It is harvest time here in the Midwest. As I drove across Missouri and parts of Illinois over the past few days, I observed the culmination of the growing season. Combines are still in the fields harvesting corn and soybeans, and granaries are filling. The rows are being sliced away, and the green and gold of fields are shucked aside as the earth enters its autumnal and winter slumber. Now the work is underground as Sabbath rest prepares for next year’s bounty.
Churches celebrate harvest, as well. It is understandable why fall is the time for stewardship campaigns, consecration Sundays, and “pledge” opportunities. In earlier, more agrarian days, farmers could not give their offering until “crops had made” and they had received payment. This rhythm of sowing and reaping is found in the world of the Bible, and persons share their harvest with the Lord. Presenting “first fruits” to God is a sign of covenantal fidelity.
While in Illinois, I met with faithful supporters of Central. For the past fourteen years this couple has supplied scholarship funds for students preparing for pastoral ministry, especially those planning on serving rural churches, which is their farming context. They well understand the challenges of serving small churches and want to ease the way for students to attend seminary. In our recent conversation, they suggested that they redirect their funds to Central’s create program, our innovative new M.Div. program. They want to sow seeds for the future.
One of the joys of my role as President is that I get to hear the deep interests and heart’s desire of donors. I get to see people at their very best as they practice stewardship of their harvest. Churches and seminaries depend upon persons practicing generosity out of the abundance God has granted them. Not only are we to offer our resources to God, but Christ beckons us to offer our whole selves to be sown with him. Remarkably, then we become part of God’s own harvest as we are gathered into God’s reign (Matthew 13:30).
Molly T. Marshall
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