Pastor Terry Shares a special message about our vision as a church for 2020. Sow. Water. Reap.
The whole idea of sow, water, reap, which is going to be our theme for the year 2020, is we get to have a goal and a dream that we’re pursuing together. It captures so much of everything that we’re about. It’s the very purpose that our church possesses and has as its heartbeat. It’s the very reason why we even attempted to step out in faith here at the Riordan campus as well, doing something adventurous and risky and bigger than ourselves. I also want to welcome all of you who are joining us on live stream right now. Wherever you may be, we’ve got a whole group of you that are in different places. Our love for you is real. Thank you. Thank you for being a part of this, even though you’re away from us, we’re all here together.
I want to look at just a quick, I only have a few minutes to share, at a passage that’s in your little pamphlet there, the handout. Really, I just love what Rick did here and the team. There’s a couple of passages there. I want you to look at the first one because the theme of sow, water, reap is birthed out of John 4 for us. This is a part of it that I want you to see. These are the words of Jesus. He actually said them to His disciples. He says, “Do not say, do you not say, there are yet four months and then comes the harvest? Look, I tell you, lift up your eyes and see that the fields are white harvest. Already the one who is who reaps is receiving wages and gathering fruit for eternal life so that the sower and the reaper may rejoice together. For here the same holds true. One sows and another reaps. Yes, I sent you to reap that for which you did not labor. Others have labored and you have entered into their labor.”
In this John 4 passage, which has everything to do with sow, water, reap really is something that was captured the heart of Jesus. I mean, we sometimes forget the context may be of what is actually being said here. This is a wonderful fourth chapter of the book of John where Jesus, almost the entire chapter is just the engagement of Jesus with this wonderful woman to whom we’re given so much kind of access. We call her the woman at the well, the Samaritan woman. If you recall how that chapter opens up, Jesus is tired and the disciples stop by a well in Samaria and he’s weary and he’s hungry. The disciples say, “Hey, we’re going to go into town and we’ll come back with some food.”
As Jesus is there, one of the rare times where I think he was alone in kind of a public environment, even though there was nobody there, people could come to a well. A woman shows up, a Samaritan woman, and Jesus gets into this amazing conversation with her. He starts talking to her about her life. He starts talking about her relationships. Jesus starts talking about how the love of, who God is. If she really knew how God could satisfy the deepest hunger in her heart, a hunger that she was trying to satisfy with other things, especially in her case, relationships, and it wasn’t working. Jesus says, if you knew the kind of water that I could give you, you’d ask me. By the time they were done, her heart was moved. It was opened up. All of a sudden this veneer of hardness was broken through and the light of Christ began to touch it. Something happened and she got so excited. She ran back into town and started talking about this one, this one who she thinks might be the Messiah.
When the disciples came back, though, he was finishing up that conversation. That’s when they said they were kind of astonished at this interaction that was going on. When she leaves, they turn to Jesus and say, “We brought the food.” Do you know what Jesus said? They said, “We have bread.” Jesus said, “You know what?” It’s almost like he forgot his hunger. And he forgot how tired he was in his humanity. And all of a sudden he just explodes. And he says, “My food is to do the will of Him who sent me.” He says, “I have my bread. I have a hunger that’s even greater than a natural hunger.” It’s all of a sudden, after that interaction with the woman and the inner engagement that He had and the opening of her heart, it captured everything that He had come to do to seek and to save that which was lost. He couldn’t help himself. He says, “My hunger is to do the will of Him who sent me.”
Then Jesus turned to them. That’s when He said these words, “Do not say four months, and then comes the harvest. No, I tell you, lift up your eyes, look around you, all around you. It’s white unto harvest. There are people ready right now for what I have to bring.” It was a powerful moment. He goes on to talk about it. Jesus says, “The one who reaps and sows, you’re all together in this.” It was a beautiful moment. It was powerful. It connected to Jesus’s deepest passion to seek and to say why He had come. For God so loved the world that He gave his only begotten son that whoever would believe in Him would not perish, but have everlasting, overflowing life. Think about it. The undying life of God, through Christ. Powerful. I looked at that passage and I was going, “Wow, Lord. “
One of the things that is so obvious and clear to me is that Jesus was saying, when he said to them, “Don’t say tomorrow, don’t say five years from now, don’t say a decade from now. Don’t say maybe later. The time is now. There are people everywhere who needed to be touched by my reality.” This message stirred His heart and it should stir our heart too. May our hearts be moved by the things that move Him. That was something that was going on there. I was thinking about it, Lord, help us, remind us not to forget that we have been called to lift up our eyes and to see people all around us. Sometimes we’re missing opportunities, even in our own families and at work. In our friendships, we forget that the time is, that the harvest is plenty, it’s there.
One of the things I had come across recently is some data points. They’ve been doing a lot of evaluations of where people are. I have a real hunger and desire to see people come home to the Lord. One of the things that they showed was something that was happening with the group of what they called 18 to 29 year olds who’ve been raised in the church. I wanted to show you one of the things that caught my attention. It will connect into what we’re about to say here, but check this out. This has to do with the idea of young people who have grown up in church and what they see happening. The positive is that half of them are staying engaged in church life. A portion of that group is staying very committed to Jesus. But my heart bleeds for the front, the prodigals who have drifted away from home in a far country, pursuing things that in the end will not satisfy, will ultimately crush their spirit and what they’re calling the nomads. Those who’ve drifted out of church community, and haven’t found their way back.
The idea of the Lord calling us to pursue people who are prodigals and nomads is very important to who Cornerstone is. It goes into the very DNA of who we are. My heart yearns to see, I don’t know why, but God put it in there. A special spot there for the prodigals to come home. Maybe it’s because I think about how people wander into San Francisco, sometimes running away from God. Yet this is the very place where, as people are praying for those who love them, they may even come back home to Him. How good is that? That has happened and continues to happen.
The other thing you look at in this passage though, and you notice that there’s another thing that we’re being told that not only is the time now and the harvest real, but we all have a part to play in it. You look at that passage and what Jesus is saying is this. “Some water, some plant, some sow.” He’s saying, look, we’re all working together. Some of us do different things to serve to make this happen. Some of us prepare the way in our prayer. Some of us serve to prepare things so someone can be brought here and experienced something joyful, life-giving, and safe. I mean, to have a safe place to bring people. Do you understand what that means? Do you understand what you’re doing? We are making a safe place for people to hear the message of Jesus. The best invitation they can ever have is from the people who they know and trust or who they believe in. A friend, someone who loves them, and hopefully … Listen to me.
Why is it so important? Because there may be one time that you’re able to bring someone and our prayer is that if that one time comes, that we will, by the attentiveness to the quality or the attempt of what we’re trying to do on behalf of the Lord, create an atmosphere for your friend, the one that you love, to experience as best as possible the goodness of God. Because while we do what we do, we do it together. All of us play different parts. Some of us serve behind the scenes. Some of it is more public. Some of us are doing things that no one else will ever see. Some are in the children’s wing. Some are welcoming people in the front end of things, in the parking lot. Others of us, we’re out there on the field. We’re working hard, we’re talking, we’re thinking, we’re praying. We’re looking for conversations. We’re praying for the right time. We’re thinking about the people that we care about and how we can talk to them about the Lord at key moments.
This is about growing into wholeness so that we can represent Him as well. Even everything that we do sometimes, week in and week out, we forget why. It’s to not just make us better people than we would have been without Him. That’s good. I believe it will happen. But really at its core, it’s so that we might be a light, a reflection of the light and be able to share a little bit of His light in a way that changes people’s lives forever, and in some cases, generations of people. We all work together. Some of us give of our time, resources. You give beautifully, you serve wonderfully. You live out your faith. I mean, I’m surrounded by heroes, sincere lovers of the Lord. People who really love God.
I’ve been impressed again, at the beginning of the year, I look around this church, and I think, “There are so many people who genuinely love the Lord. They’re really trying to read and know God. They’re reading their Bible. They’re really sacrificing, giving, and engaging community.” I see it all over the place. We all have a part to play. Some sow, some reap, some water. The other thing I realized is at the back end of that. What did Jesus say? Look at that 30th. “I sent you to reap for that which you did not labor. Others have labored and you have entered into that labor.” What that reminds us of even in our church, is we’re building off of someone else’s sacrifice. Even where we are now as a church is a product of both the prayers and the sacrifice of others.
We’re part of stories of people who don’t even live, they’re not living on this side anymore, just as someday we will leave. What will we leave behind? My prayer and conviction and belief is that we will be able to leave as a community, something for other generations to build off, should the Lord return. But should He tarry, as the older language used to say, then what will He find? I pray that others will be able to build off of the work, the commitment, the love, and the true things that we are doing for the Lord.
There’s another piece there. This will be the last portion of scripture I have us to look at. Look at Mark 4. See the motif. When you start seeing the references to harvest, sowing, and reaping, they’re all over the gospels. It’s all over the language of Jesus. Do you know what we are really? We’re urban farmers, really, if you want to get down to it. We’re part of the urban farmer movement. We’re sowing seed, scattering, and watering. We’re watching life grow. We’re part of something bigger than ourselves. Do you know what? Look at Mark 4. This is a very important passage for me personally. I’ll tell you why in a moment. It says, “The kingdom of God,” Jesus said, “is like a man who should scatter seed on the ground. He sleeps and he rises night and day and the seed sprouts and grows. He does not know how it does it, but the earth produces by itself. First, the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear.”
Whereas the older version says, “First, the blade, then the ear, then the corn in the ear.” It was a little over 30 years ago. I was 26. I know. The world was younger then. I was sitting in an office where Mission is right now. Some of you have been to the balcony at Mission. There’s actually a little room back there. That was the first office I ever had. At that particular moment, there was nobody else on staff. My grandfather had died the previous year. He was my mentor. I really hadn’t planned on pastoring the church. It was a small church. That wasn’t exactly the path I had planned for my life. I did feel a call but didn’t think it was going to work the way that it did.
So at that time, I remember because Caleb had been born, our first son, and my wife, Sheryl, who, some of you know, is an amazing woman. We are blessed to have her. That’s a fact. She was pregnant at that time because I was sitting in a room by myself. It was September of ’89. I was sitting there. It could have been in October. Now I’m positive. October of 1989. I was sitting in that room by myself. Very sad. As I mentioned, Sheryl was pregnant. Do you know who Sheryl was pregnant with? That girl you just saw sing before communion. That’s right. That was Chloe. I was sitting in there because the church, even though it had been small since I had been leading it, it got even smaller.
I thought, “Oh, who’s going to listen to me? I’m 26 years old. I don’t even know what I don’t know. I love God, but.” Do you want to talk about building on someone else’s blessing? They had with a handful of families, one of whom is still here, by the way, they gave all they had to form a church from a house. By the time I stepped into the church, the building itself was paid for at Mission, but we didn’t have much else. I was feeling bad because it didn’t have a lot of resources. It felt like I was kind of failing. I was scared.
I got a letter. Well, it came, someone put it in the offering. When I opened up the letter, a check fell out of it. That got my attention right away because I was thinking, “What is, what is that?” Remember where we were financially 30 years ago. It was a check for $1,000 from a person I had never met. That would be way, way more. I’m not saying it’s about the money, but I’ll tell you right now that made a huge difference to me because he didn’t just put that in there. This man who I’d never met, whose name is Oren Wright, wherever you are Oren, wherever you are.
“Pastor,” he wrote. This meant even more to me, listen to it. I hope I get it right. Last time I couldn’t read it right. I started, it started getting to me. “Today, visiting your church the first time, visiting the church for the first time, the Lord spoke to me to give you guys this offering. The ministry is blessed by God. He is aware of and pleased with your faithfulness and sincerity of heart.” Then he wrote, “Your every need is already met,” And he put little asterisks, “because you are seeking His face.” He wrote. “In His service.” I didn’t know, Oren Wright. Next to that asterisk, I looked at the bottom of the page and he quoted a verse. “First the blade, then the ear, then the corn in the ear. Remember those before you who have inherited the promises through faith and patience.” He said this at the bottom, “The Lord is touching you with encouragement today.”
How good is that? How good is that? Thank you, Lord. It meant a lot to me. Do you know what? It meant a lot to me and I never forgot it. First, the blade then the ear, then the corn in the ear. He was quoting Mark. He was quoting this right from Mark 4. He was saying, “This is what God is going to do in this church.” 30 … I mean, think about it. First the ear. Think about it. First the blade, then the ear, then the corn in the ear. That’s how I remembered it.
As I was preparing for this service, thinking, “2020. God, we’re going to talk about sowing, reaping, watering, harvest, and all these things.” All of a sudden, my mind hit back to this. It came back to me. Do you remember? First the blade, then the ear, then the corn in the ear. It’s what you guys were born for. It’s feeding your very DNA as a people. To seek after the loss, to go after the harvest, to not play it safe, to contend, to be a place in San Francisco where people can be brought, encouraged, and come home. The prodigals and the nomads. Some of them, may not be your sons and daughters. They may be other people’s sons and daughters. Maybe by praying and living for them, some of us will find that someone else will be touching our sons and daughters. We do not know how it works in the kingdom. First, the blade, then the ear, then the corn in the ear. Let us not underestimate what God can do.
He’s calling our church to be adventurous, to stay faithful, to contend, to be part of his expression of love with a lot of other wonderful churches in this city. We have a place in a role and we didn’t just do this to do it. We did it because we are honoring our calling as a people to pursue the harvest of God in every conceivable way. We are going to go give it our best shot. It’s interesting as I was walking here, I thought, “Wow, Lord, that was 30 years ago.” I was walking literally along that street behind me. I thought, “I don’t know how many years I have left, but I will do it to the best of my ability to honor you with a group of people who love you. We’ll walk as long and as hard as we can. We will run well by grace. We will fulfill the work that the Lord gave us to do as a church. We will do it with all our strength and might imperfectly, but with sincerity, committed to a purpose that is bigger than ourselves, because God has called us to reach people. This year we will set our decade in motion by faith, pursuing the harvest in every conceivable, creative way that we can we will be sowers who sow the seed.”
That is why we put this in there. If I had more time, I’d talk about each one of these. The bottom line is this. Sow has a verse. Water has a verse and reap has a verse. That last one in Psalms is beautiful because it says those who sow with tears will reap songs of joy. If you’ve ever seen someone you love come to Christ, you know songs of joy. If you’ve ever had a prodigal come home, you know songs of joy. You know it. “Those who go out weeping carrying seed to sow will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with them.” Sow. It’s joyful. I mean, ours is a life of joy.
Sow; you can see all the things we’re going to do, aiming to do, trying to do. We’ve got a lot more things that are in our hearts. You know how much we put into our art. Those are bringer events. Those are invitational places. That’s where we were like the sower who goes out. Let me show you a couple of things that have happened though. In addition to all the other initiatives we have, which are designed to grow people, some of them are watering, some of them are evangelistic. Some of us are community building, whatever it is, bringing people.
Sow, water, reap. We’re going to have two more. We’re going to have some people joining our team. I think it’s helpful to know this so that you’re aware. We’ve got a couple of families coming in on staff with us. One of them is Mike and Connie. If I can put the picture of Mike and Connie Lenhart. Mike and Connie, you’ll see him around. He’s going to be primarily stationed here at Riordan. He helps oversees the finances of our church. He’s been doing this for actually a few decades. He’s a proven man of God who’s going to be a tremendous presence. He’s stepping up in this kind of second stage of life to help be part of what we’re doing here at Riordan.
We have another family. This is Ahn and his wife. Ahn and their beautiful little daughters. Some of you may have already been introduced to Ahn because he’s always saying hi to people in ways that are almost impossible not to notice. Ahn is coming on as our community catalyst. He’s primarily going to be working out of Mission, but he’ll be everywhere. Part of his job was to help us pursue what was in our hearts when we came to Riordan. Which was to have some type of presence assisting ministries that are working in the city, in San Francisco State and City College. We felt like God wouldn’t have planted us here at Riordan if we weren’t supposed to do something to reach forward towards those who are coming into our city and going to school here. We want to be part of that. That’s part of our vision as part of what we feel we’re being called to do. He’s really just being brought on to help us establish community.
The end for us is about people. By the way, because we’re going to close out in a moment. I’ve got a song. I asked them to close with this song before we do the offering, intentionally, and it’s called Tears of the Saints. Before I even mention that, I do want to update everybody on what happened. Because you are an amazing church. I’m going to tell you why. We made a decision to pursue this planting of this campus and are finished strong. I want to show you how much progress we’ve made. It’s pretty amazing. Can we put that up? Look at that. That is amazing. I mean, you did this unto the Lord, unto the Lord. For us, it was always about what was represented. It was who, it was the person. It was the people whose name we put on that board on the way out. That’s what it meant to us.
Do you know what, again, there’s 29 left? I’m confident already that God’s going to put it on our hearts to finish that up. That’s not even an issue to me at this point. I’ve already witnessed the miracle. It’s already been a huge blessing. We’re just marching forward with what God’s called us to do. But remember, as we make our way into this last song and we break out and just have as much fun, linger as much as you want. Do whatever is in your heart. This is a good place, but here’s the thing. Tears of the Saints. Somebody asked me, well, it was my daughter. We were talking before service.
She said, “Dad, why did you pick that song to end with?” I knew what she meant because it’s kind of an intense song. It’s not like the joyful celebrative, let’s go out and get a picture with Sourdough Sam song. The reason is that I want to connect back. I want our final minutes together to connect back to our why. The song is called Tears of the Saints. It talks about calling the prodigals to come home and praying for those who are broken. You’ll hear it, your heart will. If you hear it with your heart, it’ll move you. Honestly, in the last service, it made me cry, made me cry.
What did Jesus say? “Do not say four months, and then comes the harvest. I say to you, lift up your eyes for the fields are white unto harvest.” In that song, you’re going to hear this phrase. “It is an emergency.” We have to pray, pray. Listen, maybe as we hear this and we share this, this is our prayer song. Maybe God puts it in your heart while that’s happening of a name that supposed to go on that board by faith. Maybe more than one, by faith, tears of the saints. They matter a lot. So I’m going to pray. I’m going to have a very quick time of giving and then we’ll finish this moment together.
So, Lord, I thank you for what we’ve shared. I thank you for what it means. I thank you for being able to serve together, to do community, life, and share in the pursuit of a harvest together. We were called from the very beginning. From the very beginning, we were called to be sowers of seed in this city, the sowers of the gospel of Jesus Christ, and then create an environment to water it and see it come to life and to reap a harvest under you, Lord. It’s because you love people. You gave everything for it. Help us to do the same. That’s my prayer in Jesus’ name, amen, God. Amen. Thank you, Lord.