peace to you this day.