Laborers in the Vineyard
2 Pentecost (Proper 6); June 14, 2020
Genesis 18:1-15; Psalm 116:1, 10-17; Romans 5:1-8; Matthew 9:35-10:8
It is really good to be worshipping with you again this morning, and this time without the noise of the generator next door! Until last Sunday, I hadn’t realized exactly how much I was missing you and our worship together. Simply being together after so much time apart is truly healing.
I suspect most of us need a little healing right now, given the turmoil in our world. Anything that gives us a spiritual boost is a great blessing. Anything that helps us to see good in this moment, and in each other, is truly a sign of God’s grace at work.
Our service last week was a first shot of grace for me. I went home in a good mood, and I got another shot of grace. I read our Gospel reading for this morning just to let it begin percolating, and it gave me a much-needed attitude adjustment. It helped me to see this moment a little differently, not simply as a time of troubles, but as a real opportunity for service and a real occasion for hope.
The line that sticks out for me comes near the beginning. “When Jesus saw the crowds, he had compassion for them….Then he said to his disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few.’”
There is much work to be done. There was then; there is now. Our world is hurting. The challenges we face are substantial.
But Jesus encourages us to focus on what God is doing, on the glorious harvest being prepared even now. That should give us hope, and purpose, and perseverance.
I look around at our gardens. That’s one of the nice things about being outside—we can! If you are joining us online, I encourage you to check them out at some point. All you have to do is drive slowly through the parking lot. Our grounds look great.
And here are two things we can all see as we look at our gardens. First, a LOT of work has gone into our grounds. And second, the results, the “harvest” is totally worth it.
Now that is easy for me to say, since I didn’t do any of the actual work. But I suspect that if I were to ask the people who did, they would agree that the results are worth every bit of work they have done. They might even add that the work itself was not all bad, that the work is part of the joy they take in the results.
Not all of us are going to work on the Saint David’s gardens. But we are all called to labor for the Lord’s harvest. We are all laborers in God’s vineyard. We are all called to work, each in our different ways, to do our part to bring in the glorious harvest of God’s people. And the work may be hard at times. But the work is also a great joy, and the harvest really is glorious.
So far, so good. But there is an obvious problem. How many of us feel truly competent to do the work, God’s work, that needs to be done? After all, our task is to do what we can to transform the world from the nightmare it is for so many into the dream that God has for it. That’s a tall order!
But if the task seems too much, just take a look at the first set of laborers: Peter and Andrew, James and John, and the rest. The disciples will emerge as great heroes of the faith. But on this day, when Christ sent them out to labor for God’s harvest, their emergence as heroes is still in the future. The disciples only become great after Christ’s resurrection and the gift of the Holy Spirit. Our passage comes long before that.
In our passage, the disciples are still a group of clowns. Among several nobodies were bunch of fishermen, at least one tax collector which is not great, Thomas the doubter, and Judas, the traitor who will betray his Lord and all his companions. This is NOT a dream team.
But Jesus sends them out. And Jesus gives them the authority they need to do what they have to do. And even that first effort was a great success. A few years later, they were literally changing the world.
Jesus sent the disciples out, despite their many limitations. And Jesus sends us out despite ours. Jesus gives us the authority we need to join in the blessed work, the apostolic work, of healing the sick, and helping the poor, and proclaiming the good news of God’s love. The challenges are certainly real. But that’s just because the potential harvest is so great.
Seeing that was the attitude adjustment I needed. I needed to focus a little less on the mountain of problems we face and a little more on the opportunity for real change, real growth, real revival. God is at work, and the potential harvest is plentiful, and we get to be part of it.
It all starts with God. The trick is to get a little better at seeing God, at hearing God’s call to us. I got a help on that, too, last Sunday.
The weather was nearly perfect for our service. But the wind was blowing. I experienced the wind as a nuisance. It was flapping the pages of my Prayerbook and at one point nearly blew away my sermon. It was also shaking the canopy enough that ushers had to hold it down.
I saw the wind as a problem. But not Jim. After the service, Jim said the wind felt like the Holy Spirit swirling around. Jim saw God at work where I only saw a problem.
Listening to the wind, or rather to the voice of God in the wind, became a theme for my week.
On Monday, I spoke to a Franciscan from Georgia about prayer. He told me that he says a simplified version of Morning Prayer each day, outside, with his four-year-old son. That is already a very sweet picture.
But it gets sweeter. After they finish, he and his son spend a little time in silence, which his son apparently loves. (This man is doing something right!) He and his son listen to the wind. And
then they talk about what God seems to be saying to them in the wind, how God is responding to their prayers. Sometimes his son gets a message. Sometimes his son tells him that God has a message for him.
The wind continues to swirl around us. God is on the move. Something is happening in our world right now. And every new birth involves some death, some letting go, some pain. But something new is coming into being. The harvest is prepared. And we are invited to be part of it. That is good news.
This week, I invite you to look around for little shots of God’s grace. Listen for God in the wind, or wherever else you think you might hear God. We should be doing that all the time, but especially in this time, which is really hard but also when it is clear that something new and potentially glorious is going on.
And that is my prayer for all of us: that we can see this moment as God’s time, this world, with all of its problems, as God’s world, that we can hear Gods voice in the midst of the confusion, and that we can take our place as laborers in God’s harvest.
And I pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.
6/17/2020 09:09:59 am
There is often the temptation to see only our limitations and to use these as an excuse not to do the work we are sent out to do. As one with a very real disability, I am constantly on the guard against using this as an excuse not to do something. There are times when my hearing loss definitely is limiting, but there are at least as many times when I have to resist the temptation to say it is limiting when it is not.
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Rev. Dr. Harvey Hill
Third Order Franciscan