A warm welcome to another edition of Brooklands Digital Church.
The message is given by our Pastor Karl Stanfield, and can be listened to as audio using the LISTEN button above. An audio MP3 is also available via the SAVE button.
The Bible readings are taken from Psalm 100 and Matthew 9:35-38.
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It was seven years ago that I had the opportunity to go on a sabbatical. I will never forget it. I met so many people and have many lovely memories. I think I told this story before, but here goes again! One of the royal naval chaplains I spent time with was Rev Tim Wilkinson, who was stationed at HMS SeaHawk, Culdrose. He was a lovely man, a Methodist minister who took really good care of me. There was a Fijian petty officer whose mother had died and he was given leave to go home for the funeral (it was going to cost £1500, which was a lot of money for him).
As we sat at a table, he told us the story of how, when he first came to live in England and saw his accommodation, he said “Wow! Look at that!” He was used to living back home in open flimsy buildings with tin roofs. He now had his own bed, running water, windows, even en-suite bathroom with shower.
In the village where he came from there were no cars, or any of the modern technology we have around us today. After he recovered from the initial shock of his surroundings he was now living in, he phoned home and told his friends and family what it was like to live here and they couldn’t believe it. They thought he was so lucky! They said, ‘Wow! You are living in paradise’. And they envied him.
I can’t remember his name, but he told us about his village beside the sea. He was living everyday beside a sandy beach! He told us that when you are hungry you go out and catch some fish and cook it fresh. Their climate is so pleasant and warm and, of course, there are no changing seasons. Because of this, you can grow your vegetables ALL YEAR ROUND with lots of harvests.
When you are hungry you go and catch fish, then you dig up some vegetables you are growing, and… When he told this to his fellow sailors on the base they said, “Wow, Paradise!”
Sometimes people are never happy; we always think the grass is greener elsewhere. That is part of the problem we must address these days because without knowing it, most of us are, in fact, blessed beyond measure!
So yes, we want to do more, be better, produce more fruit in our faith – and yet when we count our many blessings, there is a contentment that inspires us to praise and worship the LORD our God.
Our passage this morning speaks about a Harvest all around us. So, I wanted to do exactly that – let’s look around this story. Firstly…
1. Give Thanks
I was looking at the story immediately before reading this one in Matthew 9; actually, it is a double-barreled story of two blind men and a man who is demon possessed and couldn’t speak. The blind men call to Jesus for help. Presumably ‘the mute’ was brought to Jesus by some faithful friends with one express purpose – for his healing.
It seems to me that the result in both stories was the same – they must have given thanks to God for what had transpired! When people experience that kind of transformation of circumstances, they overflow with thanksgiving!
The two blind men had called out to Jesus saying, ‘Son of David’. They might have been blind, but they could see something others could not. They had come believing that there was something extra special about this stranger from Galilee – for Jesus said: “According to your faith will it be done to you” (Matt 9: 29). They were not disappointed.
I wonder if they thought of Psalm 100? It is entitled, ‘For Thanksgiving‘. Shout for Joy! Worship the Lord with Gladness! Enter his gates with thanksgiving! For the Lord is good…
Did you know that September is the month traditionally for giving thanks! It is the Harvest month. My two granddaughters love strawberries. Fortunately for them, we can buy them just about all year round now. Strawberries are available all year-round, but summer is their true season in Britain. Advances in breeding, transportation, and agricultural technologies keep us fed with berries all year, butsummer’s local crop is always the best! If you look around, there is a lot to Give Thanks to the Lord for. The people in this story were very grateful. Secondly…
2. Go and Tell
The passage which follows speaks of Jesus sending out the Twelve – and what a season of ministry they enjoyed.
In fact, the whole of chapter ten is taken up with this effort and its positive results. Once, when referring back to this mission Jesus asked, ‘When I sent you out did you lack anything’? No they replied, nothing!’
Does the Lord short-change us or leave us abandoned? Absolutely not. If we try to sum up what is happening here, you have the following in these three passages:
The story of the blind men and the mute on one side; the story of the Twelve on a Mission on the other side, and right in the middle you have harvest ready for the reaping. It is an interesting sandwich that Matthew has put together.
The need is great, the workers are few and the potential harvest is ‘plentiful’! I discovered a new name for our Heavenly Father in this passage, it is ’The Lord of the Harvest’. The passage which follows is the answer to this prayer. The twelve are sent out. And if you read chapter ten you will find that three times (in vv. 26, 28 & 31) Jesus says to them ‘not to be afraid’.
It is probably worth mentioning too that most of chapter 11 is about John the Baptist. He is the Patriarch of the prepare the way for the ‘Go and Tell’ ones. Are you ‘called’ to go and tell? The passage containing Jesus’ prayer to ‘the Lord of the Harvest’ is sandwiched between a harvest of good things!
This is the Month of September. Traditionally it is a celebration of Harvest. With the devastating Pandemic we have gone through these past 25 weeks, there is nothing more needed by the whole world than a Harvest of good things and good news.
I think it all begins with a Harvest of Thanksgiving!
‘Enter his gates with thanksgiving
and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name’
Let us come to the Lord’s Table on this first Sunday of the month with an abundance of gratitude… after all, ‘He is the Lord of the Harvest’.