A Harvest of Hope

I just got back from vacation in Broken Bow, Oklahoma, and it was wonderful. It was also my first real vacation in three years. #thanksCOVID.

Way back then, in 2019…which seems like a lifetime ago…we vacationed on the Gulf coast, and on the way home we stopped at the National Memorial for Peace and Justice in Montgomery, Alabama.

If you haven’t been there, you need to go. It’s beautiful. It’s powerful. It’s heartbreaking.

One of the most haunting parts is a series of metal slabs, each engraved with a county and state, and then the names of the African Americans who were lynched in that county.

There were several counties from South Carolina, where we lived at the time. Aiken, where my kids will go to summer camp next week, has a slame with names on it.

Harris County, where my boys were born, has a slab with names on it.

Alexandria, Virginia, where I went to seminary, has a slab with names on it.

Tarrant County has a slab with a name on it.

I explained to the boys that these places all have Episcopal churches and that these places all had Episcopal priests living there at the time of the killings.

“Why didn’t they do anything, Dad?” one of my boys said.

I had no answer.

I pray that they tried to do something.

“I want to make sure this never happens again,” the other boy said.

You and me both, son.


“The Lord appointed seventy others and sent them on ahead of him in pairs to every town and place where he himself intended to go. He said to them, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.’”

Today’s Gospel starts with Jesus appointing and sending out the 70.

Scholars point out that Genesis 10 lists all the nations of the world, and there are 70. So the number seventy here implies all of humanity.

All of us.

Jesus is appointing and sending all of us.

And Jesus is sending us out as laborers in the field.

I had this stole made after my dad died. He grew up as a wheat farmer in Kansas, and this passage always makes me think of him.

It’s harvest time right now in Kansas, where my dad grew up. My uncle and cousin are probably harvesting as we speak.

I was thinking about this as I did my reading for my Stephen Ministry leader training I started this past week. Yes, I had to work on vacation…

The first book we’re reading, Christian Caregiving as a Way of Life, begins with a summary of farming. “Farmers teach lessons in hope every day. They toil for weeks, preparing the soil for planting. Tilling, fertilizing, planting seeds, cultivating…all these activities serve to prepare and nourish the crop. Every day, farmers hope – for rain, but not too much; for sun, but not too much; for warmth, but not too much. When the harvest arrives, farmers are gathering hopes fulfilled as much as work rewarded.”


When Jesus uses this metaphor of laborers in the field…of farmers…I think he’s saying something about the way we are to approach our work.

Jesus sends us out as people of hope.

Even when the world is not as it should be, we are people of hope.

Even in the darkest of situations, we are people of hope.

Even in the hardest of times, we are people of hope.


Back at the National Memorial for Peace and Justice, I was struck by the way the curators talk about their work. In the descriptions of the work of the museum, you’ll hear things like “The Memorial was conceived with hope…” Or “we hope the Memorial inspires communities across the nation to enter an era of truth-telling.” Or “we aim to promote a more hopeful commitment to racial equality and just treatment of all people.”

Even when every town in which we’ve ever lived has a slab with names of the lynched, we are people of hope.

Even in the darkest of situations, we are people of hope.

Even in the hardest of times, we are people of hope.


I have a friend who has the word “hope” tattooed on her arm. It’s a reminder to her of God’s presence and faithfulness in times of gut-wrenching pain and grief. For her, it calls to mind 1 Thessalonians 4:13…”we do not grieve as those who have no hope.”

Even when we don’t feel it, we are people of hope.

Even when we’re all tears and broken hearts, we are people of hope.

Even when it seems like a pinprick of light down a really long hallway, we are people of hope.


Jesus is calling us to the hard work of tilling, planting, watering, tending, and harvesting.

Regardless of the ground and the weather and the circumstances, we are appointed and sent to do that hard work of love.

Even in the darkest of situations, we are people of hope.

Even in the hardest of times, we are people of hope.