Summary: The fields are white unto harvest. Harvest stands in a 4,000 plus year tradition, yet Jesus took it to a higher plane - the call to reap a spiritual harvest. The three keys to this harvest are: The Seed, the Season and the Servants.

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Harvest Festival Stiffkey 07-10-01

Hunworth/Bale 14-10-01

Take my words, Father and use them to give us a deeper appreciation of the Harvest in which you have such a great interest. Amen

Harvest Festival is a time when we give thanks to God for his goodness to us. And it is right to thank him for the Harvest.

Despite the recent problems of the farming community – the floods in last Spring followed by the foot and mouth - and swine fever a year ago, I believe it is still right to do this.

Yes, there is much to give thanks to God for.

The Harvest Festival Service stands in a long tradition for God’s people. It goes back a good 4,000 years.

In our Old Testament lesson, we read of the three important Jewish festivals. Festivals where there was a three-line whip for all to attend.

1. The first festival was the Feast of Passover. It was usually held in April each year – at the beginning of the harvest and reminded them of their escape from Egypt under Moses.

2. The second festival was the Feast of Weeks or Harvest, where the Jews gave thanks to God for their crop. This festival occurred at the end of the barley harvest.

3. And the third festival was the Feast of Tabernacles, which occurred after the grape and grain harvest was over.

All three of these festivals reminded them of God’s blessing on his.

It is in the tradition of that second feast – the Feast of Harvest or Pentecost that we stand this evening.

In our New Testament reading, Jesus put a new slant on the meaning of harvest.

2. Harvest of Souls

It was usual for all 1st century Jew to go annually to these the Festivals. And Jesus would have been no exception.

Yet Jesus took the concept of harvest to a higher plane in our New Testament reading.

The background to the story in John 4 is this:

Jesus came to a village in Samaria called Sychar. He met a woman- who was a social outcast - at the well there

He struck up a conversation with her despite the fact that it wasn’t the done thing. He then surprised her by telling her life’s story – even though this was the first time they had ever met.

She was astounded and rushed back to the village to tell the other villagers that she believed she had found the Messiah.

As she went off into town, the disciples returned with supplies and urged Jesus to eat.

But Jesus’ attention was elsewhere. And he used this opportunity to encourage them to see beyond the “here and now”. To look for something on a higher plane.

He said in John 4:34

34"My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work.

And he went on to tell them that the time was now ripe for a harvest of souls.

As he spoke these words - the Samaritans led by the returning woman – came towards him through the fields. And as he looked at them - he said to the disciples:

“Look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest”

The time has come - Jesus is saying - to reap a spiritual harvest. We need to go out and tell people about the Kingdom of God.

So what is this spiritual harvest that Jesus is talking about. I believe that it is an ingathering of people into the kingdom of God.

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