“THE CALL FOR REAPERS”

Wayne S. Walker

TEXT: “I sent you to reap…” (Jn. 4.38)

INTRO.:  A song which encourages us to be reapers in the Lord’s harvest
is “The Call For Reapers” (or “Far and Near,” #387 in “Hymns for Worship
Revised” and #108 in “Sacred Selections for the Church”).  The text is
usually identified as having been written by J. O. Thompson.  Early
research suggested that a John O. Thompson, who lived from 1782 to 1818,
may have been the author, although this would mean that he must have
produced the words long before the hymn was first published in 1885.
However, later research has determined that the the author was James Oren
Thompson, who was born on June 9, 1834, in Waldo, ME.  During the
American Civil War, he served in Maine’s 17th Infantry Regiment, rising
from second lieutenant to captain.

     Thompson’s service record indicates that he was a minister upon
entering the army, and after the war he joined the Methodist Episcopal
Maine Conference in 1866.  From there, he transferred to the Providencem
RI, Conference, later renamed the the New England Southern Conference,
and retired in 1886, when he moved to Keyser, WV, and edited “The
Mountain Echo.”  Afterwards, he went to Charleston, WV, and worked as
secretary to the Board of Agriculture.  In 1905, he moved to St.
Petersburg, FL, where he served as minister of the First Ave. Methodist
Church and died on Sept. 28, 1917.

     The tune (Clemm or Harvesttime) was composed by James Bowman Overton
Clem (1855-1927).  The son of William D. T. Clem of Keyser, WV, nephew of
Methodist Episcopal bishop Thomas Bowman, and cousin to Virginia Clem,
wife of writer Edgar Allan Poe, he spent most of his life in Keyser.  The
first known appearance of the song was in John H. Vincent’s “The Epworth
Hymnal Containing Standard Hymns,” published in 1885 at New York City,
NY, by Phillps and Hunt.  Among songbooks published by members of the
Lord’s church, it seems to have first appeared in 1888 in “Standard
Church Hymns” compiled by Christopher Columbus Cline (1848-1920).  The
copyright was renewed in 1913 by the Methodist Book Concern, but later,
at least by 1923, it was owned by Eaton and Main.

     The song suggests that we ask the Lord to send forth reapers into
His harvest.

I. Stanza 1 says that we need reapers because the fields are teeming
“Far and near the fields are teeming With the waves of ripened grain;
Far and near their gold is gleaming O’er the sunny slope and plain.”
  A. In the parable of the tares, Jesus used the field to represent the
world: Matt. 13.36-38
  B. The waves of ripened grain would then represent souls that need to be
saved: Acts 18.9-10
  C. Thus, the reapers should go far and near, over slope and plain, into
all the world: Mk. 16.15-16

II. Stanza 2 says that we need reapers because there is work for morning,
noon, and night
“Send them forth with morn’s first beaming, Send them in the noontide’s
glare;
When the sun’s last rays are gleaming, Bid them gather everywhere.”
  A. Jesus’ parable of the workers in the vineyard indicates that He wants
His laborers to work for Him at all times in their lives: Matt. 20.1-7
  B. The work of these laborers is to gather in the harvest: Lk. 10.2
  C. This gathering should be made everywhere there are lost souls: Lk.
14.21

III. Stanza 3 says that we need reapers because there are sheaves to be
gathered
“O thou, whom thy Lord is sending, Gather now the sheaves of gold;
Heavenward then at evening wending, Thou shalt come with joy untold.”
  A. The Lord wants to send people to do His work: Isa. 6.8
  B. Some workers plant, some water, and others gather the increase that
God gives: 1 Cor. 3.6-8
  C. The Lord has promised that those who continually sow the seed in
tears shall reap in joy and bring in the sheaves with them: Ps. 126.5-6

     CONCL.:  The choorus emphasizes the need continually to pray for
reapers:
“Lord of harvest, send forth reapers!  Hear us, Lord, to Thee we cry;
Send them now the sheaves to gather, Ere the harvest-time pass by.”
As we ask the Lord to send reapers, let us remember that it may well be
that He wishes to use us in this great work.  Therefore, we should do
everything we can to see that the seed is sown and the harvest gathered
as we hear and respond to “The Call For Reapers.”
 

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