The parables of Jesus thrill with harvest imagery, sowing on the ground, reaping the fields and keeping grain in barns.
As a countryman in the days of his flesh it was natural for Jesus to use sowing, reaping and keeping to illustrate the purposes of God.
As Jesus’ disciples we serve a threefold process of sowing, reaping and keeping. The kingdom of God, Jesus says in Mark 4v26 is as if someone would scatter seed on the ground...the seed would sprout and grow...but when the grain is ripe, at once he goes in with his sickle, because the harvest has come.
We interpret such parables, like today's Gospel of the Sower, as encouragements to sow God's love and harvest a response in God's good time which bears fruit in a body kept faithful in God's praise and service.
We can use Jesus's parables of sowing, reaping and keeping as a form of self examination for ourselves and our Christian community.
How much of our energies are put into serving others for their own sake - which is sowing?
When we find people ready to commit themselves in love to God, have we the courage and means to reap for him by inviting and sealing that commitment?
Are the spiritual disciplines of worship, prayer, study, service and reflection so active in me and my church that newcomers naturally come close to God with and through us?
These soul searching questions trace back to the words and deeds of Jesus who sowed himself upon the Cross like a grain of wheat to reap and keep a harvest of love for God through the Church's praise and service.
Let's follow then such soul searching as we look for a few minutes at sowing, reaping and keeping using three pictures that address these headings.
SOWING - How much of our energies are put into serving others for their own sake?
I'm asking you to answer for yourself or for the Presentation to which I'm a new comer.
Helping people into Christian Faith requires countering a lot of misinformation, notably affirming 'God is good' and 'the Church is OK' (ecumenical brief)
REAPING - When we find people ready to commit themselves in love to God, have we the courage and means to reap for him by inviting and sealing that commitment?
Missed opportunities - value of Alpha Course etc in providing a pathway into commitment and empowerment by the Spirit.
KEEPING - Are the spiritual disciplines of worship, prayer, study, service and reflection so active in me and my church that newcomers naturally come close to God with and through us?
The church's mission is weak because its prayer is weak.
I want to end by reading a passage from a book I wrote just published by Bible Reading Fellowship entitled Experiencing Christ’s Love which a fivefold template for a Christian rule of life:
· Sunday church attendance
· day by day formal and free prayer times
· ongoing study of the bible and the church’s faith
· occasions spending time serving others
· regular self-examination and occasions for confession/guidance
The Christian discipline of reflection is a reminder of love, being loved and loving, and of our failure to love in which attitudes are key. This book has at its heart a reminder to stick at loving God through five attitudes commended by Jesus Christ knowing ‘we love because he first loved us’ (1 John 4:19). The Lord Jesus gives us this overarching rule: ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.. and your neighbour as yourself’ (Matthew 22:37, 39b).
Loving God with your heart and soul can be seen as what worship and prayer are primarily about, linked to loving him with your mind in study, your neighbour in service and yourself through reflection.
To experience Christ’s love we’re therefore invited to follow five disciplines interrelated, like the thumb and fingers of the human hand, set to grasp the hand of God that reaches down to us in Jesus Christ. Worship and prayer are heart and soul of our love for God but without engaging our minds with his teaching our love will be ill formed, Jesus implies, and without service, love of neighbour, and reflection, loving care of self, our loving God will be a delusion.
Like the Hamsa hand symbol of hope and peace the five loves invited by Jesus in Matthew 22:37-39 are a call to and a reminder of balanced and effective discipleship. What’s distinctive about Christian as opposed to other spiritual disciplines is the ‘hand up’ of grace they engage with. If Christian disciplines attain salvation they do so by grasping the hand of the Saviour. Experiencing Christ’s love in the five disciplines of worship, prayer, study, service and reflection is a taking of God’s hand in ours, the welcoming of his loving provision of forgiveness and healing that’s a hand up into his possibilities.
Experiencing Christ's Love book p83-84