Sermon – 06-14-20 – Proper 6 – Cycle A
Scriptures: Exodus 19:2-8a, Psalm 100, Romans 5:1-8, Matthew 9:35 – 10:14
Sermon Title: “Rise Up, O People of Zion”
“The harvest is plentiful but the laborers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.” If you have been around church services 50 or so years, you may know the song “Bringing in the Sheaves.” It is about this very verse. This verse is not really about harvesting wheat.
If you are young, you probably do not know that “sheaves” are a miniature corn shock – oh, dear, you may not even know what corn shocks are. Oh, yes, you would, if you like Halloween because a typical Halloween scene will have a “statue-like” shape of corn stalks. The wheat or the corn kernels were removed from the stalk and the stalks were gathered into these upright bundles to be gathered later for bedding for animals.
As this metaphor goes, people are the wheat or the corn and need help to be brought into the fold. They cannot harvest themselves. They don’t know how to get from the confusion and wilderness of the world into a meaningful, comfortable situation.
I am thinking of a stalk of wheat which I will call Wilda. Wilda is happy where she is and each day makes her feel happier until one day she knows she did not grow in that spot to stay there through a cold, windy winter. She knows there is something better for her but she does not know how to get there. She knows she has gifts to offer. One fine day she hears people talking. They are moving closer. Ah! This is the day when things will happen. This is the day when her gifts will be gathered and used and she will be fulfilled. Her seeds of grain at the top of her stalk will nourish an animal or a person. Her body, called a stalk, will make an animal comfortable during rest.
Wilda has been brought into the fold. Her purpose for life is being fulfilled. Jesus uses this metaphor of the harvest being ripe so the disciples will understand that people are waiting to be fulfilled. Their purpose in life will not be accomplished until they are “harvested;” until they are brought into a meaningful arena where they can be drawn to the love of Jesus Christ and to increase God’s kingdom on earth. Jesus is delegating the task.
Jesus has been busily healing people of all sorts of problems but he evidently chose not to twitch his nose and bring this huge mass of lost, wandering people into the shelter of the sheepfold. He realizes that he needs to enlist help and, besides, his goal is to train the disciples. So he tells – he does not ask – the twelve disciples to join the challenge. Bring these people in!
In where? No mention of a building. It is irrelevant in this picture. Because I am a micro-manager, I would want those details established before the crowd comes. Not so with Jesus. “Bring them in!” he says. I would want the pews established with name cards! Not so with Jesus. “Bring them in!” Miraculously, the disciples moved into the crowd and brought every last person in. You don’t think so. You are right. That is not how it works. Each person is a Wilda. Each person stands alone even when surrounded by a crowd of other Wildas.
Jesus has other instructions rather than using a lasso. Jesus says, “Go to towns. If the people in the town welcome you, stay and share the story. If the people in the town are snarly and inhospitable, shake the dust from your feet. In our Bible Study we use various translations of the Bible looking at the same story. It is interesting that each one used the words, “Shake the dust.”
As time went on and the group of disciples became larger and younger, these instructions to the twelve remained in place for all future harvesters – that is us! It is a relief to know that we are not expected to hammer our resurrection story into unbelievers’ heads. No, we introduce, we watch for reaction, then we either shake the dust from our sandals or we take a seat as invited.
You may prefer gathering stalks of grain instead of people. But this story is not really about gathering grain. It is about sharing the light of our life. It is about spreading the love. But this is not just hugs and kisses love. Sharing the story of God’s love for us is the climax of our existence. If we don’t share this love and this information, we will either shrivel and become useless and joyless or we will explode into a million pieces and what good is that except to be a spectacular sight.
So, rise up, O people of Zion! Everyone is included in this circle of harvesters. Sounds like a piece of farm equipment – harvesters. I dare not say Farmall or John Deere. I don’t know how engrained you are in one or the other. But, God did not make us to be equipment. He created us to be saver of souls through winning ways.
What are those winning ways? Well, times have changed. For one thing we are not going to walk from town to town through all kinds of dust and mud. I don’t intend to literally shake the dust from my sandals. Anyway, going door-to-door is not socially accepted in this day and age. What acceptable ways are there these days?
Where can we find or where can we create hospitality for our story? Well, the thing is to make it our story. How did God show up in your life today? God appears in my life over and over, often by scheduling my day. It is so surprising to me when a day falls into place and I pull into my driveway and say to God, “How did you do this again and yesterday and the day before and I anticipate you will do this tomorrow?”
God solves dilemmas for me – maybe an equipment problem, maybe a relationship problem, maybe a startling financial revelation, maybe a spoken word that fell the wrong way when it left my mouth. Sometimes God even uses these mispoken words or poor attitudes to move into something closer and deeper with the person whom I accidentally hurt or with a bigger situation.
Oh my, this all takes prayer – much, much prayer. Turning it over to God. Waiting! So it is with this harvesting. Doing our part and then waiting. What is our part in this day and age, especially when we are inclined to keep our mouths closed because it is so much safer that way. You know – don’t talk politics or religion at a family gathering. Phooey! Our relationships stay very shallow if we don’t talk politics and religion. Did you ever notice how those two areas of our lives cannot be separated. They are life. Politics without God is a minefield.
What can we do to be harvesters for God? Let’s think spreading the Word along with spreading actual physical care, including goods and service. Where will your inclinations take you? Even though I was critical of facebook for ages – well as long as it existed – I am planning to find myself spreading the Word on facebook and also on YouTube. Will it be received or will I need to shake the dust from my sandals? Will I give up or persist? Will I be pushy or will God help me to make the story appealing?
Maybe collecting and packing hygiene, or school, or first aid kits for Church World Service will fit your style. Maybe reading Bible stories to children or doing Bible crafts is your thing? The important step is to find what our own talent is; what do we enjoy doing. Remember God gave the talent to us for a reason.
Dear and Holy God, thank you for our talents. Help us to learn how to apply them as you desire. Amen