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A Summons to Prayer 06-18-2006

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“A Summons to Prayer”

Matthew 9:35-38

June 18th, 2006

Paul Van Maaren

Senior Pastor

Faith Reformed Church, Lynden, Washington

I want to remind you of where we’ve been.  Prayer is the hot topic or our conversation.  And specifically in three ways.  First, the intimacy of the relationship between the prayer and the Lord.  Then the tools to get us prepared to pray.  And finally praying by the book.  That’s where we’ve been.  Here’s where we’re going.

The question is this.  What do we pray for?  Jesus has an answer for us as a body of his followers.  Of all the thins we each pray for here’s one we cay pray together.  Oh, but before that, will you please pray with me.

Father, may your word be our rule;

Your Spirit our teacher;

And the glory of Jesus our single concern,

In whose name we pray.  Amen

Listen to these words from the book that we love.

Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness.  When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.  Then he said to his disciples, "The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few.  Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field."

This is the Word of the Lord.  Thanks be to God.  Amen.

So, Jesus is visiting every little town and backwoods village of the Jews.  He’s going to all the off the map places.  Doing 3 things.  Teaching in their churches.  Preaching the great news of the kingdom of God and of his reign on earth.  And healing every disease and sickness.  From tummy aches to tuberculosis.  And bruised knees to blind eyes.  Jesus is healing.  Jesus is teaching.  And Jesus is preaching.  If we look with a wider angle lens on this scripture we see Jesus doing these awesome things.

He’s healing a paralytic.  Calling Matthew, a tax collector, to be one of his disciples.  A “sinner” by the peoples definition.  And hanging out with him.  Jesus is teaching about fasting.  He’s healing a woman with bleeding.  He’s raising a young girl from the dead.  He’s healing blind and mute men.  Jesus is teaching, preaching, and healing.  In every town and backwoods; off the map kind of place.

Why?  Because when he saw those people.  He was moved with compassion because the people were distressed and dejected.  Made fun of and moaning.  Harassed and helpless.  And there is no better simile or metaphor to describe it.  The crowds of people were like sheep without a shepherd.  It reminds me of the people who don’t or won’t say The Lord is my shepherd.  People who don’t hear the shepherds call.  People in the valley of the shadow of death who don’t know where to go.  Or who to turn to.  People who have a hard time thinking.  Or a hard time praying.  And a hard time seeing.

And in the midst of all this Jesus turns to his disciples and says, “Hey fellas.  Look around you.  There is plenty of harvest to be done.  People need to know me and my love.  People are sick and the Father wants them well.  People are dying.  People are harassed by demons.  There is plenty to be reaped for God.  But not many don’t.  So here’s what I want you to do.  Ask the Lord of the harvest to send out people to work in his harvest field.

And after.  Jesus gives his disciples authority and sends them out.  Instructing them on what to do.

So the question is.  What do we pray for?  Jesus said it.  "The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few.  Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field."

This is a prayer.  the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.  Of all the things to bring to the throne of God’s grace.  Jesus gives us one here.  the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.  Its not the only prayer that Jesus says to pray.  There’s also the Lord’s prayer.  So titled because when asked how to pray, Jesus offers “the Lord’s prayer.”  Jesus also opens the door for our own prayers and petitions.  What would praying be without space and giving voice to our own longings and conditions.  Jesus says, Ask and it will be given to you.  Seek and you will find; Knock and the door will be opened to you.  For everyone who asks receives and everyone who seeks finds and to him who knocks the door will be opened.

There are many people, places, situations, causes, and things for which to pray.  Go ahead and pray for them.  Thanks be to God that he hears our prayers.  And one of those prayers Jesus asks his disciples.  And we his followers today is:  The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few.  Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.

This is a prayer for the whole Church.  With a capital “C.”  A prayer for the whole church of every time and of every place.  As the theologians and creeds say.  The Catholic Church.  That is, every Christian believer of every time and every place.  It’s a prayer for the capital “C” Church.  And for us a local body of believers.  Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field..  It’s a prayer to pray as we ask, “God what do you want done?”

It’s a harvest were talking about.  Its plentiful.  There’s enough work for each of us.  But it’s not my harvest.  Or your harvest.  Its not our harvest.  It’s the Lord’s harvest.  Its his harvest field.  Not ours.  Not even the Church’s harvest.  It’s the Lord’s harvest.

We’re at the beginning of a harvest.  The berry season.  Of the strawberries thus far we had, Hannah and I’ve managed to eat them all.  She takes the first bite and I finish it off.  I was quite impressed during the Farmer’s Day Parade.  I hadn’t seen one of those raspberry or blueberry harvesters in operation yet.  I can’t wait to see one in the field.  That stuff’s kind of cook!  My familiarity is with combines.  Harvesting corn and soybeans.

Harvesting today is a far cry from what it used to be.  I’ve seen the old pictures up at Homestead.  People picking strawberries in long rows.  All by hand.  But we probably don’t need to go back that far.  Some of you remember those days before berry harvesters.  In Iowa when they used to pick the corn by hand.  You’d tear it off the stalk.  Shuck it with a hook device tied to your wrist.  Throw it off the bank board on and wagon and in.  Today they still have competitions.  All the really old guys always win.  They were doing this stuff since they were kids.

Times have change haven’t they?  Harvesting then was a very physical act.  It took many more people.  Its sweat.  Its heat.  Its work.  Its time.  Harvesting is hard manual labor.  There’s much to be done.  Harvesting in 1st Century Palestine was all the more physical and hard.  No machines.  Maybe some hand tools.  It was a very bodily act.

But the harvest that Jesus is talking about isn’t a harvest of berries, milk, or corn.  The harvest Jesus is talking about is one of people.  And a harvest of the manifestations of the Kingdom of God.  A harvest of people whose eyes are opened to the good news of Jesus Christ.  People who are brought into the Lord’s store houses.  It’s a harvest of the power of the Reign of God.  We see Jesus healing.  Teaching.  Loving the lost.  Raising the dead.  Soon Jesus gives instructions to his disciples to heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons.

The harvest is the breaking in of the Kingdom of God into our world.  We see it manifest when people believe in and follow after Jesus Christ.  We see it when people are healed.  Healed from physical sickness and disease.  Healed from emotional trauma and pain.  Delivered from the torments of demons.  Jesus said, The Kingdom of God is at hand.  It began with him.  God’s kingdom.  God’s Reign broke into the world in Jesus Christ.  And God continues that work today by the work and power of the Holy Spirit…

Through you and every Christian believer.

We have many things to pray for.  Jesus tells us to ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.  Its the Lord’s harvest.  And there’s plenty to be done.  So will you please pray for workers.

Do you know this word?  Carne.  Carne. 

If you know Spanish you do.  And if I’m saying it correctly.  You know then that this word translates into English as “meat.”  Carne to meat.  Carne is related to another English word I’m certain you know.  It’s a theological word.  But don’t let that scare you.  The word is incarnation.  You can hear the carne in incarnation.  And its no surprise.  They’re related.

We call what Jesus did while in the womb and at his birth, the incarnation.  Meaning, in the flesh.  The living God.  The most high God became  in Jesus Christ incarnate.  God came to us in the flesh.  Borrowing from the translation of carne.  God comes to us “in the meat.”  He had bones like our bones and flesh like our flesh.  God came “in the meat.”  A real human being.  Fully God and fully human.

And something like unto this happens today.  And has since 50 days after Jesus ascended to the Father.  When someone believes, becoming a follower after Jesus Christ, she he, receives the gift of the Holy Spirit.  God himself comes and takes up residence and indwells that person.  In their flesh.  God chooses to use us for his harvest.  For the work of his kingdom and to manifest God’s power breaking into this world.  The living God dwells in us.  And that which God began in Jesus Christ.  He continues to do to this day through all of his followers.  And will bring it to completion and fulfillment in Jesus Christ when he comes again.

Will you ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field?  The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few.

Please pray.  Jesus asks us to pray.  We need everyone.  We need workers with compassion like Jesus.  A compassion for people in their distress and dejection.  Workers who love people like Jesus loved.  Loving people even before fixing them up.  Workers who will go out into the fields.  Into the fields of our neighborhoods.  Into the fields of city slums.  Into the fields of migrant camps.  Into the fields of office and school.  Farm and store.  Into the fields of foreign nations and our own back yard.  Into the fields for the world’s poorest poor.  Into the fields of corporate offices.  We need people sent out.  Sent out.  Sent out.  Sent out to do 90% of ministry outside the walls of the church building.  Folks, we need workers.  Please pray.

Pray for young people and leaders who will set out today for Yakima.

Please pray that the Lord will send out a generation who set their own life’s agenda aside and take up the Lord’s agenda.  And the work in his harvest field.

We’re not talking simply of pastors and missionaries.  We need them, but there is more than these can handle.  The capital “C” Church and our local congregations are cheap fast food restaurants.  Nor any restaurant at all.  We are not customers.  The Church and the local congregation.  That’s us.  We are people sent out in mission.  We are workers in the Lord’s harvest field.  Please pray for workers.

Pray for women.  Pray for children.  Pray for men.  There isn’t a machine for this harvest.  This is old tyme harvestin.’  Sweat.  Work.  Tim.  Men this is right up your alley.  We need one another.

We must not go to work and then pray.  But pray for workers.  Pray first.  Then work and pray more.  Because there is plenty of harvesting to be done.

90%, if not more, of American congregations are at a crossroads.  We can follow a path of ministry we’re on and that has blessed us well of 50 to 100years.  Ministry will continue to go on in much the same way.  But a decline will become increasingly obvious.  Or, we can take the path of prayer.  Admitting to God that we can’t do it on our own.  And asking the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.  Asking the Lord thy kingdom come, thy will be done.  Asking “God, what do you want done?  And will you do it with your power through us?  Will you fill us with your Holy Spirit?  Will you let stuff begin to happen?

Beloved, will you please take the path of prayer.  Its not a Sunday School answer anymore.  Please pray.  Amen.

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