Holy Asides
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January 28, 2016, 2:08 PM

Sowing and Reaping

One of the many future book ideas I have rattling around in my head concerns passages of Scripture that include sayings of Jesus, which, in today’s culture, the Church needs to reexamine or reassess. I believe one such passage is appropriate for St. Joseph’s in the present time: “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.” John 4:37-38. These verses are often lost because they fall between the story of the Samaritan woman at the well leaving Jesus and her testimony to the Samaritan village. Here, Jesus is teaching his disciples about the Kingdom of God and the bountiful harvest that exists. Jesus cautions his disciples to understand that while they will reap much of this harvest, they were not the sowers. The patriarchs, prophets, and the faithful before them were the sowers of the seed, which has yielded the harvest they will now reap.


This is an important message for the Church to take hold of and grasp. We are often results-oriented. We expect to reap immediately that which we have sown. We want growth, fruitful growth, at once. Yet, these words declare a two-fold message to the Church. One of encouragement, but also one of caution. Jesus declares, “The fields are ripe for the harvest.” John 4:35b There is a great harvest for the Church to reap in the world around us for the Kingdom of God. But we must be reminded that it is often because of those who have labored before us; those who have put in the effort and hard work; those who have sweated and sacrificed; those who have dug and tilled and fertilized. Their faithful effort has now, by God’s grace, borne a bountiful harvest. This is a glorious message. The flip-side of that message can be much more difficult to swallow. At times, our own hard work might be reaped by someone else. We can labor, we can sow, we can pray, and we can work diligently, all for the Lord’s purpose. But, it may be years before the reaping takes place, perhaps even in future generations. And depending upon your outlook, this can be of great discouragement or incredible freedom.


St. Joseph’s is a parish which understands this laborious and challenging process of sowing and reaping. The vision began with a church-plant attempt some thirty years ago. And while this vision did not succeed in the moment, the vision grew roots in the soil. Through much passion, persistence, and prayer, the faithful witnesses of God started this parish. Even then, it took years of hard work to become recognized as St. Joseph’s, an Episcopal parish in the Diocese of Atlanta. Generation upon generation will reap that which they did not sow, as they worship the living God at St. Joseph’s. 


So, as we move forward trying to discern our present mission and vision—we do so with that faithful witness as a reminder and guide. We are called to be faithful to God and God alone. Worldly success cannot be our guide. Immediate growth and reward cannot be the sole measure of what we do. For it may be months, it may be years, or we may be dead and buried before that which we sow is ready to be reaped. As a parish, we must constantly seek God’s guidance and direction for living in this Kingdom harvest. For some will sow and others reap… and those who are fortunate will get the opportunity to do both.

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