Wednesday, September 4, 2013

John Community Chapter 4: The Work We Did Not Do

I grew up on a farm with cows, a horse, and a fair sized garden that birthed squash, peppers, okra, onions, radishes, sweet corn, and my favorite--tomatoes. Big tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, medium tomatoes. We gathered them in the cool evenings or the dewy mornings in the hot months. You had to take care in plucking them just before they would fall from the vines because if they had any time at all on the ground, other insects and animals would feast on our harvest. Sometimes we'd pick them a bit before they were fully ripened to avoid losing them to farm critters. I recall watching as a little girl while Dad would haul out his plow at the beginning of the season and destroy the dirt, churning it back and forth. I wish I had paid more attention to what he added to the soil to create such a rich bed that brought forth the sweetest tomatoes. It was something his dad had taught him on past long days, with soil under the nails and splinters in the flesh.

Work. Hard work.

Work that, at the first tiny bloom on a breezy morning, brought rich joy swelling from the deep of his chest. The stiff back, the raw palms, the cracking knees were all somehow worth it with this first bloom that promised so much. And that promise was what moved him year after year to repeat such laborious movements. He knew it would all be worth it.


In Chapter 4 of John, Jesus and the disciples were traveling as usual, and they got hungry. This was one of those perfect moments where Jesus liked to teach them something deeper, so He related their physical hunger to spiritual hunger. His was to do the will of the Father, He said. That was why He labored tirelessly--to see a harvest of people following after the will of the Father. Jesus told the disciples in verses 36-38, "Already the one who reaps is receiving wages and gathering fruit for eternal life, so that sower and reaper may rejoice together. For here the saying holds true, 'One sows and another reaps.' I sent you to reap that for which you did not labor. Others have labored, and you have entered into their labor" (ESV). The "others" who labored were the Old Testament prophets. They worked the ground, sowed the seeds, yet they didn't live long enough to reap their own harvest on earth. But here the disciples get to do just that! They get to pluck the fruit that has grown out of another's sweat.

Now Jesus didn't say that the sower will not reap at all. Looking at this story in light of the prophets of Old, they will indeed reap one day alongside the disciples--and you and me--in heaven. Honestly, that's kind of unfair, isn't it? I mean, they laid the foundation for us, and we get to bask in the celebration right beside them? You can read about other greats who paved the way for you and me to be blessed with now-common things that were then-unheard of things, like owning the scriptures for ourselves. When I stop and think about that, let it truly sink in how others went before me so that I can have such a privilege, it amazes me.

Sown by men who did not get to reap their harvest.

We just moved into a new house (well, new to us). And here's why I absolutely love that. In our backyard, there are three sections of plants--one at the back of the yard in a corner, one surrounding a giant Pecan tree, and one along the east side of the fence. Surrounding the Pecan tree are about 40 garden onions and a host of herbs. Along the east fence is a four square planter filled with tomato plants. My parents were visiting last weekend and Dad noticed that the tomato plants have blooms on them! "Those will give you some tomatoes in a couple of weeks," he smiled. We sit in the yard and pecans fall on our heads, and I pluck onions from the dirt to cut up for savory dishes.

Yet I did absolutely no work.

As I washed an onion to cut up for the lasagna I made last night, I let it wash over me as well--that I was reaping someone else's sowing, literally consuming their labor. I wonder which of the previous owners did the work--the old man or his wife, or both. I was told they moved away to retire, to relax and enjoy the fruit of their lives' hard labor. I'm so glad they left behind some of that fruit for me to enjoy, and I wish I could tell them how appreciative I am of their hard work. It almost feels sacred to partake in someone else's planted dream. I love legacies, and I feel as if I'm holding one.

But something much more sacred is the work Jesus did on the cross for our salvation that we have no hand in, no shovel, no calluses, no stiff back. Jesus did it all. Yet we get to enjoy the harvest and feast with Jesus. I hope I remember this with each tomato I pull from the vines I did not plant, with each pecan and with each onion I pull.

He did the work for me. He did the work for you.

Let us reap it together.
Peace of Christ to you,

8 comments:

  1. Many rich lessons in John 4. Jesus is tired and sits down at the well. Jesus understands all of our humanness because he was fully God and fully human. He engages with an unlikely person. A Samaritan woman. Samaritan and Jews didn't associate with one another. Jesus crossed a cultural boundary to minister to another. How often do we shy away from engaging others that are different than we are? I would say more often than not. WHY? PRIDE

    When have you helped in a soup kitchen, walked the streets and given someone a meal that is homeless, living on the street? Does it even cross out minds to minister to the "least of these'?

    The last four years I have been involved in a ministry that reaches out to women who are coming off the streets. It maybe prostitution, alcohol and or drug addiction, or coming straight out of prison. Safe Harbor House a 24/7 residential program for woman. They are broken in many areas of life. Who will love them? Who will accept them? Who will show them the way out of their brokenness? They carry a lot of shame for what they have done in their lives. We first help them with their addictions, their immediate needs. We come alongside of them and begin to love them like Christ loves them. We point them to Scripture and help them realize they are daughters of the King of Kings. We help them integrate back into society with job skills. Its messy, its hard and its a lot of work. If we look throughout the gospels this is the example Christ gives us. Working with the "least of these" WE commit to these women for 12 months and are just opening our second home which is our step up program. More reinforcement that we believe in them but more importantly God believes in them. We walk the road of recovery with them hand in hand, through the good and the bad times. I wish I could tell you they all take hold of what we are doing and stay the 12 months. That doesn't always happen. If they choose to leave we continue to pray for them and let them know we are still here for them. WE may be the only people that will live out what God has done in our lives. God help us not be so prideful that we ignore those who are different than we are. Help us be open each day to those you bring across our path whether they be the lovely or the unlovely. They are all one in your sight.

    John 4:34- "My food, said Jesus, Is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work." Food is what keeps us alive, its nourishment to our physical bodies. We have all been hungry and we immediately find something to satisfy our hunger. Do we tend to our spiritual needs? Do we FEED ourselves spiritually? Spending time in the word, doing what God has called us to do is ESSENTIAL in keeping our spiritual lives healthy. Its not just for a season but until our work is complete. I CANNOT GIVE AWAY WHAT I DON"T POSSESS. I must take the time to nourish my soul with the things of God. If I don't I will be like the fruit that withers and dies. I will be ineffective for the one who gave his very life for us.

    Let us be aware of those around us that need Christ. Let us look at those who are different from us and not back away. Let us move forward in ministry knowing it will be messy, not easy and time consuming. Keeping in mind the example Christ gave us throughout the gospels, ministering to those who might be passed up by others. Remove our pride and go where you call us to go.

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    1. Thank you for sharing, Debby! I love the ministry you are involved with! Restoring others to better than they were to begin with is so incredible! I know this pleases the heart of God. Thank you for the reminder to not starve ourselves spiritually, too. Why is this so easy to do? I'm forever in a learning mode on this one!!

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  2. Well I want to share,but,I can never really find the right words,so I will share from my Women of Faith study bible(from Matthew and Cara =))

    "Prior to His meeting with the women at the well, Jesus referred to himself as the Son of Man(a phrase that could mean "man","prophet" or "Messiah")but did not publicly declare his identity as the Christ. This is the first time Jesus clearly identifies himself as the Christ, more a title (meaning "anointed one")than a name.
    It is significant that Jesus first tells a women that he is the Christ. In Jewish culture at the time,women were not highly respected and were often ignored. But not only does Jesus reveal his identity to a women, but also to a non-Jew- this woman is a Samaritan.The people of Samaria , whose Israelite ancestors intermarried with Assyrian colonist seven centuries earlier, were even more culturally devalued than women.
    Though the Samaritans trusted in the Pentateuch and claimed to worship the God of Israel, they continued in their idolatry and were a mixed race. Because of this, the Jewish people despised them. Jesus' interactions with the Samaritan woman speaks volumes about the value he sees in,and the compassion he feels toward, all people--regardless of gender,race,or background." This from the margin commentary

    I grew up mainly not being taught prejudice,however there was always an underlying implication that "they"stay with their own kind.Just little things that were said, and racial words that no one thought was bad.
    I don't mean to stir up "stuff" just trying explain my own back ground.

    I am so very THANKFUL that now I see that Jesus died and rose again for ALL mankind.
    And as always I am enjoying this Bible study, it is certainly bringing out a lot of things I just hadn't noticed.

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    1. I love how the Women of Faith study bible explains this! I hadn't realized this was Jesus' FIRST time to call Himself the Christ!! To a woman at that! That is so significant. Thank you for sharing!

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  3. Thank you ladies for sharing! I'm finding myself at a point in my journey where I need to listen and glean from other's insights, so I won't be posting often.

    I found the sower/gatherer portion of this chapter was sticking with me most this week. I used to be a 'warrior Christian', always pushing to sow when the soil wasn't ready and reap when it wasn't time for harvest. I didn't know then how dangerous that could be. Now I ask God to lead me to speak when I should and keep quiet when I should. I've learned I'm a planter.

    This week however, a dear friend (who is gay) was over for dinner with her brother. He's been struggling to find roots and just opened the subject of Scripture and faith. I let him ask away and gave him the answers I had on my heart. I haven't shared the Gospel like that in a long time. I feel like I'm more of a sower, but I may yet get the opportunity to reap someone else's harvest. And in the process, there may have been some planting with his little sister. ;)

    Sometime's a sower is given the gift of reaping the harvest, and a reaper is allowed to plant seeds and watch them grow. Either way, it's exciting to be used! (sorry if my comment it rushed, screaming baby calls!)

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    1. It does feel good to share when it's been a while, doesn't it? Thank you for sharing that, Monette! I agree that we should wait and see what God's plan for us in a situation is rather than just always diving in with our lips. It's hard for me to know what to say to someone, but I've learned that just being with the person, loving them, and listening to them will usually open up a door where we can comfortably talk about who Christ is! Thanks so much for posting, Monette!

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  4. The part of John 4 that resonates with me the most is the story of the Samaritan woman at the well.
    I love how Jesus did not consider her to be an outcast. He spoke directly to her. He did not shun her. He did not go out of His way to avoid her. He met her right where she was. He offered the gift of God (redemption) and living water (eternal life).
    Our testimony is important but our personal encounter with Jesus Himself has to happen first.
    I sometimes feel like that Samaritan woman forgetting that Jesus can meet me right where I am just as I am. And takes me as I am and loves me for me.

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    1. I love this reminder, Tonya, that our personal encounter with Jesus Himself has to happen first before we can have a testimony!! Thank you for sharing that! I love hearing from you each week and seeing how God is speaking into your life through this book!!

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