Contributor: Bruce Laverman, Evangelism Connections Advisory Board
Job 42:1-6, 10-17 or Jeremiah 31:7-9; Psalm 34:1-8, (19-22) or Psalm 126; Hebrews 7:23-28; Mark 10:46-52
Theme: Harvest Time: “Bringing in the Sheaves”
Message: “What About the Sheaves?”
Garrison Keilor describes life in the upper Midwest at this time of the year as the gardens of the rural folk have yielded their crop and the folk have finished cleaning up their gardens and they can look out their windows at the gardens and feel like they are done. That is unlike the rest of life, which seems to have few punctuation marks, but rather a continual moving from one duty to another without a break.
The Psalm for this Sunday mirrors somewhat the emotions of a people who are remembering how God had led them out of captivity, back to their own land where they began life over again…”The Lord has done great things for us, and we rejoiced.” He remembers the return from exile in a foreign land, and rejoices being home again.
But life has a way of flipping quickly and so the author of Psalm 126 now deals in the second half of the psalm song with the other side of the coin, the dark side of disappointment: “Restore our fortunes, O Lord, like the watercourses in the Negeb. May those who sow in tears reap with shouts of joy. Those who sow in tears, reap with shouts of joy. Those who go out weeping, bearing the seed for sowing, shall come home with shouts of joy, carrying their sheaves.
Like the psalmist at times we reflect on our lives and about the work we have done in our life, and for God, as a parent, church officer, prayer leader, youth worker, Sunday school teacher, elder, deacon, cheerful giver, or just a good follower of the Lord, and we may go weeping because, looking back now, it really doesn’t look like much. What difference have I made, we ask. What seeds have I planted?
And the promise comes zinging in from the psalm singer in the Message translation by Eugene Peterson: So those who went out with heavy hearts will come home laughing, with armloads of blessing. Now that sounds like good news for those weary pilgrims on an autumn morning. The Lord speaks to us through the psalm that in spite of our human weaknesses we will gather sheaves of harvest from our seed sowing. We need to follow the singer who tells us that we need to move from weeping to reaping!
I’m reminded of a hymn often sung on Little House on the Prairie; grandma’s favorite on the Beverly Hillbillies, and sung by the congregation in Mayberry on The Andy Griffith Show. It wasn’t the greatest hymn ever written, but it fits right in to Psalm 126, especially at this time of the year…the harvest, when the sheaves of bundled waves of grain were carried by the harvester to be stacked at the harvest…that’s the picture here in the psalmist’s mind and the hymn writer, too.
“Bringing in the sheaves, bringing in the sheaves,
We shall come rejoicing, bringing in the sheaves”
(Knowles Shaw, 1874)
And the metaphorical image is that of Christ’s disciples (then and now) presenting to God the new disciples who have been brought into his service graciously through their humble efforts; our spiritual children and grandchildren, some would say.
Jesus 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.(Matt. 9:37-38)
He who goes out weeping, carrying seed to sow, will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with him. (Ps. 126:6)
As we look back and look around us today we may go out weeping. This autumn Sunday morning a recent Pew study reports that “nones”- those who identify themselves as atheists or agnostics, or say them have no particular affiliation—now make up one in five U.S. adults, up from about 15% five years ago. Meanwhile, Pew reported that fewer than half of American respondents identified themselves as Protestant Christians for the first time in American history.
We worry about the lack of faith of our children and grandchildren, and out relatives, friends, neighbors and the people all around us at work and in the stores, and in the polling places, and at the football game, and driving next to us…For we have carried and continue to carry to the seed to sow, our own experience of God, our seeds of faith, deeds of kindness as the hymn says, of following Jesus in heart and life, our love for God and His people and our devotion to Christ’s gospel, and our desire to see faith in Christ born in others who may be in the Spring or summer of their lives.
Do we weep for them? Will we rejoice when the seeds we have sown bring the fruit of repentance and faith to those who we have not yet even imagined in our minds and hearts; people who may be like and may not be like us. Will our seeds of faith bear fruit. And are we carrying with us now the sheaves that the hymn describes: “Sowing in the morning, sowing seeds of kindness…by and by the harvest and the labor ended we shall come rejoicing, bringing in the sheaves.”
“Those who go out weeping, bearing the seed for sowing…” Ps. 126:
But have we carried the seed to sow…not the sacks, the form of godliness, but seeds, our experience of God, our seeds of faith, deeds of kindness, following Jesus, our love for God and His people, our devotion to Christ’s gospel, our desire to see the faith of Christ born in the hearts and minds of others, regardless of who they may be.
“…shall come home with shouts of joy, carrying their sheaves.”
What a day of rejoicing that will be.
“The harvest is past, the summer is ended, and we are not saved.” (Jer. 8:20)
“Do not be deceived; God is not mocked, for you reap whatever you sow. If you sow to your own flesh, you will reap corruption from the flesh; but if you sow to the Spirit, you will reap eternal life from the Spirit. So let us not grow weary in doing what is right, for we will reap at harvest time, if we do not give up. So then, whenever we have an opportunity, let us work for the good of all, and especially for those of the family of faith.” (Galatians 6:7-10)
Films, other audio-visuals:
The Apostle, 1997, especially the scene where the preacher (Robert Duvall) leads a repentant potential destroyer of his church to confession, repentance and redemption.
“Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee,” “We Praise Thee, O God, Our Redeemer” “Jesus Shall Reign Where’re the Sun,” “Bringing in the Sheaves,” “Lord, Be Glorified”
Prayer of Confession:
“Lord Jesus, we address you this morning as the Great Physician.
Heal our souls, for we have sinned.
Heal our minds, for we have made wrong choices.
Heal our conscience, for our values have been compromised.
Heal our hearts, for we have done right things for the wrong reasons.
Words of Assurance
Those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength,
They shall mount up with wings like eagles,
They shall run and not be weary,
They shall walk and not faint.
This morning, as we have so often before, we raise a prayer of intercession for those who are ill.
We pray for healing. You have created us, soul and body, and by your plan and by your creative power we have come into being. Doctors, nurses, medications, and machines play an important role, but you along are our ultimate healer. Where tissue and bones are broken, unite them. Where foreign substances are invading, cleanse them. Where diseases are taking over, defeat them.
But we know that not everyone will be healed, not everyone will return from the hospital. We know that not one of us will escape this planet alive. So we pray for comfort, we pray for peace, we pray for assurance, we pray for hope. We also pray for faith as each of us faces the eventual reality of our own mortality.
May the Lord answer you in the day of trouble!
May the name of the God of Jacob protect you!
May he send you help from the sanctuary and give you support from Zion.
May he grant you your heart’s desire, and fulfill all your plans.
–Adapted from Psalm 20:1, 2, 4”
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