Old Testament Reading- Ecclesiastes 3:1-14
New Testament Reading- Matthew 9:35-38
By Henry J. Rafferty CP -September 26, 2021
Here we are in the third quarter of our year, the autumnal equinox was this last Wednesday, summer has now gone, and fall-time is upon us. The harvest is in full swing producing food not just us, but for all God’s creatures. Corn, squash, pumpkins, tomatoes, potatoes, peppers, apples, pears, grapes, and much more are taken in from gardens, farms, and the wilds alike. Honey will soon be taken from the hives and processed, leaving some for the bees to feed on this winter. The cooler temperatures make the fish bite again in shallower waters, helping anglers with their freezer stores for winter. Many things are prepared in this season before the wintry air is here. That is the way of things, the way of the earth, and all of us upon it. I don’t care if you are in Erie, Pennsylvania, in Portland, Oregon, or in Munich, Germany; if you live in the northern hemisphere this is autumn and this is the season for putting away what God has provided us for winter’s use.
God gave us seasons. Genesis 1:14-15 tells us,
“Then God said, “Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens to separate the day from the night, and they shall serve as signs and for seasons, and for days and years; and they shall serve as lights in the expanse of the heavens to give light on the earth”;
and it was so.”
Even to this very day, farmers use the date on the calendar to time this out. A full moon on a clear night will usually be the coldest,
with no clouds to hold the heat that the earth provides down, a frost can happen. Using this timing as a guide and combining it with what each spring’s weather feels like at the time, they plan their planting accordingly. They may plant seeds, like corn or soybeans a little earlier, planning that the germination will not happen until threat of frost is over. Tender plants, like tomatoes and peppers, that are started in a greenhouse must not be planted until no frost is expected. I know that many of us that have small gardens plant earlier than that, but imagine you derive your living from what you plant, you don’t take too much risk when one misjudged frost could wipe out your whole spring’s crops. No crops, no money, no money, no food; you get the meaning. So, yes seasons are very important and that will never change.
People celebrate the season of harvest all over the world in various ways. The Jewish people, in ancient and in modern days, celebrate the festival of ‘Sukkot,’ otherwise known as, the ‘Harvest Festival,’ the ‘Festival of Ingathering,’ the ‘Festival of Booths,’ or the ‘Festival of Tabernacles.’ God instructs Moses in Leviticus 23:39-43 with the following:
“‘On exactly the fifteenth day of the seventh month, when you have gathered in the crops of the land, you shall celebrate the feast of the Lord for seven days, with a rest on the first day and a rest on the eighth day. Now on the first day you shall take for yourselves the foliage of beautiful trees, palm branches and branches of trees with thick branches and willows of the brook, and you shall rejoice before the Lord your God for seven days. So, you shall celebrate it as a feast to the Lord for seven days in the year. It shall be a permanent statute throughout your generations; you shall celebrate it in the seventh month. You shall live in booths for seven days; all the native-born in Israel shall live in booths, so that your generations may know that I had the sons of Israel live in booths when I brought them out from the land of Egypt. I am the Lord your God.’”
After the mass exodus from Egypt, when God brought all the Israelites out of slavery with His mighty hand there were tested in the wilderness. They lived in shelters for the next forty years as they wandered in the desert. God instructed them to build a tabernacle for worship and even this was mobile. In this way God taught, prepared, and tested His people all at the same time. The children of these people were the ones who came into the promised land, and it was they that would carry on the lessons taught to them by God for the generations to come. In all things they were to be reminded that it was not they that was the author of their destiny, but God. It was God who created them, saved them, and provided for them. In giving thanks for the harvest and by staying in a makeshift shelter for seven days, it would serve to remind the Israelites of God’s saving and providing for them since the exodus from Egypt.
In this country, we celebrate the harvest with Thanksgiving Day. We remember how our European and Native American ancestors worked together and with God’s help brought in their first harvest in this new world. Coming together to eat in fellowship and giving their thanks to the Almighty for all the good that the harvest provided. That is why, to this day, family and friends come together in November to celebrate and give thanks to God. These are just two stories, but in fact, there are at least fifteen other countries in the world that celebrate the harvest by giving thanks to God and coming together in celebration.
So far, we have been talking about harvest in the traditional sense, that of crops for food, but the Bible also talks of another kind of harvest, the harvest of souls for salvation. Since the dawn of time, the fall of human beings into sin has caused a separation between us and our Creator. Imagine it as sin creating a great chasm between us and God that cannot be crossed. We are desirous to get back to our right relationship with the Father, but we just can’t seem to be able to bridge the distance due to our sinful lives, lives in which we are all guilty. The Father then sends the Son, Jesus, to pay the penalty for our sins. In doing so, Jesus not only becomes the bridge that crosses the chasm allowing access back to the Father, but He also pays the toll that gets us over the bridge. Don’t stand at the bridge and think you can pay your own way across, because your money is no good. All you need to do is believe that the toll is paid for you and to humble yourself to cross over with a thankful heart.
While Jesus was still in His earthly ministry, He trained His followers in the good news of God, that salvation was near. He prepared them for what they were to do then and, in the future, after He was gone. Jesus tells His disciples in Matthew 9:37-38 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.” Just like today’s dilemma, there is much work, but few that are willing to do it. Jesus is telling His disciples that there are many souls to save, but few who will do the work and that they need to pray for God for more people to help.
Like King Solomon wrote in Ecclesiastes, there is a time for everything and a season for everything under heaven. We are all aware of all the good times and difficult times that each of us may experience in this life, but Solomon tells us that it is all part of God’s plan for salvation. Salvation, easy right, but how does God bring us, a rebellious lot, back to Him without going against our free will, and how do we learn to love God without being forced, which wouldn’t be love at all? How do we change at our core, not just at surface level? Like Solomon says, there is a season.
First God prepared a chosen people to prepare the way of the coming of salvation, Jesus Christ- one season. Next, after Jesus’ death and resurrection, salvation has been secured and believers are sent out to save all that will listen- another season, and the one we are still currently in. Finally, there will be the end times and the second coming of Christ- another season. All of these seasons given to us by God to save the most souls as possible. Remember what Peter tells us in his second letter 3:8-13,
“But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead, he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything done in it will be laid bare. Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming. That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat. But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, where righteousness dwells."
Nature’s first green is gold, Her hardest hue to hold. Her early leaf’s a flower; But only so an hour. Then leaf subsides to leaf. So Eden sank to grief, So dawn goes down to day. Nothing gold can stay.
American poet, Robert frost wrote this poem in 1923. It talks about how everything is perfect, like gold, in the beginning. Whether it is a new leaf in the springtime, a newborn baby, or the dawn of human beings in the garden of Eden, all starts out, in his words, gold. He then goes on to tell us that in this life all things change in their season and nothing gold, nothing perfect, can stay that way. Aren't we all feeling the effects of life upon us? Our bodies wear out. Sometimes, life feels like moments between tragedy. That seems like a pessimistic view of life, but if we are truthful with ourselves, we often feel that way. In this world we see many seasons, some good and some bad, some easy and some extremely hard, but God is with us every step of the way. He is there to celebrate with us in our joys, support us in our grief, and to mourn with us in death.
Thanks be to our Heavenly Father, that the faith He gives us brings something else- hope. Jesus Christ is our hope, the defeater of death, the Holy one that death could not keep. Jesus paid the price to bring us back to the Eden, the paradise, that we once shared with the Father. This life and its many seasons are not the end, but a place of learning and of experiencing how much we really need God that can lead, if you allow Jesus’ sacrifice to work to its proper end, to the next life. I love J.R.R. Tolkien’s words in the ‘Lord of the Rings’ describing the transition to a heavenly place, "The grey rain curtain of this world rolls back, and all turns to silver glass...and then you see it. White shores. And beyond...a far green country under a swift sunrise."
Thanks be to God for providing us with a season of harvest and for continuing the harvest of our souls to the place where the garden of God never fades, and everything and everyone remains gold. Glory be to God. Amen.