Harvest of the Harassed – Sunday June 18, 2017
Pentecost 3A, St Petri – Pastor Adrian Kitson
Matthew 9:35 – 10:8 Jesus sends out the Twelve35 Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and illness. 36 When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. 37 Then he said to his disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. 38 Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.’10 Jesus called his twelve disciples to him and gave them authority to drive out impure spirits and to heal every disease and illness.2 These are the names of the twelve apostles: first, Simon (who is called Peter) and his brother Andrew; James son of Zebedee, and his brother John; 3 Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; 4 Simon the Zealot and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him.5 These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions: ‘Do not go among the Gentiles or enter any town of the Samaritans. 6 Go rather to the lost sheep of Israel. 7 As you go, proclaim this message: “The kingdom of heaven has come near.” 8 Heal those who are ill, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy,[a] drive out demons. Freely you have received; freely give.
Ever tried to do a job with a lack of people or tools? It is not much fun and so much less productive!
Jesus sees a job for his followers. He sees a harvest ready for reaping too. His harvest is people. But he has a problem. There are too few workers who will engage in harvesting the people ripe for the picking. It is an urgent matter.
So he does something. He enlists his motley bunch of twelve ordinary blokes in the task of working the harvest of people.
I wonder if they were ready for the job. Did they want this job? Is anyone ever really ready to be sent by Jesus? Are we? Am I?
When Jesus said. “Go”, I wonder if the main question on their mind was not, “How can we harvest this community with Jesus?”, but, “What if I stumble: What if I fall. What if I make fools of us all (and him)? Will his love and their love continue when the walk becomes a crawl?” (DC Talk, What if I stumble, 2001. Jesus Freak album).
I could hear the disciples thinking that it would better to live within themselves, and avoid the risk, like we all do at times.
The pull on us is to live safe at home not be dangerously living sent. We can be like a teenager with hardly any support from home who has been told all his life that he will never amount to much and believes it.
Despite what other adults and friends say about his obvious skills and intelligence and the possibilities they see for him, the kid switches off trying. He becomes one of the harassed and aimless young people we are sent to find and love.
Can a whole congregation switch off? Can we live safe rather than liver sent? Can we switch off to what Jesus sees in our community; a harvest, and in us; gifts and skills for that harvest, and avoid the going, for fear of stumbling and falling and crawling?
Jesus still sends us anyway.
These ‘disciples’ or ‘students’ are for the first and only time in Matthew’s gospel named ‘apostles’, or “Sent ones” here. Up until now they have largely been spectators. Now they have been moved from watching the show to jumping the fence and being players in Jesus harvest program. Things are about to get “real’ as we say.
The safety of the holy huddle is to be broken up. The risky business of taking responsibility among the sinners begins. The church now needs to open up to the community and go there. The church goer engages with others for their sake on Monday as well as Sunday.
It is scary but also exhilarating. Living sent is like a young tradie, farmer, dancer, artist or soloist plying their trade for the first time. You finally get to show your skills, do your work, benefit from the satisfaction of a job well done and work with others doing the same thing.
Living sent is being involved with peoples’ lives being changed from the harassment of the Evil one and a directionless wandering, where all people have is themselves and their own self-righteousness, to a freedom to love and be loved, a hope rising, new joy filling, clearer purpose and meaning for living fully, obvious and satisfying. Not bad!
Jesus does not mix words.
Harvesting people will cost you status, relationships, comfort, self-glory and self-serving.
16 ‘I am sending you out like sheep among wolves … you will be handed over to the local councils …
21 ‘Brother will betray brother…., and a father his child; children will rebel against their parents … 22 You will be hated by everyone because of me …”
Sounds grim. And yet he still sends us. It seems brutal. He seems a harsh Master!
That haunting question comes again: What if I stumble; What of I fall. Will if I make fools of us all. Will the love continue when the walk becomes a crawl?
Someone has to live sent. Many people are harassed and aimless and in danger. Living sent is urgent and necessary. Jesus says , “I am the life, the hope, the love and the peace for which they long”.
Living sent is not a choice we got to make anyway. Being a Christian is not a spectator sport. All disciples are also sent ones – apostles.
And what if we see broken lives healed and disconnected and lonely people receiving new joy, new power, new behaviour and new hope? The cost would be worth it.
If this is not in you then you have become de-sensitised to the pain they know, the joy of the gospel and the call of the Saviour.
Don’t forget who he is. He is the one who stumbled, fell and crawled for you to that cross and who broke into a sprint out of the tomb for you!
He says living sent is all HIS work in us. Our speaking and doing is HIS work because what we do and speak in his name is done under HIS authority and with his power and presence.
“Jesus called his twelve disciples to him and gave them authority…”
He knows the score.
26 ‘So do not be afraid of them, for there is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known … 28 Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. ‘
He sees it all and knows the pain of any cost we may pay. He has paid the ultimate cost for us to even be here!
He has our life in his hands – hands that have nail marks in them where his blood flowed for us and still does. There will be final justice for any injustice by us or to us.
And he still speaks.
19 ‘But when they arrest you, do not worry about what to say or how to say it. At that time you will be given what to say, 20 for it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you’.
His own words will be on your lips and will do their work. But you will need to know his Words.
But, what if we say or do it wrong? What if we run out of steam or it does not work as well as I thought it should? Will his love continue if my walk becomes a crawl?
29 ‘Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care. 30 And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. 31 So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows’.
Do you really believe that he is going to leave you or withdraw his call and his approval of you even if your walk becomes a crawl? No. The love and call will continue.
And all of this leads somewhere good.
42 ‘And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones who is my disciple, truly I tell you, that person will certainly not lose their reward.’
We will not lose.
We are sent. We are called to live sent.
Will you live as his sent one even more?
Say yes because someone needs to go where he goes and speak what he speaks. This community needs us to live sent.
How? There is only one way to live sent and that is Jesus’ way.
It is all about reliance on his words. He calls us to give up reliance on any of the expected things’ “No bag, no extra coat, not even any money”, he says to the Twelve. Harvesting people is done with reliance on his promises, protection and presence, whether we are welcomed or rejected; and he assumes there will be both.
Living sent is trusting that his love will continue when ours does not.
Living sent is being a outward focussed community who get to know the joy of the harassed and helpless finding life and hope.
A sent church is a church who exists for him and them way above ourselves.
So, every plan we make will be mostly about serving them in Jesus’ name.
We will gladly lose our lives for the privilege of being in the harvest of the harassed. We will find our life in him more and more as we live sent. We won’t find life by protecting our own life.
We will stumble, we will fall. We may even make fools of us all.
But when the walk becomes a crawl, the love will continue in us all.
Take the time to read this whole section of Matthew’s gospel. Read from 9:25 to the end of chapter 10. It is one unit. There is lots in it so read it carefully and note anything that stands out for you. Share those things.
Jesus looks at those without a living faith and does not see problems or assign blame or condemnation. He see people harassed and aimless. Jesus also sees that there is a task to be done to change this. He sees the community as a harvest to be reaped, not a problem to be avoided. How do you see non-Christians? How do you view people who confess a different faith? How are we called to respond to those different from ourselves here?
Jesus authorised and sends the Twelve. That is his response to the need. Do you believe you have been authorised and sent by Jesus to be involved in the reaping of people for his good news of forgiveness and life? When did you become aware of this call on your life…..Share or reflect on your story.
Why do you think Jesus is so brutally honest about the cost of being a worker in the harvest (chapter 10)? What is his tactic here?
It seems he wants total commitment? The working of the harvest is to be placed above family and even one’s self. How have you seen this kind of commitment at work in your journey of faith so far?
Jesus is direct, honest and uncompromising about his followers now being sent people as well (apostles). There are beautiful words of comfort and love here too. Read 10:19, 10:28-29, 10:32, 10:42 and identify the promise Jesus give to you.
Do you think St Petri is a sent church? On a scale of 100, what percentage would you give St Petri for being open to the community and willingly involved in Jesus’ harvest?
The only thing we really need for the harvest are Jesus’ words. Not money, fashion, clever arguments or tricks. We need to know his words and speak them when the moment to speak comes – and it usually does.
Someone said that we don’t need to feel guilty or fearful of engaging with non-Christians in conversations about God. We just serve and be present until they ask and when they do we just re-tell what we know of Jesus in our own words and way and leave the converting or whatever up to the Holy Spirit. And if the moment does not come or we don’t take the opportunity, there will be another up ahead. I like it. “Bring Jesus”.
Jesus, help me live sent with all your honesty, all your words and all your help. You say I am sent and that we are worth more than many sparrows and coins. Help me trust that your love for me and our church will continue even of at time our walk becomes a crawl or we make fools of ourselves. Help us all live sent. Amen