Hey Dad, "tell me a story." Some kids had to say that to their fathers while growing up. Not me. My Dad told me stories whether I wanted to hear them or not. For my whole childhood I heard his stories, mostly about growing up on the farm and helping his father while delaying his college and seminary experience. Lots of farm stories. You might say Dad was a harvest hand. For sure, he was and still is a story-teller.
Eugene Peterson's bible paraphrase The Message uses that term, "harvest hand" in a translation of one of my favorite scripture stories found in the gospel of Matthew. It's the story of when Jesus called the Twelve Disciples and sent them to do what Jesus did: heal, teach, preach, care, and to tell a story.
"When he (Jesus) looked out over the crowds, his heart broke. So confused and aimless they were, like sheep with no shepherd. "What a huge harvest!" he said to his disciples. "How few workers! On your knees and pray for the harvest hands!" The prayer was no sooner prayed than it was answered. Jesus called twelve of his followers and sent them into the ripe fields. He gave them power to kick out evil spirits and to tenderly care for the bruised and hurt lives." - Matthew 9:36-10:1
On this father's day week and weekend, I pause to give tribute to my earthly father. He is my Dad and I love him. Since my mother's passing, Dad has lived in my home with me and Laura. He moved from Hunt to Buda with us. He goes to church with us. He listens to my sermons. It is fun having him with us. Dad will be 98 years old in early July. We hope to celebrate that with him. And in that celebration, we will style the party with a harvest hand brand. And we will invite his children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren to tell their stories about him.
This morning Dad and I had time together outside on the back stoop-porch of the house we rent. As we sat and told stories, we felt the summer southerly breeze, we smelled the blooming crepe myrtles, we heard the white-winged doves cooing in the distance, we watched BotheDog come and go from our site to other parts of the yard, and we smiled at each other. I asked Dad to help me remember the cicadas and the sounds of summer at various parsonage homes we shared in south Texas. Dad thought for a moment and then told me of a time when he and his sister JoAnne caught cicadas by the family farm house. They tied string around the insects and then ran as fast as they could run around the house as the cicadas made their loud sounds. Torture? Kids being kids. Farm life. Harvest hands.
Back to Jesus and his twelve disciples. I learned much of my faith from my Dad. He was the primary point of instruction of the gospel. His care and compassion as a pastor was my primary source of understanding of what this call to ministry meant - to see with compassion the hurting ones and to be ready to go and care tenderly.
Certainly, there were times when I felt Dad was not sharing compassion with me. But those times were few and far between. In large measure, I am the beneficiary of a lifetime ministry in which my father heard the invitation and followed Jesus into the harvest field.
For this tribute and for this Sunday, I will preach from the words of Jesus and in the influence of my father, the Rev Boyd Harris. Happy Father's Day to you Dad. You Harvest Hand!
Along the Way
For more information, read Matthew 9:35-10:23.
Author: Paul E Harris
Journal posts from a pastor and spiritual friend