Messege to the Young People, Tiefengrund Mennonite Church (1935)
Theme: „Lift up your eyes, and see how the fields are white for harvest.“ John 4:35. Song: „Work, for the Night is Coming…“.
The words of our text are often used in mission conferences, but of course that is not the only place where they apply. Let me share with you the thoughts that came to me as I meditated on this text.
„Lift up your eyes, and see how the fields are white for harvest.“ Jesus said these words when he was at Jacob’s well, where he had been talking with the Samaritan woman; he then spoke these words to his disciples. The disciples had gone to fetch bread and now encouraged him to eat; but Jesus said, „My food is to do the will of my Father who sent me.“
What he wanted to say was: „Just look around you, don’t you see how urgent it is to bring the message of salvation to these people?“ When he talks about the field being white for harvest, we farmers understand that kind of language. We know that when the field is „white for harvest“ there is urgency, because there is the danger that we will lose the harvest due to wind or inclement weather. If you wait too long, you might lose everything.
Then you have to say: Too late!
Note that it says, „Lift up your eyes, and see the field.“ We are to pull ourselves together, shake off our tiredness and indifference in regard to questions about eternity. We sing: „Work for the night is coming. . .“ That is the crucial question: have we heard the call of the Lord to work in his „field?“ This is for everyone, you and me. When our Lord says the „field“, he means the entire human race, everyone is waiting to be rescued, people long for assurance of salvation. And all of us, whoever or wherever we may be, have the task to do what we can to be his messengers, proclaiming the good news in his name.
So tonight we will not speak about foreign mission work, nor about so-called home missions, wherever that may be in our inner cities or remote and lonely places, but rather we are going to close the circle and ask ourselves the question: in what way do these words affect us here personally?
At this question we probably think first about the work in our congregation. There is the work of our pastor-preaching, counseling, comforting, officiating. But this, too, we are not going to pursue any further today. Only this brief comment: that we, as members of the congregation, should support our pastors in every way possible, with our prayers and in many other ways.
And there is the Sunday school. That, too, is a big field which is ripe for harvest, because in this country, where religion is not taught in the schools, this is the only chance our children have, apart from home training, to learn to know the Bible and be shown the way of Christian discipleship. Here is the responsibility of the teachers, not merely to impart knowledge, but to help the children integrate this knowledge with their everyday living. The teacher must try to lead the children to Christ in such a way that they will say with the Psalmist: „I was glad when they said to me, let us go to the house of the Lord.“
And there is the work with young people. I have mentioned this before, but will say it again, that I believe parents are not giving sufficient attention to this, probably because they do not recognize the significance of it. I think it would be an encouragement for the Planning Committee, as well as for the young people themselves, if the attendance at our youth meetings were better. However, nobody should become discouraged by this, the important thing is that we do it for the glory of God. If we do that, his blessing will rest upon this work.
To speak about the wonderful opportunities that teachers have in public school to be a positive Christian influence on their students, even when they are not teaching Bible or religion, is not in place tonight.
The song festivals are also an occasion for doing the work of our Lord. Many of the wonderful Christian songs sung by choirs, duets or as solos have had a healing effect on the listeners. All these are occasions for witnessing to the Lord in a field that is white for harvest.
However, the most important part of our text, to „lift up our eyes and see the field,“ is that we not apply this to our pastors or teachers, but to ourselves. This is literally spoken for each one of us, young or old, parents or children. Or do you really think that there is no urgency in your life? That it doesn’t apply to you that „the field is white to harvest?“ Why not? How do we know that it is not precisely in my situation or yours that there is urgency? How easily it can happen that suddenly someone is snatched away. But we are all responsible for each other. We are the „field that is white to harvest.“ We constantly read about accidents or sudden unexpected death. Afterward it is too late. There is much to do, now.
The young people, and we all, probably think in the first place about the responsibility of parents. They train and nurture the little ones and later, when the work becomes more difficult, continue to encourage and support their young people. This work is probably never quite finished. Always, even when the children are grown, parents must still be concerned to be a good example to them in word and deed, in good days and in bad, whether the children accept this graciously or not. With praying hearts and to the best of our ability we will always continue to encourage them and be an example for them, until at last the Lord calls us home to our eternal rest.
Then the Lord will reward each one, not according to success as humans judge success, but solely on the basis of faithfulness in large and small matters, whether seen and acknowledged by others or not. He, who is all-knowing, will reward each one who was faithful, with his peace and joy that will surpass anything we have known in peace and joy on earth. But until then we need to be faithful; and the strength for that he gives us again and again as we ask for it in prayer. The song says it so beautifully:
Here is strength for all who are tired Struggling with the many worries, Here is grace, and here is peace Which surpasses everything else. My dear Lord, give me this assurance
In all the situations of my life.
And now a word to the young people. Or do you perhaps think that the words, „the field is white to harvest,“ do not apply to you? It is a word for you, especially for you! When you are young and strong, you can accomplish much, is it not so? Do you now also have a „field“ where you are responsible? Think in the first place about your parents, about your siblings. Today there is much more talk about the needs and demands of young people, and much more is being done in this respect. But whether this leads to the desired results is often questionable. It is commonplace to hear it said today: „The young people want more rights, but they are not interested in responsibilities.“ However that may be, all I want to say is that the theme of this evening applies to you as well as to all of us: your task is to see where the Lord of the harvest is placing you in this field that is „white for harvest.“
The fifth Commandment says: „Honor your father and your mother.“ Ask yourselves whether you do this in your daily life? Do you attempt, as much as you can, to make life for your parents easier? Are you friendly? Peace-loving? Obedient? Can your parents feel your love for them? Ask yourselves these questions, and if you find that things could and possibly should be different, don’t forget that the call is for you, to „lift up your eyes“ and see your need for forgiveness. Do not neglect to take care of the matters that need to be straightened out. It is no use only to be sorry. To be sorry is only of value when it is coupled with the firm resolve to change, to make things right.
Be happy and thankful that you are young, that you are going into life, that you have a chance to put your good intentions into practice. But for that you will need much strength and love from above. If you have love, the people around you will soon notice it. This love gives strength also in the monotony of everyday tasks to do them joyfully and conscientiously. You will experience a great satisfaction when you do this and notice how the relationships between parents and children and the siblings becomes constantly more satisfying, harmonious, and loving.
And remember, to be loving and kind affects in the first place the person that practices these virtues. It purifies and ennobles your character. And, of course, it makes raising children a much easier task for your parents.
In conclusion let me, therefore, return to our text: „Lift up your eyes, and see how the fields are white for harvest.“ Let us remember that. Then we will not be so quickly inclined to be indifferent and careless, but will promote the good and grow in love. And as we see our opportunities and fulfill our responsibilities we will be careful to do it all in the name of Jesus Christ, the Lord of the harvest.
Messege to the Young People, Tiefengrund Mennonite Church (1935)