Mark 4: 26-29.
Here is a fact.
Farmers like to complain about the weather.
At the start of the year we had farmers complaining that the snow was too deep. It was making the ground too hard.
During the spring all we had was farmers saying, ‘It’s too wet. It’s flooding our fields’
Then during the summer we had farmers complaining that it was too dry. All that sun. Too much sun. The ground was too dry.
Maybe that has always been the way with farmers.
Always complaining that the weather is out of their control.
Maybe that is why Jesus used this parable.
We sow the seed but then the rest is up to God. The sun heating the ground. The rain watering the ground, the summer sun giving light to the leaves to feed and grow.
The autumn dryness to harvest the crops.
None of that is in the farmers control.
Harvest has always had two purposes.
The first is to celebrate all the farmers and the work that they do.
The quality of life that we have has much to do with the work of the farmers.
And not just the farmers of the land; those that grow crops and those that rear stock.
Also those that go out to sea to fish in often dangerous waters.
Those that grow the yeast to make bread and ferment whisky or bear.
Those that grow bacteria to make insulin, or the various fungi to make antibiotics.
Now that would also include those that harvest the wind and the sun for energy.
Harvest celebrates the various chains of activity that ensure that the food and energy arrive safe to our homes, free from contamination, and in time to be eaten fresh.
Those in container ships that travel through the seas bringing food from distant lands.
99% of the time we just take it all for granted.
But for a small while we take time to reflect, and realise how important these people are.
Earlier this year when the snows came and the town was effectively cut off. When the lorries couldn't get to the CO-OP and other shops and the stock was getting very low. Suddenly we realised how fragile our lines of distribution could be.
And part of me wants to celebrate your part in that.
Some folk find this modern world very hard.
It seems to be a world where even if you are working then you might not have enough to live on. More people are working than ever before, but many are working on zero hours contracts where they are limited as to how much work they can do. And if they don't get enough hours then they don’t get enough money to live on. What’s worse if they are sick or looking after a family member who is ill, and can't work, then they get nothing.
A friend of mine recently was made redundant.
He thought he would be fine because he had worked hard for the company for over 20 years. He was due a great redundancy package. With that he could look after himself and his family until he had found a new job.
But then the firm declared itself bankrupt and the package he thought he was going to get disappeared.
He wasn’t in threat because over the years he had built up enough savings to get by till he got a new job, and his house had been paid for. But he would tell of workmates. Maybe five-ten years in their career. Both partners working for the firm. Both loosing their job.
Now wondering how to pay for the food bills, the electricity bills, the car payments, let alone mortgage payments.
The worry of possibly loosing their home and becoming homeless if they couldn't get a job within a couple of months.
There can be many reasons why people struggle.
And in that time you would have been helping.
This church has given thousands of items of food to the food bank to help such people in their times of struggle. And not just individuals. Families.
And that food isn’t just food.
It is a mind of thanksgiving that those families have because there is one less thing that they have to worry about.
It is the lowering of stress in the house because of that lessing of worry.
With the lowering of stress there is a lowering of tension and maybe just a bit of normality.
There may be families out there that are still together because of the simple donations that you have given. Children that have two parents supporting each other, and them, at a difficult time...rather than two parents fighting over custody. Because you lowered the stress and worry that they were facing because of lack of food.
They may never know you, you may never know them. But on their behalf I thank you for the donations you have given.
So food; the growing and distribution of food and celebrating all of that. That is the first purpose of harvest. That we never take any of it for granted but have a thankful heart.
The second is to reflect on what type of harvest we are creating.
Jesus often reflected that our outreach to others was very similar to the work of the farmers and fishermen.
He told his first disciples that if they followed him he would make them fishers of men instead of fish. Their harvest would not be a net of fish, but capturing people for the kingdom of God.
Jesus, earlier in this chapter, tells of a farmer going out and sowing seed and the different types of earth that the seed fell on, and some seed was successful and other seed failed to grow.
I want to reflect on that a bit.
It is easy for us to give up.
It is easy for us to not even try.
Because what is the point of trying?
Our churchws are all struggling.
Numbers are going down.
If we look at our own church.
We struggle to get our children to come to church, and we definitely don't ever see our grandchildren in church.
They just don’t bother.
And that saddens us.
Think about this.
If every member of this church had their children and grandchildren coming to church every Sunday then this place would be packed.
To be honest we might not be able to get them all in.
We might even need to have a second service.
That’s a dark shadow on us.
One of the very few commandments that Jesus gave us was to go into all the world and make disciples of all people.
We can’t even inspire our own children and grandchildren to come.
And the thing was. Jesus didn't say, ‘Go into all the world and make disciples of all people, unless you can think of some really good excuses for them not to be disciples; like they are busy on a Sunday, or they play rugby or football, or that’s when they do their shopping.’
Here’s what I think.
I think we give up too easily.
I think we are like the farmer who says, ‘The sun is too hot, the rain is too wet, the ground is too dry.’
And because of all his excuses the farmer doesn’t sow any seed.
I think we are like the farmer who says, ‘But so many of my seeds will be eaten by birds or land on ground too rocky to grow, or land to hard to grow.’
And because of that he doesn't sow any seed.
I would suggest that the failure we have, is not that we are rubbish at the harvest, the failure we have is that we don’t sow enough seed.
Every time we are a blessing to someone else, we are sowing seed.
There is no reason for not helping others, not being a blessing to others, not supporting or guiding or encouraging others.
You may say that hardly any of the seed will grow.
That is not a reason for not sowing seed, that is a reason for sowing more seed.
You may say that you have no control over the environment of the seeds, what if it is too dry or too wet. That is not a reason for not sowing seed, that is a reason for sowing more seed.
The more seed that we sow, the greater the chance that some of that seed will stick.
That is just a fact.
If I have 100 seed and I don't sow any of that seed guess how much of that seed will grow...NONE OF IT.
If I have 100 seed and I sow all of it then how much of that seed will grow...SOME OF IT.
I took maths up to university level. I appreciate that some of you might not be as good at maths as I am. But here’s a mathematical truth....SOME OF IT is more than NONE OF IT.
So here is the harvest I believe God wants of us.
To have a life that sows blessings to others.
That cares, that helps, that encourages others.
That like Dave in the council just tries to be a good guy in politics and bring people together to help those less fortunate and defend those who often have no voice.
Who like Ann in the community council tries to make Alva a better place to live in.
Who like Jean meets up with friends on a Saturday and encourages them.
Who like Jan works in a charity shop so that people overseas can find a bit of hope.
Who like Isa visits her old housebound neighbour and makes sure she is OK.
The farmer turns round and says, ‘The land is too dry, the rain is too wet, the sun is too warm.’
And the farmer is right, the conditions are rarely perfect for sowing the seed. But just because the conditions aren't perfect, is no excuse for not sowing.
If the farmer never sows, the harvest never comes.
There is so much we have little or no control over.
And God knows that.
But he asks us to do what we can.
To be the blessing to others that we can be, and he will look after the rest.
God will look after the sun and the rain and the wind.
God will look after the winter and the spring, the summer and the autumn.
We, we can look after the sowing.
Let us be the blessing to others that God wishes us to be.
And let God worry about the rest of it.