fbpx

Sermon Illustrations on harvest

Background

Becoming a Tiller of Soil

One of my favorite sections of Home Depot is the power garden tool department. Even though I have all the tools I need, I still like browsing through Home Depot’s collection of power mowers, chainsaws, and string trimmers (better known as “weed whackers”). Among all of those machines you can find some power tillers. These tools look rather like lawnmowers, but in place of horizontal blades that cut grass they have vertical blades that cut and turn up the soil. In a word, they till.

According to the NRSV, God put the man in the garden “to till it and keep it.” “Till” is a reasonable translation of the Hebrew verb ‘avad in this context…“To till” means to break up, plow, or turn up the soil before planting. Tilling enables hard ground to accept seeds. It aerates soil that has been tamped down. It can help fertilizer to be absorbed into the dirt prior to planting. Tilling isn’t planting seeds, caring for young plants, or harvesting. Rather, it is preparing the soil for fruitfulness that is to come.

There is an element of metaphorical tilling in work beyond farming. Teachers till when they prepare a learning environment. Managers till by seeing that the environments, systems, and relationships in their care will allow those they supervise to work well. Leaders till by shaping corporate cultures, defining core values, and lifting up compelling vision. Often, we have to break up old assumptions and practices for the seeds of innovation to be planted and grow.

Of course, so much more could be said about how our work is a form of tilling. Preparing, planning, and prioritizing could all be forms of tilling. Tilling describes work that prepares the soil, so to speak. It gets things ready for new life and for ultimate fruitfulness. Tilling is a central task of our lives, one that God has entrusted to us so that we might fulfill his intentions for our work.

Taken from Mark D. Roberts, Life for Leaders, a Devotional Resource of the DePree Leadership Center at Fuller Theological Seminary

The Fruit Comes at the End

In the growth cycle of fruit-bearing plants, fruit comes at the very end. The cycle starts with a seed being planted in the ground. When watered, the seed will break open and begin to put down roots. That root system will continue to grow as the seed forms a shoot and eventually breaks through the surface of the soil into air and sunlight.

Both the plant and its root system will keep growing until the plant is strong and mature enough to bear fruit. Significantly, in order for a plant to survive, much less bear fruit, its root system has to take up more space underground than the plant takes up above ground. When you look up at one of those immense redwoods in the Avenue of the Giants, for example, you’re actually standing on root systems that are wider than those trees are tall. This is the principle of foundations. A foundation always has to be bigger than the thing it is supporting.

Banning Liebscher, Rooted: The Hidden Places Where God Develops You, WaterBrook, 2016.

The Perfect Soil for Winemaking

My first call to ministry was in Eastern Washington state. It turned out to be one of the most prolific winemaking regions in the country. One of the things I learned from a local winery was really quite fascinating. But let me back up for just a moment. When it comes to soil for growing things, whether it be flowers or vegetables, trees or shrubs, generally speaking you want a rich, fertile soil. Lots of organic material like compost or manure provide the nutrients necessary for the plants to grow in abundance.

But apparently, with wine it is quite different, if not the opposite, from other plants ideal growing conditions.

The perfect soil for winemaking is actually quite low in nutrients. In our area, there was a vinicultural heritage site, in other words, a place set apart as an ideal location for growing wine. Interestingly enough, it was almost entirely made up of sand, which as any gardener will tell you, is devoid of the kinds of nutrients we would expect to create the perfect grape for wine.

But just as interesting is why wineries prefer soils with such low nutritional value: when this is the case, the majority of the nutrients go, not to the vine, or the leaves, but straight to the grapes. What a great metaphor for our lives.

Sometimes we need to go to desolate places, not the lush, green landscapes of an Eden, but rather, to the wilderness, where there is so little life, where pain and suffering are intrinsic to the experience, in order to really “bear fruit,” if you will allow a little pun. It is often in the wilderness that we learn the most about God, about our own sinfulness and need for repentance.

But it is also out of such a place that the best of us: a newfound humility, a greater capacity for compassion and love. A deeper reliance on the “vine,” that is God’s sustaining us over the comforts of this world can take place. So perhaps, when God plants you in a desert, devoid of most nutrients for healthy production, he is actually doing something spectacular to help you grow a deeper understanding of yourself, and more importantly, a deeper love for Him.

Stuart Strachan Jr.

Stories

Settling Accounts

The story is told of a farmer in a Midwestern state who had a strong disdain for “religious” things. As he plowed his field on Sunday morning, he would shake his fist at the church people who passed by on their way to worship. October came and the farmer had his finest crop ever–the best in the entire county.

When the harvest was complete, he placed an advertisement in the local paper which belittled the Christians for their faith in God. Near the end of his diatribe he wrote, “Faith in God must not mean much if someone like me can prosper.” The response from the Christians in the community was quiet and polite. In the next edition of the town paper, a small ad appeared. It read simply, “God doesn’t settle His accounts in October.”

William E. Brown, Making Sense of Your Faith, Victor Books.

The Perfect Soil for Winemaking

My first call to ministry was in Eastern Washington state. It turned out to be one of the most prolific winemaking regions in the country. One of the things I learned from a local winery was really quite fascinating. But let me back up for just a moment. When it comes to soil for growing things, whether it be flowers or vegetables, trees or shrubs, generally speaking you want a rich, fertile soil. Lots of organic material like compost or manure provide the nutrients necessary for the plants to grow in abundance.

But apparently, with wine it is quite different, if not the opposite, from other plants ideal growing conditions.

The perfect soil for winemaking is actually quite low in nutrients. In our area, there was a vinicultural heritage site, in other words, a place set apart as an ideal location for growing wine. Interestingly enough, it was almost entirely made up of sand, which as any gardener will tell you, is devoid of the kinds of nutrients we would expect to create the perfect grape for wine.

But just as interesting is why wineries prefer soils with such low nutritional value: when this is the case, the majority of the nutrients go, not to the vine, or the leaves, but straight to the grapes. What a great metaphor for our lives.

Sometimes we need to go to desolate places, not the lush, green landscapes of an Eden, but rather, to the wilderness, where there is so little life, where pain and suffering are intrinsic to the experience, in order to really “bear fruit,” if you will allow a little pun. It is often in the wilderness that we learn the most about God, about our own sinfulness and need for repentance.

But it is also out of such a place that the best of us: a newfound humility, a greater capacity for compassion and love. A deeper reliance on the “vine,” that is God’s sustaining us over the comforts of this world can take place. So perhaps, when God plants you in a desert, devoid of most nutrients for healthy production, he is actually doing something spectacular to help you grow a deeper understanding of yourself, and more importantly, a deeper love for Him.

Stuart Strachan Jr.

You Are the Tree

In the film Of Gods and Men, director Xavier Beauvois tells the story of a small group of mostly French monks living in Algeria during a time of civil unrest. These monks live a life of quiet fidelity dedicated to prayer and work in the rural part of the country near a small village. As part of their work, the monks run a small health clinic and also provide necessary physical supplies like clothing and shoes to the people in the village.

Early in the film, word reaches the monks that a group of Muslim radicals is on the move and will soon be in the town adjacent to the monastery. The monks will be in danger as soon as the radicals take the town. However, they are given a choice. Because the radicals have not yet arrived, there is time for the monks to leave the monastery and move to a more secure place. In a pivotal scene, the monks speak with members of the village, most of whom are Muslim, about the decision.

One monk says that they are all like birds on the branch of a tree, uncertain as to whether or not they will fly away or stay. A woman from the village corrects him. “You are the tree. We are the birds. If you leave, we will lose our footing.” I am reminded of the words of Psalm 1, which liken the righteous to a tree with deep roots. The life of the Christian community and the life of the commonwealth, a word traditionally favored by Christians to describe the sum total of communal life in a given place, are knitted together. And so the monks make the brave choice to stay. They cannot turn their backs on the people they have been called to.

Taken from: In Search of the Common Good: Christian Fidelity in a Fractured World by Jake Meador Copyright (c) 2019 by Jake Meador. Published by InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, IL. www.ivpress.com

Analogies

Becoming a Tiller of Soil

One of my favorite sections of Home Depot is the power garden tool department. Even though I have all the tools I need, I still like browsing through Home Depot’s collection of power mowers, chainsaws, and string trimmers (better known as “weed whackers”). Among all of those machines you can find some power tillers. These tools look rather like lawnmowers, but in place of horizontal blades that cut grass they have vertical blades that cut and turn up the soil. In a word, they till.

According to the NRSV, God put the man in the garden “to till it and keep it.” “Till” is a reasonable translation of the Hebrew verb ‘avad in this context…“To till” means to break up, plow, or turn up the soil before planting. Tilling enables hard ground to accept seeds. It aerates soil that has been tamped down. It can help fertilizer to be absorbed into the dirt prior to planting. Tilling isn’t planting seeds, caring for young plants, or harvesting. Rather, it is preparing the soil for fruitfulness that is to come.

There is an element of metaphorical tilling in work beyond farming. Teachers till when they prepare a learning environment. Managers till by seeing that the environments, systems, and relationships in their care will allow those they supervise to work well. Leaders till by shaping corporate cultures, defining core values, and lifting up compelling vision. Often, we have to break up old assumptions and practices for the seeds of innovation to be planted and grow.

Of course, so much more could be said about how our work is a form of tilling. Preparing, planning, and prioritizing could all be forms of tilling. Tilling describes work that prepares the soil, so to speak. It gets things ready for new life and for ultimate fruitfulness. Tilling is a central task of our lives, one that God has entrusted to us so that we might fulfill his intentions for our work.

Taken from Mark D. Roberts, Life for Leaders, a Devotional Resource of the DePree Leadership Center at Fuller Theological Seminary

By Their Work You have Been Threshed

In this excerpt from a sermon on the Lord’s Supper delivered by Augustine of Hippo to a group of Catechumens, (a Christian believer preparing for Baptism) the great bishop compares the process in which a seed becomes wheat, which ultimately becomes bread, to the process of becoming a baptized Christian. Augustine, following in the footsteps of Jesus, likens the process of sanctification to the threshing of wheat, with the separation of the wheat from the chaff.

Call to mind what this created thing [bread] once was in the field. How the earth brought it forth, the rain nourished it, and ripened it into an ear of wheat and then human labor brought it together on the threshing floor, threshed it, winnowed it, stored it up again, took it out, ground it, added water to it, baked it, and only at that moment made it into the form of a loaf.

Call to mind also: you did not exist, you were created, you were brought together to the threshing floor of the Lord by the labor of the oxen, that is, by those who announced the gospel, by their work you have been threshed.

When as catechumens you had to wait [for your baptism], you were stored up in the granary. You had given your names [put them on a list for baptism], and you began to be ground by fasting and exorcisms. Later on you came to the water, and you were sprinkled, and you were made one. When the fervor of the Holy Spirit came upon you, you were baked and you were made into the loaf of the Lord.

See what you have received. Just as, therefore, you see that the loaf which has been made is one, so you also are to be one, by loving one another, by keeping one faith, one hope, and undivided love.

Taken from Augustine of Hippo, Third Sermon: Sermon Denis 6, 1–3.

The Fruit Comes at the End

In the growth cycle of fruit-bearing plants, fruit comes at the very end. The cycle starts with a seed being planted in the ground. When watered, the seed will break open and begin to put down roots. That root system will continue to grow as the seed forms a shoot and eventually breaks through the surface of the soil into air and sunlight.

Both the plant and its root system will keep growing until the plant is strong and mature enough to bear fruit. Significantly, in order for a plant to survive, much less bear fruit, its root system has to take up more space underground than the plant takes up above ground. When you look up at one of those immense redwoods in the Avenue of the Giants, for example, you’re actually standing on root systems that are wider than those trees are tall. This is the principle of foundations. A foundation always has to be bigger than the thing it is supporting.

Banning Liebscher, Rooted: The Hidden Places Where God Develops You, WaterBrook, 2016.

You Are the Tree

In the film Of Gods and Men, director Xavier Beauvois tells the story of a small group of mostly French monks living in Algeria during a time of civil unrest. These monks live a life of quiet fidelity dedicated to prayer and work in the rural part of the country near a small village. As part of their work, the monks run a small health clinic and also provide necessary physical supplies like clothing and shoes to the people in the village.

Early in the film, word reaches the monks that a group of Muslim radicals is on the move and will soon be in the town adjacent to the monastery. The monks will be in danger as soon as the radicals take the town. However, they are given a choice. Because the radicals have not yet arrived, there is time for the monks to leave the monastery and move to a more secure place. In a pivotal scene, the monks speak with members of the village, most of whom are Muslim, about the decision.

One monk says that they are all like birds on the branch of a tree, uncertain as to whether or not they will fly away or stay. A woman from the village corrects him. “You are the tree. We are the birds. If you leave, we will lose our footing.” I am reminded of the words of Psalm 1, which liken the righteous to a tree with deep roots. The life of the Christian community and the life of the commonwealth, a word traditionally favored by Christians to describe the sum total of communal life in a given place, are knitted together. And so the monks make the brave choice to stay. They cannot turn their backs on the people they have been called to.

Taken from: In Search of the Common Good: Christian Fidelity in a Fractured World by Jake Meador Copyright (c) 2019 by Jake Meador. Published by InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, IL. www.ivpress.com

Humor

Settling Accounts

The story is told of a farmer in a Midwestern state who had a strong disdain for “religious” things. As he plowed his field on Sunday morning, he would shake his fist at the church people who passed by on their way to worship. October came and the farmer had his finest crop ever–the best in the entire county.

When the harvest was complete, he placed an advertisement in the local paper which belittled the Christians for their faith in God. Near the end of his diatribe he wrote, “Faith in God must not mean much if someone like me can prosper.” The response from the Christians in the community was quiet and polite. In the next edition of the town paper, a small ad appeared. It read simply, “God doesn’t settle His accounts in October.”

William E. Brown, Making Sense of Your Faith, Victor Books.

More Resources

Related Themes

Click a topic below to explore more sermon illustrations! 

Creation

Food

Gardening/Farming

Meals

& Many More