Which harvest is the right one?

The following sermon was given on Sunday, Aug. 4, 2013 at the United UCC Church in Mobridge, SD. The scripture lessons were Luke 12:13-21 and Colossians 3: 1-11. We were supposed to go outdoors for this Sunday, but because of a heavy rain last night, we stayed inside. It was pretty cool, so it was a good idea to stay inside.

Grain elevators

What a great gospel lesson today. I can’t help but think that this could happen right here in our own state in our own time. This story makes me think of the many grain elevators that are scattered across both South and North Dakota. Right in Herreid there are three elevator structures. In fact the house where I live when I look out my upstairs window, I can see the structure that once was the Perman Elevator. Now it is used by the PIC company as their feed mill, but it was a family owned and operated elevator the whole time I was growing up in that town.
I also remember back to the days of my early childhood when the last of the elevators in Artas burned to the ground. I didn’t know it at the time, but I was told later that Artas was a major grain hub back in the early days of its existence. I was staying with a great aunt while my mother was in summer school and it took days for it to burn itself out. It was an amazing and horrible sight at the same time. My father was in town the night that elevator caught fire, and he helped the manager take as many of the records as they could salvage from the office before it was too far gone.
Now days you don’t so much see the big tall wooden structures as you see the large round steel bins. We have several of those added to the system that operates in Herreid now, though there still are years when some grain ends up on the ground, though not as much as they put on the ground in other places. In the 1980s when I taught in Jud, each fall would be a dangerous time for pets. The elevator system there always had a large overflow that they dumped on the ground, and as a result the town would fill with rats. Of course, you can get a head of me here, they would poison the rats, and end up killing most of the cats in town and a few of the dogs.
Today’s lesson contains a parable of a man who had such a great harvest that he didn’t have enough room to store it all. I can relate to that. I thought my garden was small last year, but I ended up running out of jars when I went to can. Rather than throwing out the rest of the harvest or buying more jars, I ended up freezing some of the produce. That process works with garden goods, but not so much with wheat and oats and barley and such. You need buildings to house those things and the man in the story Jesus told decided to build new and bigger buildings.
I could easily see this story happening around here. A farmer is established, he has been working at this life for a time, he has not just a good crop, but a great one, and he decides it is time to retire, take a break. Come to think of it, the CRP program of a few years ago encouraged many farmers to do just that. My mother had almost all of the farmland that she and my father owned in the CRP program when she passed on and left the land to her children.
Of all of the five of us children, I was the only one, who actively helped my parents on that farm before they rented it out and moved to town. My brother lives there now, but my three sisters never had to drive a tractor or grain truck or any of that, yet we all want to preserve the land, but CRP isn’t so much an option any more. We had the chance to roll one portion back into the program, but I wasn’t so happy with the amount of chemical that is used to control the weeds in those acres. So we rented it out, and now we are going to have to deal with the renters about digging and planting in spots that are highly erodible and have washed out in some recent intense down pour. Farming even from the sidelines is not a simple task.
The man in the story recorded by Luke might have simply been exhausted. He needed a break. He wanted to rest on his laurels. He was a good farmer. He hit a very good year. Around here that would mean just the right sun, just the right rain, good soil nutrients and no hail, wind, bugs or disease. Wouldn’t we all love a summer with that sort of harvest? Wouldn’t we all deserve a rest and celebration?
Come to think of it, didn’t Joseph when he was in Egypt gather the harvest for seven years and store it away? Yes, he stored it away to be saved for the seven lean years that he knew would be coming. He stored it away to save the people. To save the people, that is what was different about this story and Joseph’s story. The story that Jesus relates is about a man who takes his harvest and puts it away for himself. He gathers it all together then hordes it away for his own benefit.
This story isn’t just about being a good steward of the land and its produce. This story is about abundance and blessings and sharing. Jesus wants us to share. We are given a great portion in order to do a great amount of God’s work.
I have noticed today that the lectionary of these past three weeks have all been working together, which is what they are intended to do. See the first week that I was with you, we had the story of sitting at Jesus feet and listening to what he has to say. Last week, we talked about prayer and being in prayer with Jesus. It was about talking and listening to what God wants. Today’s story is about taking all the blessings that we are given and doing something with them.
Jesus didn’t demand that the man give away everything that he had, though there are stories about that in other parts of the gospel. Luke starts this particular text with the story of a man who comes to Jesus with a question about his inheritance. In those days land divisions were often such that the oldest son would get the majority of the land while other siblings were given a smaller portion. In this case it was believed that the younger son came to Jesus because the older brother gave him nothing. Jesus answer was to tell him the story of the man who had much and stored it all away for himself and then lost it all because his time was up.
So we ask, if we can’t lay up treasures for ourselves to live on for retirement then what? We hear so much about planning for retirement now. Then again I am just more in tune with that sort of thing as I think about nearing the time of retirement. All the advisors tell us to make sure we have enough to get us through those years when we won’t be working at a high paying job.
Jesus says laying up treasures on this earth is not what his kingdom is about. Yes, we will need some sort of “treasure” some type of cash in the bank to get us through our basic needs, but we won’t need it when we are gone. Jesus wants us to be sure to lay up our “treasures” for when we leave this earth and meet with him in paradise.
It is like the words of Paul to the Colossians, we are to set our sights on heavenly treasures not on treasures on earth. This is what God is telling us through his word, not only does he want us to listen to his word and spend time in prayer, in conversation with him, but God also wants us to be doing some of the work of his kingdom. We need to be out working on the harvest not just of wheat and corn and hay as the farmer in the gospel story, but we need to be about the harvest of God’s people. We need to be about witnessing and caring for others that they might know the way to God’s kingdom. See, he has blessed us so much; it is only a little thing for us to return the favor and do some of his work while we are here. Let us all remember that this week as we go about our regular business. Amen!!

2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Kathy
    Aug 04, 2013 @ 13:45:30

    Very intriguing thoughts, indeed. Thinking of the silo my grandpa kept for grain on his farm, back in the days when he was farming. Thinking that maybe we’re meant to keep our attention more on the present moment rather than focus on the future. However, your interpretation of the harvest of God’s people is perhaps a good one. Perhaps it’s not the harvest in the grain elevator which matters as much. 🙂

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