By Pastor Jerry Donovan
It’s been over forty years since the images from the Apollo missions to the moon forever changed our understanding of our place in the universe. The famous image of the earth “rising” over the moon, while strangely beautiful, represents a world that looks surprisingly small. And that’s just the viewpoint from the moon, the closest object in the barely understandable vastness of space. Another image I remember seeing is the size comparisons between the earth and the other planets in the solar system. In comparison the image of Jupiter is the size of a volleyball, while the earth looks like a marble. In comparing the image of the sun, Jupiter looks like a marble, and the earth looks like a single dot. And our perspective changes dramatically when you compare some of the closest stars in our galaxy to our sun. it looks like a pea. Jupiter is invisible from that perspective, and the earth is smaller than invisible!
One of the ironic effects of these images that compare the size of our planet to other celestial bodies is that it has brought the world closer together. Internet and world-wide cable TV have had that effect as well. Surprisingly, I think all of this has also made us much more aware of what a staggering number of people 6.8 billion is! Challenged with such vastness, some will “think globally and act locally,” but it seems that there are many in our world who have decided that they can’t really make a difference, so they have stopped trying and retreated into their own world.
Actually, this point of view has been around longer than we may think. Paul warns the first century Galatians to avoid “growing weary in doing what is right” (9 Let’s not get tired of doing good, because in time we’ll have a harvest if we don’t give up. Gal. 6:9 CEB). The people Paul addressed still believed in large part that the earth was the center not only of the solar system, but of the entire creation! Yet he found it necessary to encourage them to recognize that the work they do for the Kingdom of God is work that has lasting significance. The way Paul did that was to remind them that God’s work is like a harvest that will someday be finished. The people of Paul’s day knew a lot about harvesting. There is a right time for it; if you try to harvest before that time, the fruit isn’t ripe, and if you wait too late it will spoil. And there is a sense of predictability to the idea of a harvest. The rhythm of planting and harvesting creates the expectation that harvest follows planting like day follows night.
I think we might all agree that there’s something built into the very nature of a life of sacrificial love, a life of bearing one another’s burdens, a life of loving your neighbor as yourself that is “draining.” You give and give and give some more, and never really know if any of what you’re giving is doing any good at all! But Paul recommends that we take a longer look when we find ourselves getting discouraged. We need to look at things from a broader perspective when we feel that our work is insignificant. In a very real sense, our “bigger” perspective of the vastness of the universe and our place in it needs the “broader” perspective of the Kingdom of God that continues to grow and produce fruit until the final harvest day. The harvest that our Lord and Savior Jesus the Christ saw as ripe already is one that will be completed in God’s good time.
We all need that confidence Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15:58 (NCV), “your work in the Lord is never wasted,” (58 So my dear brothers and sisters, stand strong. Do not let anything move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your work in the Lord is never wasted.1 Cor. 15:58, New Century Version).