Proper 6 – Ordinary/Lectionary 11 – Pentecost + 2
18 June 2017
Psalm 100 pg 838
God of love,
in your compassion
you reach out to the lost and helpless.
Continue this work through us,
so that your reign of justice and peace may increase;
through Jesus Christ, the Lord of the harvest. Amen.
Looking at the gospel, for today, we are able to see how many people, in Jesus’ day, were looking for, and were in need of God’s love, grace, and forgiveness, and what we see in the gospel is only among the Israelite people!
“35 Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. 36 When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” (Mt 9:35-6)
He had compassion on them… they were like sheep without a shepherd.
So, if we take Jesus observation, today, to heart, how and where can we apply it to the world around us? And when we do apply Jesus ‘observation to the world around us, how are we able to be compassionate yet not overwhelmed by the need that still exists even to the level Jesus observed, in today’s gospel?
However, this isn’t only our challenge, but it the challenge we see from our Lord and Saviour – overwhelmed, and yet understaffed.
We can find this same situation all around us. In today’s world, we see that when people have problems, and our problems unfailingly manifest in physical ways, that the medical field prescribes medications for instead of talking to people, instead of looking for the ways that God is involved in our lives, or even worse, where God isn’t involved in our lives.
Now, don’t get me wrong, the medical field does great work in the world, today, so much more is able to be accomplished, today, for our physical health and wellbeing than was able to be done 50-100 years ago.
At the same time, over that same 50-100 years, we’ve forgotten that we have a spiritual side, a side that yearns to be with God, connected to God, or even involved in God’s plan. And unfortunately, after elbowing faith out of the way, we’re now facing cutbacks to the is medical system that has worked so hard to encourage our reliance upon it in and for our lives, to the exclusion of a life of faith.
And we can see Jesus solution – it’s to share the burden. “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.’” (Mt 9:37-8)
The gospel tells us that he commissions the twelve to go out into the world, not to the cities, not to the metropolitan areas, but to the hamlets, the villages, the towns of the region. He sends them out to heal, to bind up, to cast out evil influences, and to encourage, and we find that same need all around us still today. (Mt 10:8)
And what remains, then, is the same, whether it’s today or yesterday. God’s solution still applies to this overwhelming and overwhelmed situation that we can still see all around.
We can still see people, on all sides, who are ‘harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” (Mt 9:36b)
We can still feel, in our heart of hearts, that God continues to call and to commission us for the work at hand.
We can still see that God, that Jesus “called his twelve disciples to him and gave them authority to drive out impure spirits and to heal every disease and sickness.” He said “heal the sick raise the dead, cleans those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received; freely give.” (Mt 10:1, 8)
And here we can find that nugget, that root of the message that Jesus needs us to hear: “Freely you have received; freely give.” (Mt 10:8b)
As I was writing I was reminded of the life and ministry of St Teresa of Calcutta, known in her lifetime as Mother Teresa, who began what would become her lifes work, the Missionaries of Charity, in 1950.
Her mission statement was and is “to care for ‘the hungry, the naked, the homeless, the crippled, the blind, the lepers, all those people who feel unwanted, unloved, uncared for throughout society, people that have become a burden to the society and are shunned by everyone.’” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mother_Teresa)
Sr. Teresa used these words when she asked the pope for permission to start the Missionaries of Charity, in 1950, in Calcutta, India. “to care for ‘the hungry, the naked, the homeless, the crippled, the blind, the lepers, all those people who feel unwanted, unloved, uncared for throughout society, people that have become a burden to the society and are shunned by everyone.’”
In her life’s work we find a very similar message to what we see Jesus telling the twelve, when they’re sent out. They’re told “Do not go among the Gentiles or enter any town of the Samaritans. 6 Go rather to the lost sheep of Israel” (Mt 10:5b-6)
And the world knows the impact that this one woman, known to one and all as Mother Teresa, and her followers made for those in Calcutta, who were cast aside, thrown out by the society around them, and left to die by whatever means nature gave to them to hasten that journey. She gave them dignity and the tools of their faiths in order to be surrounded by the love of God, a love that is available for all people.
A love of, and from God that is visible in the work of Jesus who says “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.” (Mt 9:37-8)
So, what and how can we love those whom the world deems unlovable, that society deems to be beneath the notice of even medical science for treatment and support, in the world today?
How can we acknowledge those who are “harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd” without being or becoming overwhelmed? (Mt 9:36b)
And although we can see the word as never ending, Paul points out that progress is constantly being made in unexpected corners of creation.
Paul points out the hope that we receive when he says “5 Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God.” (Rom5:1-2)
I find the definition of a secret to be interesting. The definition of a secret is something that someone doesn’t know. If I know something and you don’t know it, then I have a secret.
My secret is this: I know that God loves me. I know that God loves you. I know that God love the person who doesn’t even know that God has a deep and abiding love for them, out in the world, who wouldn’t know why they would want to enter a church and join us. Yet, God loves them as much as God loves each one of us.
At the same time, God has already made strides to open hearts that are currently closed, and to do this, God needs our help, our assistance, our willingness to be the disciples in the world, today.
Paul puts it this way: “6 You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. 7 Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. 8 But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Rom 5:6-8)
Christ is still empowering us, gifting us, equipping us to aid those in the world who cannot see, cannot realize that God is with us, that God is guiding us, that God loves each of us unconditionally and forever.
The harvest is plentiful and the workers are few.
Even today, we can still find God’s need, humanity’s need all around us. Even today we can still find ways to respond to that needing a way that honours each one of us, as well as honouring God, Jesus Christ and the efforts of the Holy Spirit.
We see those who cannot find the joy in their lives. We see those who cannot find the light at the end of the tunnel.
There are those who see life only as an endless spiral, and who need to know that they don’t walk this path alone, that we are with them, as well as the love and support of God in Jesus Christ.
We are able to see the need on all sides. We can acknowledge that we have communities who are completely isolated, now, from any efforts to reach them due to the damage to the Churchill rail line. Communities who may not have the hope of seeing or receiving aid until that rail line is fixed, or another way to reach them is discovered.
At the same time, there are Christians who are feeling isolated and alone although they are surrounded by the love of God on all sides.
There are those who are in need of a warm smile and the offer of a cup of coffee, to be able to ‘spill their beans’ with someone who will not judge but, just by hearing their stories, will help to bear their burden and, so, lighten their load.
There are those in need of food aid, clothing aid, a place to lay their head with security and with surety that they will be safe throughout the night.
We’re able to look at the needs around us and identify, through the eyes of our faith, those who are “harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” (Mt 9:36b)
In the wake of the fire in west London, the local churches are becoming places to supply what is needed to help these victims rebuild their lives, including the assurance that they are surrounded by the love and grace of God.
We don’t need to look far afield to find needs equal to what those in London are facing. Even in our faith communities, we are in need of those who have vision for the future, those who are able to heed the call to leadership that the Holy Spirit has planted in our hearts and minds. We’re in need of finding ways to let the communities know that we’re ‘open for business’, and that our business is the welfare of all of humanity, to paraphrase Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol.
“The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.” (Mt 9:37-8)
Each generation will find ways to fulfill this need, but the need remains. Each generation sees the needs of the community, of the world around us. Each generation finds ways to live the grace of God to the issues all around them.
St. Teresa of Calcutta opened her arms and her heart to help those in the streets of Calcutta, those whom society refused to see because of illness and infirmity, to find dignity and God’s love, and it became her life’s work. How will we heed God’s call to participate in the harvest “to the lost sheep … [to] 8 Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. [after all] Freely [we] have received; freely [we need to] give.” (Mt 10:6b-8)