Category Archives: By: Rosten Callarman

Time to Harvest (Part 3)

By: Rosten Callarman

So if we don’t need a hammer, a guitar pick, and a fighter jet, then what is necessary for harvesting the Kingdom of God? For the answer, we will look back to Luke 10, the place where we started our journey. We will primarily spend time in 10:1-12, though I am a pretty big fan of the entire chapter. Especially when Jesus says “I watched Satan fall from heaven like a flash of lightning.” What does that even mean? Sometimes Jesus talk craycray.

In the chapters leading up to Luke 10, Jesus has been traveling from city to city with his band of followers. Jesus has been teaching, healing illnesses and infirmities, driving out demons, and proclaiming the good news that “the Kingdom of God has come near to you” (10:9). And occasionally (once) he feeds five thousand people with five loaves of bread and two fish. After raising a kid from the dead.

And you thought your preacher was good.

So Jesus is traveling around being awesome, but while this is happening there is another vital pattern that we often miss. In the towns where Jesus is doing his work, some people are receptive to Jesus’ work and teachings while other people are not. An excellent example of this phenomenon is 8:26-39. Jesus drives out either 1) a demon with Multiple Personality Disorder (actually called Dissociative Identity Disorder now, but if I had used the new name you wouldn’t have caught the admittedly lame joke) or 2) a really big group of demons that has basically set up a massive hippy demon commune inside of this guy. Jesus sends the demons into a herd of pigs, and the pigs promptly drown themselves. The people of the area are somewhat understandably scared by all of this and ask Jesus to leave. But the man who now has a lot more room in his head wants to join Jesus; in fact, he begs. Jesus tells him, “return to your home and declare how much God has done for you.”

To recap, here is our pattern that happens when Jesus shows up in towns throughout Israel: 1) Jesus proclaims the nearness of the Kingdom of God through his words and actions, 2) most reject Jesus and ask him or force him to leave, 3) some either follow Jesus or remain in their own region proclaiming the Kingdom of God, depending on what Jesus calls them to. Pay special attention to number 3, because it is the basis for the rest of our work. Those who are receptive to Jesus’ teaching either follow him and become part of his traveling group, or they stay in their own region and become local proclaimers of the Kingdom of God – people who share the peace of Christ in their local context.

In Luke 10:1-12, Jesus sends his followers out to do the exact same thing. Those who are following Jesus go to stay with those who have remained in their own regions to proclaim the Kingdom of God (number 3). Jesus’ followers proclaim the nearness of the Kingdom of God through their words and actions (number 1). Finally, some towns do not welcome Jesus’ followers, so they leave because no one there had accepted Jesus in the first place (number 2).

Those who followed Jesus get most of the attention at this point, but I want to give some attention to those who stayed behind (number 3), the ones that wanted to follow but were told by Jesus to remain in their town proclaiming the Gospel. Luke 10 does not say this, but I believe that Jesus is referencing these people specifically in 10:6 when he says, “and if anyone is there who shares in peace, your peace will rest on that person.” The homes of these people of peace become the staging grounds for Kingdom activity in that area. The people of peace house the ones who were sent, feed them, and help make sure that the Gospel is not hindered. If one of these people is not present in the town, Jesus’ followers simply move on. They wipe the dust from their sandals…not even the active presence of Jesus in this town could bring about change in a single household, so what could they have done? “Yet know this: the Kingdom of God has come near.”

***

What then is necessary for harvesting the Kingdom of God? Based on the work we have done so far, we can finally answer our question. Specifically, we need:

  1. Workers.
  2. People of peace.
  3. Harvest fields.

The workers are those who have been called by Jesus to follow Jesus, who are now sent out by Jesus to proclaim the Kingdom of God through words and action. The people of peace are those who have been called by Jesus to stay where they already were, called to become Kingdom outposts, pockets of peace in the growing Kingdom of God. And the harvest fields? We are the harvest. All of creation. Every person, place, animal, tree, rock or anything else that is not currently fully alive as it will be in the Kingdom of God. Everything that could be included when we hear Paul say, “the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God,” and that “we know that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now.” Harvesting the Kingdom of God is harvesting a new world…the world as God would have it.

So are we finished? Not quite yet. One more thing is necessary for the harvest, and this is important…the most important thing of all.

Attention to what the Lord of the harvest is doing.

Who is this Lord of the harvest? In case you haven’t figured it out, God the Father is the Lord of the harvest. Or is Jesus the Lord of the harvest? Or maybe the Holy Spirit is the Lord of the harvest?

In Luke 10 we meet the Lord of the Harvest, who has sent himself into the harvest, and who is now placing himself inside of his people for the sake of the harvest. His harvest is a people, the People of God, inside of which a kingdom, the Kingdom of God, is growing. His harvest is not just the restoration of all things into what they once were, but the redemption of all things into what they were always meant to become.

The harvest is always plentiful, because the creation is eagerly longing for it. Not because creation was made to be harvested, but because creation was made for the Kingdom of God. The Lord of the harvest is already actively engaged in the harvest. And we are invited to join in.

He told them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”

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Time to Harvest (Part 2)

By: Rosten Callarman

In my previous post I argued that, contrary to the opinion of Steve Holt, it is always time to harvest in the fields of the Kingdom of God. I also left the argument unfinished, because in a conversation discussing “when is the time to harvest?” it is also important to address “how do we harvest?” Before I answer that question, I would like to answer the question, “how don’t we harvest?”

At the end of my previous post, I left you with a rather silly cliffhanger: “I will be back (hopefully soon) with an explanation (hopefully good) of why we shouldn’t try to harvest corn with a hammer, a guitar pick, and a fighter jet, and why we probably shouldn’t try to harvest for the Kingdom of God with those things either.”

Well. That certainly doesn’t make any sense when taken out of context. Let’s both take a minute to go back and read my last post. Come on, I am doing it too.

***

Okay, I understand now. I was trying to be cutesy. Regardless, it was a valid point.

I said that I would give an explanation for why we shouldn’t harvest corn with a set of crazy random tools, but I don’t think I actually have to give that explanation. Though most people are fairly separated from the processes that go into getting canned corn on their dinner plate, I sincerely hope that most people are not so separated from logic that they think hammers, guitar picks, and fighter jets are part of the corn-picking process.

(However, if you know of a farm where those are normal corn-picking tools, please respond with their information in the comments section, because that would require a field trip.)

So moving past the corn metaphor (finally), why is it also a bad idea to enter the harvest of the Kingdom of God with a hammer, a guitar pick, and a fighter jet? And why in the world is that even a question?

Because we have tried to harvest for the Kingdom of God with a hammer, a guitar pick, and a fighter jet. Metaphorically speaking, of course.

First, the hammer. No, I do not mean the hammer and sickle. Communism isn’t the problem. At least, not in this country.

The hammer is our attention (and sometimes addiction) to building bigger buildings inside of which we hope that we can build bigger gatherings that will gain the momentum of bigger audiences, bigger encouragement, and bigger worship experiences, showing the world that we have the biggest God.

Don’t get me wrong. A lot of good things happen inside of big church buildings. I have spent a LOT of my time in big church buildings, and a lot of who I am is directly connected to my time spent in those church buildings. However, absent the actual tools of the harvest, those big buildings have very little to do with the harvest. That leads me to what I consider a pretty big question; if those big buildings have little to do with the harvest, then why do we spend so much time, energy, and money on them?

Second, the guitar pick. The guitar pick is strongly connected to the hammer, but not the same thing. The guitar pick is our attention (and sometimes addiction) to the experience, the big show and the big names, the big teaching moments, programs, and campaigns.

I was feeling particularly gutsy the other night while Laura and I were having dinner with a couple who used to serve in the eldership at the church we are working with. I said that what most people participate in on Sunday mornings looks more like the theater than the church. And then I held my breath and waited to get torn apart. Imagine my relief when they both jumped in and immediately agreed, and not just about “the denominations” (an old Church of Christ way of saying “everyone else”) but also for the a cappella Stone-Campbell churches they had usually been part of.

Again, don’t think that I am saying there is nothing good, important, or even useful about our worship experiences, programs, campaigns, sermons, etc. But again, I say that absent the actual tools of the harvest, these things have very little to do with the harvest. So why do we spend so much time, energy, and money on them?

Finally, the fighter jet is our attention (and sometimes addiction) to winning arguments. Being right. Having the last word. Attempting to force our beliefs and way of life on others in any way, shape, or form. Defending God.

(Before I get into the point that I actually want to make, there is a different direction that I could have gone with the fighter jet metaphor. My friends, the United States of America is not the same thing as the Kingdom of God. Not even close. Let’s please not treat them like they are the same. I wish I did not feel the need to say that, but I will keep saying it until I am convinced that the two are not confused. If you do not understand why I could have gone that direction with this metaphor, then say something in the comments and I or someone else will point you in a good direction.)

We are entirely unable to force, manipulate, or coerce others to agree with us, join us, or even like us; at least, not in a healthy way. I’m not just saying we shouldn’t try to do those things for high-brow moral reasons, though I suppose that could be true as well. I am saying that coercion is completely ineffective and incredibly harmful in the harvest for the Kingdom of God – the Kingdom of the God who would rather die for his People than to defend himself from them. God does not need our defense.

The best argument for God has always been a people being formed in the likeness of God.

There is certainly a place for debate in the Kingdom of God. There is certainly a place for argument, conversation, and disagreement, especially because those things are not always coercive at heart. These things can in fact be quite healthy. One of the main reasons for this series of posts is that I disagreed (somewhat) with my good friend Steve, and decided to say something about it. But again, absent the actual tools of the harvest, these things have very little to do with the harvest. So why do we spend so much time, energy, and money on them?

***

If the hammer, the guitar pick, and the fighter jet aren’t helpful in the harvest of the Kingdom of God, then what is helpful? Again, I have run out of time. I will return soon with one final discussion on this topic in which I discuss what is necessary for the harvest of the Kingdom of God. In the meantime, Steve has already threatened me with his next poorly-exegeted post…look out!

Time to Harvest

By: Rosten Callarman

He told them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”

Steve Holt Sr. recently wrote on this blog that “the grain is not ripe…stop trying to harvest it!” Steve suggested that Christians have not done the hard/good work of sowing love to the world, and that until we do this work there will be no harvest.

To this, I say: Poppycock!

(Steve is a good friend of mine. He and his wife, Lynn, officiated mine and Laura’s wedding. However, they didn’t technically “marry” us because they had everyone present pronounce us husband and wife. It was pretty sweet.)

To make his point, Steve referenced Jesus’ teachings found in Mark 4:26-29 and John 4:34-38. I will let you go ahead and read those passages now. Seriously, please read them.

I’m just going to take these one at a time.

Mark 4: Jesus’ point isn’t that the man who scattered the seed has to do a bunch of hard work to scatter the seed. His point is that all that the man does is scatter seed, and all of a sudden there is a harvest. Scattering seed isn’t exactly a tough job (though it is a bit more labor intensive than sitting here at my computer). He scatters seed, and a miracle happens out of seemingly nothing. “Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how. All by itself the soil produces grain” (emphasis mine). This is not the tale of a man who needs to get down to business and get some work done, getting out into the fields and toiling so that he can make absolutely sure that through his hard work and attention the soil will produce a harvest. This is the tale of a man who is standing in the middle of a miracle. The miracle of the harvest is that the harvest isn’t accomplished by the law. The miracle isn’t accomplished by his careful, loving attention. This man is the recipient of the beautiful miracle which is the Kingdom of God.

John 4: This one is a bit tougher, so stick with me and I’ll try to be quirky. This passage takes place in the context of Jesus’ conversation with a Samaritan woman. The Samaritans were the descendants of the Northern Kingdom of Israel and considered themselves Jewish while the descendants of the Southern Kingdom of Judah considered the Samaritans foreigners. Let me explain this as awkwardly as possible. Mom (the Northern Tribes) and Dad (Judah) broke up. Mom was conquered and deported by Assyria, and Dad was conquered and exiled by Babylon. When Mom came back from Assyria, Dad decided that she wasn’t racially or religiously pure anymore, and that Mom was therefore no longer Jewish enough for Dad. Also, Dad got to keep Jerusalem and everything after the Pentateuch (the first five books of the Hebrew Scriptures) in the divorce. This all happened hundreds of years before this scene with Jesus and the Samaritan woman, but it is important.

Now let’s go back to John 4. The biggest idea that we are getting out of this scene is that Jesus is saying that Samaria is ripe for the harvest, or to put it in a non-parable way, that Samaria is popping ready for the Kingdom of God (watch out for that corn reference, it’s going to come back). We even see a few verses down that “many more believed because of his (Jesus’) word,” and that they knew that “this is truly the Savior of the world.” This is Samaria, which is the remnant of the Northern Kingdom; remember, Mom isn’t Jewish enough for Dad. But here we have this woman who is bringing all of these Samaritans to Jesus, a Jew, who is totally cool with Samaritans in the Kingdom. Already Jesus is showing us that the harvest is much bigger than most of the people around him would like to imagine. And because of this, it is time for him and his community of followers to dive into the work of the harvest; that is, proclaiming the presence of the Kingdom of God with their words and their lives.

If Steve wants to say that right now, at this point in history, in North America, it is time to sow rather than harvest, I respectfully disagree but am willing to grant that the point is reasonable. Just don’t use Mark 4 and John 4 to try to make that point. John 4 and Mark 4 paint a picture of a plentiful harvest. This plentiful harvest does not germinate or grow to maturity by our labor, but we can share in the delightful work of the harvest…the rich, soul-thrilling work of living and sharing the good news of the present and coming Kingdom of God.

***

So if the harvest is plentiful even now, what are we waiting for? Let’s go do some harvesting! Woo! (Runs out into a corn field waving a hammer in one hand and a guitar pick in the other. Also, there’s an F-14 Tomcat.)

At this point, I hope someone is saying, “Whoa there, hold your horses buddy. You expect to harvest corn with a hammer and a guitar pick? And where in the world did that fighter jet come from? Is Tom Cruise around here somewhere?”

Hopefully that sounded ridiculous. If it didn’t, you probably need to stop watching Spongebob Squarepants, or whatever crazy thing is on TV right now.

Now if we think that it would be crazy to attempt to harvest corn with a hammer, a guitar pick, and a Top Gun reference, then why do we think we can enter God’s harvest with such similarly ridiculous implements?

This has become quite the long post already, and this seems as strange a stopping point as any. I will be back (hopefully soon) with an explanation (hopefully good) of why we shouldn’t try to harvest corn with a hammer, a guitar pick, and a fighter jet, and why we probably shouldn’t try to harvest for the Kingdom of God with those things either.

Confession

By Guest Author: Rosten Callarman

Therefore confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, so that you may be healed. 

I have a confession to make.

I believe that I see your sin, and I believe that I see it better than you do.

This isn’t one of those sins that Americans seem to look down on.  I worked in ministry for years.  I taught classes, preached sermons, had conversations with all kinds of people.  I talked about sin a lot.  Maybe I didn’t use that exact word, but I talked about it.

The sins of some government.

The sins of some preacher that I didn’t know and didn’t like.

The sins of some news channel.

The sins of some person in my church/town/community/work.

And usually everyone just nodded along.

Come to think of it, I can’t think of that many times when I talked about my own sins.  Growing up in the United States, I wasn’t really trained to do that.  I wasn’t taught to let people in on my weakness.  I was trained to never let my guard own.  To lead with a smile.  To put my best foot forward.

Of course, that’s not really how life works, is it?  Sometimes the cracks are a little more visible.  Sometimes our weaknesses define us far more than our strengths.  Is that a bad thing?  Maybe.  Maybe not.  For me, the bad thing is when I start to assume that I am entirely defined by my strengths and that you are entirely defined by your weakness.  I focus on your sin so much that I can’t even see your humanity anymore.  I focus on my assumed righteousness so much that I can’t see my humanity either.

Interestingly enough, I have a few pretty good friends who believe that they are entirely defined by their weaknesses and that everyone else is entirely defined by their strengths.  We all have our own unique little ways of destroying community.

But there is always good news.  We have the only judge who has ever been able to know both our indiscretion and our intention.  We have the only doctor who has ever been able to heal the deep woundedness of humanity.  We have the only king who has ever seen fit to die at the hands of his people.

It is this judge, this doctor, this king who sees my sin.  Who sees your sin.  Thanks be to God, he sees our sin far better than I do!  And as I walk away from you and this judge, this doctor, this king, stone falling from my hand, he says to you, “Where is he going? Has no one condemned you?”

“No one, sir.”

“Then neither do I condemn you.  Go now.  Leave your life of sin.”

In dropping my stone, I confess my inability to see your sin.  I confess that I am a woefully blind judge, a woefully inadequate doctor, and a woefully ignoble king.  But thanks be to God, not one of those things was my job in the first place.