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Out Our Way: More hands needed - Matthew 9:35-38


October 19, 2018

Out our way, many ranchers have more than one pasture to prevent over grazing. We move the herd from the pasture they have been grazing all summer long down the valley to the winter pasture where the grass has had a chance to recover from last year’s grazing. In this way, summer and winter, the cattle can thrive. However, cattle aren’t the brightest critters in the universe and making the move can sometimes be quite a job.

Charlie and I were sent out in late fall a few years ago to move the herd from the summer to the winter pasture. It had been a good year for them and the land, so the upper reservoir still had some water, and the grass, though mostly grazed short by now, still covered the prairie. There was probably enough feed and water to sustain the large herd for a few more weeks, provided we didn’t get an early snow, like we did last October when an Alberta Clipper covered the region and knocked out power all along the Hi-Line for a few days. In Montana, you hope for good fall weather and for the chinooks to give some relief even in calving season — but you can’t count on it.

So although the day was warm, there was still some water and a bit of grazing left in the summer pasture, it was time to get the herd down to the lower elevation where the winter pasture was lush and the lower water sources full. Sadly, the cattle didn’t understand that. They had their own ideas.

We drove the herd up and over one rise on the main trail, but on the other side were numerous cattle trails leading back to the pasture we had just left. The herd split into about five different groups, spread out across the prairie but all leading back to the summer reservoir and now largely grazed-over pasture. Charlie and I could turn one group but they quickly scattered and joined one of the others. I tried to block and ride swing as Charlie attempted to turn the largest group toward the green pastures and still waters waiting them below, but there were just too many of them for the two of us. They broke from Charlie, and while I could head off some 20 head, 100 others just went around me. Clearly, we needed more cowhands to get the job done. A week later with five other riders, we finally got the job done. But what if there had been no one but Charlie and me? A great many cattle would likely have been lost that winter when the storms came, the grass was gone and the upper reservoir dried out.

One of the issues facing many congregations today is that while they may have many members who attend, few show up to serve. Like a volunteer fire department in which the members leave the actual fire fighting to the chief and a few others, the result is disaster. We are a country with many professing “Christians” but few serving disciples. Like Charlie and — saw on the Tiger Ridge, the Lord’s work requires more than one or two dedicated hands to get the job done.

Jesus warned the few who followed Him that despite His popularity and the huge crowds that followed Him, “the harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few.” Many in the church today have realized that we have become a nation of “all hat and no cattle” Christians, letting the “herd” be lead by those who make the most noise rather than those with the greatest wisdom. One does not climb a mountain by going down hill and one does not make progress by going he wrong way. Cows don’t know any better — and neither do a great many of our neighbors who are quick to follow the herd without knowing where they are going.

Christ is looking for laborers who will do His bidding — riders who will listen to His directions and help guide others. Jesus “owns the pastures” and has “built the reservoirs” You can trust the bellowing cow up front — or you can trust the Master — as to where the green pastures and still waters are to be found. Lots of false trails are out there and lots of loud critters claiming they know more than the Boss does. So He sends His hands to show those that seek the better way which trail to follow that will get them where they want to go. But there are far more loud mouth cattle bullying and bellowing the rest of the herd in the wrong direction than hands to correct and guide them in then right way. So far. 

But maybe God is calling you to saddle up and join his crew — to listen and learn and discover the way we are all seeking — and then help others find it as well. Jesus had many admirers and attracted huge crowds, but only 12 disciples. The harvest is great but the workers are few. He needs more for winter approaches. Lots of false trails and false leaders taking the world down the wrong trails. We can just let a few try to get them back on the right trail against all odds — or we can saddle up and say to the Boss: “Here I am, Boss, use me.”

Brother John Bruington


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