35Then Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and curing every disease and every sickness. 36When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. 37Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; 38therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”
Reflection: Then Jesus went about all the cities and villages.
The story of Jesus is about God making a move toward us. God did not wait for us to get our act together and approach him. The Bible is filled with stories of God initiating encounters with his people – from Abraham to Peter to Mary Magdalene, God shows up when we least expect. But God’s presence is always a welcome experience for those who are surprised by him.
Jesus modeled this divine initiative in his life and ministry. He did not just ascend a high hill in Judea and stay there meditating, waiting for people to come to him. Jesus went out into the world around him. He then sent his disciples out to preach the good news and care for those in the cities surrounding Galilee. The word apostle, which the disciples were later called, literally means “one who is sent out.”
Sometimes we get comfortable in our Christian “bubbles.” We forget that there is a whole world outside the church walls that is in need of the same spiritual encounter with God that we have experienced. At one time, we were “out there” and in need of being brought inside God’s grace and love. God is mobilizing us, as agents of the kingdom of God, to take Christ into our homes, our workplaces, and the marketplace.
There is no guarantee that we will accepted in all of these places with our message. Not everyone we engage with will want to encounter the living God who works within and through us. Yet our responsibility is to go. All we control is our act of faith and obedience. God will produce the fruit – we are only asked to harvest it when it is ready. If we neglect the field, then we will miss the opportunity to harvest.
I encourage you this week to explore a movement within the United Methodist Church called Fresh Expressions. Follow the link and read about how people across the country are taking Christ into places that have often been ignored by the church. Some of these examples you encounter might not be for you or fit your expectations of church. But try to look beyond the environments and see the spirit in which these movements of God are taking place. As you read, be aware of how God is calling you to take Christ into the world. You might not be called to start a whole new movement or congregation, but perhaps God will stir some new work of the harvest within you that you can integrate into the ministry of the local church.
I heard a preacher once talk about the Great Commission in these terms: When Jesus says “Go, make disciples…” he is really saying, “As you go, make disciples…” In other words, discipleship, service, and other works of spiritual harvest do not happen in a special vacuum or place that is discovered in some mystical field beyond the real world. Those works of God happen in the everyday context of going wherever you go. Each place you set foot in today can be a field of spiritual harvest.
Journaling Focus: When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them.
Compassion is different than simply having concern for someone. It is a much deeper act of care that involves a great deal of attention, involvement, and commitment. Reflect on these questions as you write in your journal this week:
- What does compassion mean to you?
- When has someone treated you with compassion? How did this impact you?
- In what ways does our world need to experience compassion?
- How can you act out of compassion on behalf of others within your own context?
This practice allows you to listen to the Scripture for the week (in larger context) and to open yourself up to God’s voice in that Scripture.
Click on the audio link above and listen to the Scripture. As you listen this first time, ask God to point out to you a word or phrase from the Scripture.
- Click on the audio link above again and listen to the Scripture a second time. As you listen this second time, ask God to reveal to you the holy intentions for this word or phrase that is being spoken into your life.
- Click on the audio link above again and listen to the Scripture a third time. As you listen this third time, ask God how you might respond to this word or phrase being spoken into your life today.
These questions are designed to help make sense of the message of Scripture. They are not designed to overwhelm, but to enlighten. Do not feel as if you need to answer all – or even most – of these questions every week. Perhaps pick one or two that will help you explore the Scripture and its message more deeply.
Reading Scripture to Know:
- What is happening/being said? (Observation)
- Why is this happening/being said? (Interpretation)
- What does the rest of Scripture say about it? (Evaluation)
- What does it mean? (Understanding)
- What does it mean for us? (Application)
Reading Scripture to Grow:
- What words or phrases stand out to you? Why?
- Where do you hear the voice of God in this Scripture?
- How do you see the character of God reflected in this Scripture?
- How does this Scripture reveal God?
- How does this Scripture expose humanity and its need for God?
- How does this Scripture speak to what is happening in your life?
- How does this Scripture speak to what is happening in our world?
- What might God want to communicate to you (us) this week through this Scripture?
Scripture Reads Me:
- This passage makes me feel…
- This passage makes me think about…
- This passage reminds me of…
- This passage teaches me that God is…
- This passages teaches me that I am…
- This passage challenges me to…
Listen to the song, Here I Am, Lord. Pay special attention to how God works to provide for those he loves through mobilizing his faithful followers. Consider how your life responds to God’s initiative with “Here I am, Lord.” What is God communicating to you through this song? What might you communicate to God through this song?
Prayer Focus: They were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.
So many people go through life aimlessly. Sometimes we look for inspiration and leadership in celebrities or politicians or relationships, but ultimately we will only thrive when we look for leadership from Jesus Christ. Pray for those who feel lost and vulnerable. Ask God to be their light and their rock. Trust in God’s leadership for your own life, as you pray for a sensitivity to the Spirit’s guidance.
Meditation Focus: The harvest is plentiful…
Every day God is working to produce the fruit of his kingdom among us and in us. Imagine yourself standing in your house, office, or even church. Allow your mind to take a bird’s eye view of you standing in this place. Draw a circle with your imagination around that place. As the circle slowly expands around you, ask God to reveal to you where the places/people of harvest are around you. What fruit is God growing in your neighborhood and your sphere of influence? Where is God asking you to go as a spiritual “gatherer” – one who recognizes the work of God and who acts out of love and grace to help bring it to fruition? Perhaps this will be an old passion of yours that is stirred within you. Perhaps God is working to bring a new area of service to your life. Either way, who/what is God leading you toward in compassionate service? And who might God be calling to aid you in this harvest?
Take some time to reflect upon your day or your week. Follow the process below and open yourself up to the presence and work of God in your life this week. Every week the structure is the same, but some specifics are changed to reflect the Scripture of the week.
- Find a place and posture that will prepare you for prayer.
- Begin by breathing in deeply through your nose and breathing deeply out of your mouth.
- Invite God to lead you through the previous day or week. For instance, if it is Tuesday night, reflect back on Tuesday morning, afternoon, and evening. If it Saturday or Sunday, reflect back on Monday through Friday.
- Ask God to guide you through these questions:
- Where have you seen the work of God?
- How is God equipping you?
- What needs have you noticed in the world?
- What breaks your heart?
- Thank God for this journey of reflection on your day or week. Ask God to continue to reveal Godself to you tomorrow.
Spend some time in nature this week. Even if it is cold and windy, find the beauty of the season. There is a stillness that is precious during this dormant season. God is about to bring our world – at least in the northern hemisphere – into the fruitfulness, color, and song of spring. But before this happens, God allows things to rest. Perhaps you need a time of rest and stillness before your harvest comes. So take some time to connect to God through the stillness of nature this winter’s week. Where do feel God stirring? How is God preparing your for bloom?
Breath Prayer: LORD God, mobilize us in loving-kindness.