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Standing With Giants

John 4:31-38

In the meantime, the disciples pressed him, “Rabbi, eat. Aren’t you going to eat?”

He told them, “I have food to eat you know nothing about.”

The disciples were puzzled. “Who could have brought him food?”

Jesus said, “The food that keeps me going is that I do the will of the One who sent me, finishing the work he started. As you look around right now, wouldn’t you say that in about four months it will be time to harvest? Well, I’m telling you to open your eyes and take a good look at what’s right in front of you. These Samaritan fields are ripe. It’s harvest time!

“The Harvester isn’t waiting. He’s taking his pay, gathering in this grain that’s ripe for eternal life. Now the Sower is arm in arm with the Harvester, triumphant. That’s the truth of the saying, ‘This one sows, that one harvests.’ I sent you to harvest a field you never worked. Without lifting a finger, you have walked in on a field worked long and hard by others.” — John 4:31-38, The Message

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As I sit in this passage today I am struck by this image from the last sentence, “Without lifting a finger, you have walked in on a field worked long and hard by others.”

Too often we think that we are “the first” or that we are bringing a “fresh” expression of the gospel to a particular place and people. But, the reality is that we are part of something much bigger than ourselves.

A couple years into my time here in Ypsilanti I was sitting with a group of pastors from the city. Mostly men and women who had given most of their adult lives to this place. They had been faithfully serving the people and the city for decades. These pastors are good and faithful men and women. They love our city deeply and passionately. They have been through the hard years and the painful times. There is nothing that they have not seen. They’ve been through the Civil Rights marches and the Billy Graham Crusades.

In that meeting my heart broke.

I was absolutely gutted.

It was as if the Spirit grabbed me by my ear and seemingly said, “Little boy, look, listen, and hear. You are arrogant. Your arrogance is hurting my people here. Learn to love, son.”

I was sitting next to my friends Pastor Vicki, Pastor Roger, and Pastor Tony. Pastor Vicki was walking the line of anger, frustration, and sadness over the attitude of the many “church planters” that were coming into the area. They were speaking as though God was absent and that God’s people were absent and that the work of the Spirit of God was absent from this place. I could see and hear, her frustration and heartbreak. Pastor Tony and Pastor Roger were resonating with her.

I was gutted.

After the meeting I sought forgiveness, she was gracious and kind. Then she said, with that twinkle in her eye and the rye smile that accompanied her kind heart, “I’m so glad you were hearing me.”

It was in that moment that I realized in our work here in Ypsilanti we are standing on the shoulders of giants. Men and women who most of the world will never know. But, these men and women have done the hard work. They have prayed, served, loved, and been present in a place that many have overlooked and ignored except in its proximity to Ann Arbor.

Truly the Spirit that day was showing me that, “Without lifting a finger, you have walked in on a field worked long and hard by others.”

Today as I sit here, I am overwhelmed with gratitude for their faithful love of this city and this people.

How have you walked into a field, without lifting a finger, that was ripe for harvest because it has been worked long and hard by others?

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