The Weather Report AUGUST 2018

I recently called Jimmy. He is a master farmer and was a contemporary of my father’s. Well into his eighties, he continues to single-handedly raise a crop and tend a herd of Angus cattle on his Neely’s Bend farm.
Though he is not a man of many words, he is one who stands by his word. He has the habit of waiting a beat after people have spoken before speaking himself. Before detecting this habit, talking with Jimmy on the phone made me uneasy. I have come to see this as his way of making sure the one speaking is really done.
“I have a question about cantaloupes,” I began the call. There was the anticipated silence on the other end. Vendors look for his cantaloupes and honeydews this time of year. When the deer leave them alone and heavy rain does not destroy them, his melons are delectable. “How do you know when they are ready?” I asked. I waited for his answer.
Vegetables, fruits and grains indicate a readiness for harvest in a number of ways. A most conspicuous indicator is change of color, like the tomato and the purple hull pea: the former turns a shade of red and the latter reddish blue. An equally obvious indicator would be a noticeable shift in position, like the ripe ear of corn tilting downward and away from the stalk. Size can also indicate readiness for harvest.
After a few beats Jimmy asked, “What variety did you plant?” Come to find out, many varieties of cantaloupe detach from the vine when ripe. In the case where the fruit does not remove itself, he said the most reliable indicator is smell. The characteristic smell of this fruit is described by some as “strongly floral” and somewhat “tropical perfume.” Since the phone call my olfactory system has remained on high alert.
In the same Samaritan scene where Jesus engaged a woman at the well, his disciples returned from the market. Someone encouraged Jesus to eat a bite. He declined and observed: Why, I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields; they are ripe for the harvest!1 It is likely that Jesus spoke with a field ready for harvest in view. The reader detects the urgency in his voice. When the crop is to be picked, capable hands are needed; the window of opportunity will close quickly.
On the same day on which the seed had been sown, the exchange with the woman at the well, the fruit had ripened. On the woman’s word alone, many Samaritans came from the city to see and hear Jesus. The evangelist records that many believed, saying, “We know that this is indeed the Savior of the world.”2 The subsequent receptivity to his ministry informed Jesus’ decision to stay in and around Samaria for two more days.
The refusal of the offer of lunch was informed by compassion. Jesus felt for the “harassed and helpless” of Samaria. On this occasion he perceived the ripeness of human need and urged his disciples to work the harvest. The indication of readiness was detected by the human eye. Knowing the human tendency to be blind to the obvious, Jesus directed his followers to “look at the fields.” 
Soon, I will select a cantaloupe from the field and cut into it. I am anticipating that unique sweet flavor, the taste of sunshine. When I do, I will ponder our Lord’s command to “look” upon the human need around and in me. May I find a willingness to exert the effort the harvest asks of me. —Steven
1 John 4.35
2 John 4.42