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Saturday, March 23, 2013

Full silos don't equal a good harvest

Harvest:  A supply of anything gathered at maturity and stored; the result or consequences of any act, process, or event.

I wonder if we have given much thought to the various "harvests" we have in our lives.  In most cases, we are not farmers - so this idea of "harvesting" is not fully understood.  The great work of producing the end result of a tremendous "intake" of grain is almost missed by us because we simply go to the local grocer and purchase the bagged flour, loaf of bread, or cake mix right off the shelf.  If there was a greater appreciation for the "work" which makes the harvest possible, I wonder if we'd have any greater appreciation for the "filled shelves" at the grocer?  Our definition above is really interesting, simply because it doesn't start with the definition of a farmer's work, but of the general work of seeing something to the point of maturity - then storing up the thing which has been brought to this point.  It also focuses on the idea of a process producing a certain outcome - the benefits of which provide for the basis of what will be "stored up" for the future.  Truly, these are the two most foremost definitions of the word "harvest". 

When you harvest your grain and forget a sheaf back in the field, don’t go back and get it; leave it for the foreigner, the orphan, and the widow so that God, your God, will bless you in all your work. When you shake the olives off your trees, don’t go back over the branches and strip them bare—what’s left is for the foreigner, the orphan, and the widow. And when you cut the grapes in your vineyard, don’t take every last grape—leave a few for the foreigner, the orphan, and the widow. (Deuteronomy 24:19-21 MSG)

In looking at our definition again, we see there is an inability to "store up" if there first has not been a "supply of".  So, the beginning point of the harvest is in the supplying of what will produce the harvest.  In the simplest terms - no seed, no harvest.  Think on that one a little - let it roll around in your brain.  No seed - no harvest.  The type of seed always determines the harvest, right?  So, in the most literal sense, we could turn this to the things we DON'T sow as providing the results we will reap.  No unkind words - no strife in a relationship.  No impulsive choices - no regrets or shame.  

What "supply" we tap into most is what we will see as the resulting harvest we will "store up" for days to come.  If the "supply chain" is directly from the hands of God, the stored product will be that which produces further fruitfulness in our lives.  If the "supply chain" is something other than God's best, the harvest may not be as beneficial for our storehouses!  The connection I want us to see this morning is in the supply of what will be planted and the harvest which will be available for storage during "leaner" times in our lives.  

There is also another portion of this definition which beckons for our consideration this morning.  The idea of something coming to a place of maturity before it is harvested almost escapes us today as many farmers "reap" the crops long before they ripen - so they have a longer "shelf life".  Here's the rub - they just don't taste the same!  When ripening occurs exactly where the seed was planted, the "taste" produced is richer or flavorful.  Why?  The product was meant to "mature" where it was planted!  It was not meant to "mature" in a fruit bowl on your kitchen table, or in the brown bag on your shelf!  It might allow the fruit to ripen, but it still doesn't taste the same as a vine ripened tomato, or the tree ripened avocado.  The outward appearance may be the same, but it is in the experience of the "taste" where we really note the differences.

You can "force" ripening - but the result is a pitiful excuse for the intended taste!  The same is true in our spiritual lives.  We can remove ourselves from the place where we have been planted way too soon.  Sure, we see evidence of fruit - something worth harvesting.  Yet, if we are removed too soon from the place where we are planted - the harvest will only yield tasteless seed!  The richness and robustness of the produced fruit is really only evidenced when the fruit is allowed to ripen right where it was planted.  If you haven't noticed, the seed wasn't planted in the dark!  It was planted in the light, watered regularly, and the soil around it was worked regularly to keep it weed free.  So, before the harvest comes a whole lot of purposeful planning and consistent work.  In the season of harvest, we are tempted to "store up" when we see the beginning evidence of fruit - but waiting just a little longer often brings just the right amount of added "son-shine" we need to experience the richest of harvests.

In our passage above, the idea of harvest also carries the intentional leaving of something behind.  Now, for those who work the land, this may seem like a senseless waste - leaving some of the harvest behind.  But...in what is left, there is even greater provision!  You see, there are those who cannot produce the fruit without a seed - the seed you provide by the intentional leaving of something of the harvest available for the taking.  I don't know about you, but some of the best "seeds" in my life have been left by those who have allowed the seed they were "supplied" to come to maturity in their lives - allowing me to glean a little of their harvest so those "seeds" supplied by their harvest to become the basis of growth for the similar harvest in my life.

I don't know the harvest you will bear today - or even if the harvest will be today.  The season of harvest may be in seed-form in your lives right now.  It could be just about to begin the "reaping" phase.  Regardless of where you are in the process - you needed the first "seed" to be supplied.  You and I are called upon to intentionally provide for those who have no way of producing the harvest in their own lives without the seed you have already seen come to the place of maturity in yours.  We become instruments of God's "supply chain" in the process.  If you are anxious to call it a "harvest" and be done with the entire maturing process, remember this - the harvest is best when the maturing is allowed to occur right where the seed was planted.  Don't rush God's handiwork.  You might get fruit, but the richness of it may not be as enjoyable as it would have been if you'd have stayed a little longer where you were planted.  Just sayin!