Those who sow in tears, will reap with shouts of joy!
A man without tractor, a woman with a sack of seed on the shoulder. Them trudging along the furrows in late Autumn. Carrying the weight of seed through cold winds to sow it in the warm ground. Hard work as the days get shorter and the winter creeps in. Soon our farmers will join this important and vital work, though things have changed over the last 3000 odd years, seed drills, GPS tracking, air-conditioned tractors. They might not suffer as our ancient forebears, yet still farmers suffer many things today. And as they sow, the Church trudges through Lent. Traditionally we don’t sing Hallelujah in this Church season, we don’t rejoice yet rather we reflect on our lives, our failing, and strive to lead the holy life of Christ even as He has already made us holy, already set us apart. As we trudge through Lent, as we sow in fasting, prayer and giving to the needy, as we suffer in this broken world even to the point of tears; you join with those who sow in tears.
And according to God’s promise, and the natural laws He put in place, you will join in the harvest with joy! And yet still we are in Lent, looking forward to Easter; to Christ’s glorious victory over all the enemies of humanity, the goal of our lives and the reconciliation of all God’s Creation! When He, 2000 years ago, took our sin on the cross, dying with it and leaving it defeated and broken in hell; when He lifted up into the sky and smote the prince of the power of the air; when He broke down the doors of death so that all who die in Him live now with Him. Yet that is not what people saw (2 Corinthians 5:16). They saw a cross darkened by blood, they saw a corpse buried in the earth, their hearts went cold, and they wept. The sower trudges in the cold wind, and buries the seed in the dark earth; the life of the seed is hidden from the sower, just as Life Everlasting is hidden from this world.
The sower sows in suffering, maybe even tears; yet they know that come Summer, the great crop will be ready to harvest, come the season of Advent the harvest will be obvious to all. This great thing is done yearly by God Almighty as He continues to sustain His beloved Creation. It would be stupid to say, ‘because there was drought,’ or ‘because there was fire,’ or ‘because there was flood last year and there wasn’t a crop, I’m not sowing this year.’ No, remember when God brought a great harvest, remember the great things the Lord has done for you! Remember what He has done for your ancestors, everyone at least survived unto childbearing and more than that God has given love, peace and joy. God has saved from drought, fire and flood; from war and disease; from despair and pride; from error and evil. What great things God has done for them!
He is the ever-reliable God of great things. He delivered the Hebrews from the gods of Egypt through the Red Sea as the chasing armies of chariots were destroyed. He delivered the Israelites from exile in Babylon, returning them to the land He gave them. He delivered the Jews from everlasting death by the cross of Christ. The Lord has done great things for them, and through them He blesses all people, to this day. The Lord has done great things, and the Lord has done great things for you.
Yet now, as you continue to sow, as you take up your cross and follow Jesus, as you suffer; you call out to the Lord, ‘restore our fortunes, do those great things again. Return us to life like streams in the Negev, like floods out west after the long drought!’ Now we know the Lord does great things, just like the farmer knows the seed grows; but the farmer still asks God to bless the harvest, they still long for what is to come. The farmer looks out over the fields of dirt, the graves for tens of thousands of seeds; Judas saw Jesus anointed by Mary’s bottle for His burial (John 12:7); we see the graves of our brothers and sisters in Christ; you see your failure and death, the brokenness of this world, but know the joy of the glorious harvest to come. In a sense that harvest that’s already here but it’s hidden in the seed buried in the earth; that harvest that is already here hidden buried with Christ in Baptism; that harvest that God has hidden in His Church and hidden in you. It is the power of Christ’s Resurrection, victory over sin, death and the devil, the goal for which God has called you heavenward in Christ Jesus (Philippians 3:14).
Jesus plants the seed of His victory on Good Friday, hidden from the world yet revealed to His followers; but even they do not see the whole harvest, the New Creation in all its glory. And those Apostles go out to the world, preaching, sowing the seed of Christ’s victory with much suffering and weeping. God and His people have continued the work down to you here today, sowing in tears. Yet today He shows you a glimpse of the harvest, you are forgiven He has taken your guilt away. You are together with His saints, here your brothers and sisters in Christ. You are dead to the world and alive to God in Christ. A glimpse and a foretaste of the joyful feast to come, this wonderful goal you have in Christ. We cry out with songs of joy! While we do know and recognise the best is yet to come, God’s greatest work is not yet obvious to all, that great victory over the all sin, death and devils. Still with Paul we strain towards what is ahead, asking God to restore us, to do again those great things, that we who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy!
And so as you go out and sow in tears, the peace of God which surpasses all understanding guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus, now unto the joyful revelation of the final harvest. Amen.