Over the past few weeks we have been hearing a lot of passages related to mission, answering our call, responding to the needs of the world and community around us. Today is no exception. It seems as though the opening passages of today’s Gospel has the 21st Century church in mind. Jesus opens his conversation with the seventy ‘others’ who are to work with the disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few.” He may as well be speaking to any of our churches today in the 21st Century, “There is a lot of work out there, I know there aren’t a lot of you, but I know you can do it . . .” Part of me would like to respond, “okay fine, find me seventy people willing and eager to go and then we can talk.”
Isn’t that what seems to be the cry from almost every church and everyone we meet, “There is so much to do . . . and so few people to do it.” It can be disheartening and if we are not careful we can find ourselves falling deeper and deeper into despair and hopelessness.
I have often wondered about this passage. I wonder what it is that keeps us from being sent and allowing ourselves to be thrown in the deep end over our head. The odds seem to be against the seventy and even us. The harvest is plentiful. We all know that. But the laborers are few. We know that too. Perhaps it is a sense of being vulnerable or alone that holds us back. Maybe it is the overwhelming feeling of despair and dis-interest that can creep up on us. Feelings of, “why is it only me . . . again.” I wonder too if perhaps what holds us back is in part all of the above but also fear and the fear of failure. Perhaps too it is the fear of being rejected, which is just as bad as failure. Nobody wants to be rejected, especially if we take time and energy into our efforts.
In our lives we are programed and raised for success. We want to do a good job and be successful. That is what we are taught and rewarded for. There is an interesting phrase in this passage that I almost missed. Jesus says that the Kingdom of God has come near to those places where the people are welcomed. They are to stay in the house and accept the hospitality that is offered. But when they go to towns and houses where they are not welcomed, they are to go into the street and say that “Even the dust from your town that clings to our feet, we wipe off in protest against you.” Then Jesus goes on to say, “Yet know this: the Kingdom of God has come near.” (Luke 10: 11). The Kingdome of God comes near in two places, those places where the seventy are welcomed and those places where they are not. Interesting isn’t it.
I wonder if the lesson we are to take away with us is that the Kingdom of God comes near to those places where the disciples have success and are welcomed and also to those places where they are not welcomed or fail in some way. The Kingdom of God still comes near in success and failure in acceptance and welcome, in hospitality and rejection.
While we may not have an abundance of resources and people; while we may have all kinds of reasons as to why our efforts and energy may not be the success we hope they will be. There is one truth that we do know: That God is already at work in you and me, few in number as we may be. Because we know that God is working in us we are prepared and we do have all we need for the mission, the Harvest that we are called to serve. When numbers are down and we feel overwhelmed with the responsibilities before us it is easy to lose sight of how God is working in us as a community. We are as a parish a place where people are welcomed regardless of who they are. Your questions, no matter what they are can be asked and where you will not necessarily get the ‘correct’ answer. We are a place where we hear the Word of God through one-another and our worship. We are fed, renewed and restored to be sent back into the world, our daily lives where we live into our Baptismal Ministry. Our church and our people, us, support refugee sponsorship, the Harvest Project, Bethany Kids, the new Sacred Space at LGH. We work together to heal the broken, build reconciliation between neighbors, our community and our own parish family. This is what we do! This only names a few of the ways in which God is alive in us. Somehow, someway, I don’t think God is finished working in us yet. So let us resist our fears and go boldly forward into the work that God has for us, because the Kingdom of God has come near, now in this place at this time.