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A big job to be done

July 18, 2022

Daily Scripture

Matthew 9:35-38

35 Jesus traveled among all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, announcing the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and every sickness. 36 Now when Jesus saw the crowds, he had compassion for them because they were troubled and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. 37 Then he said to his disciples, “The size of the harvest is bigger than you can imagine, but there are few workers. 38 Therefore, plead with the Lord of the harvest to send out workers for his harvest.”

Daily Reflection & Prayer

Tractors appeal to many of us just because of their size and obvious power (and maybe their bright color). But tractors don’t mainly exist to look pretty, but to do specific jobs their power makes easier or possible. Many of those jobs (though far from all) are farming tasks. Farmers in Palestine, in Jesus’ day, faced the same tasks (without the benefit of tractors). One of the biggest, as reflected in today’s Scripture reading, was harvesting crops at their peak ripeness (cf. also John 4:34-35).

  • You can’t harvest most crops at any time that’s handy on the grower’s schedule. Things like too much or too little rain mess up even careful planning and create urgency for harvest. Scholar N. T. Wright saw that in Jesus’ image: “Jesus looked at his contemporaries and saw them not only like sheep without a shepherd but, changing the farming imagery, like a field full of wheat with nobody to harvest it.” * What factors make people (including you) more or less ready to “harvest”?
  • Most farmers today have one or more tractors to help speed the work of harvesting. In Jesus’ day, harvesting was hand work—which took many workers. Jesus told his followers that a ripe harvest was all around, so they needed to pray for workers. Wright noted, “As [Jesus’] followers pray that prayer, the answer comes back worryingly quickly: you are, yourselves, to be the answer to your own prayer.” God usually sends people, not angels. Are you ready to help with the harvest?

Lord Jesus, keep maturing and ripening my inner life with you. And ready my heart to take up my part in bringing in the human harvest you yearn to gather all around me. Amen.

GPS Insights

 Karra Karst

Karra Karst

Karra Karst serves on the Adult Discipleship team at Church of the Resurrection-- all locations. When not at work, you can find her adventuring with her husband, Stephen, and dog, Rosey. She enjoys a good joke as much as she does her daily iced latte.

Do you ever feel like you’re wandering without any idea of where you’re going?

My husband and I were driving in Utah after hiking Bryce Canyon National Park. I had booked a cabin located right outside the park that had wonderful reviews, but they said over and over: do NOT trust your phone for the actual address, but keep driving and it will be on your right. They used words like ‘north’ and ‘east’ (phrases that are not understood in the Karst household). The sun began to set as we drove to the cabin and followed the reviewer’s directions the best we could before getting confused. With the phone’s signal at zero bars, the GPS said the entrance was to our right. Regardless of the warning, we trusted the phone and followed the path until we were on top of a tall hill of dirt. Then we realized we were following an ATV trail that was in no way intended for a mid-size SUV. My husband was able to “twelve-point-turn” back down the mound to safety. After reciting ‘Never Eat Soggy Waffles’ (north, east, south, west), we ventured down the road until we found the proper entrance to our cabin. I’ll admit that it was our fault for getting lost in the first place, but in the moment I was so confused and frustrated about why it was so hard to find our way and the lack of good directions.

Another example of wandering might better fit your experience: In March of 2020, our lives collectively paused. Uncertainty crept in and we looked to anyone to give us answers. We stayed in our homes and safe spaces as we waited to be told what to do. Our leaders, no matter how educated, skilled, and knowledgeable, were also looking for the same answers in that unprecedented time. Many felt helpless. Many looked for a shepherd.

Our God is compassionate. Whether our helplessness is our own doing or out of our control, He sees the need to be our heavenly shepherd, the Good Shepherd (John 10:11). In today’s text, Jesus sees the crowds wandering in helplessness. If I considered everyone I have come into contact with this past week, I could think of quite a number of people who feel like they are aimlessly wandering. When we have the directions in our hands, it’s easy to shout “turn left, turn left!” as we watch people turn right. Jesus told the disciples “the harvest was plentiful, but the workers are few”, instructing them to ask the Lord to send workers in the field.

We aren’t all being instructed to literally hop onto our John Deere tractors and start working the fields. But there is a call to commune with God and have Him equip us to become shepherds for those we encounter. People around you are looking for directions and you have the exact tools for what they need. We don’t have to worry about being “ready” or “enough.” It’s not in our own strength and knowledge that we guide people, it’s in His! When I remember that Christ asks for our willing hearts over perfection, it’s less intimidating and overwhelming to get started. Whether they need Apple Maps or a printed MapQuest sheet, the Good Shepherd is compassionate to us as His flock and as the workers in the field. God will shepherd you well, fully, and justly as you seek to shepherd those around you.

© 2024 Resurrection: A United Methodist Church. All Rights Reserved.
Scripture quotations are taken from The Common English Bible ©2011. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

* Wright, N.T., Matthew for Everyone, Part 1: Chapters 1-15 (The New Testament for Everyone) (pp. 109-110). Westminster John Knox Press. Kindle Edition. ** Ibid.