We always hear about the twelve disciples, but today our Gospel reading points out that there were a lot more disciples than just the original twelve.
If you look at the meaning of the word ‘disciple’, the dictionary defines it as:
A follower – A Believer - One who is sent
So, we have additional disciples ‘sent out’ by Jesus to bring the good news to the people. In this reading we heard that Jesus sent out seventy disciples.
By sending the disciples out, Jesus filled them with His Spirit, so they would be equipped for leadership in the new faith. The seventy were to be the hands, feet, legs, hearts, and minds of Jesus.
That is still true today.
For Jesus to complete his mission in today’s world, He needs hands, feet, legs, hearts, and minds; he needs willing hands, willing hearts, willing minds and willing spirits. Jesus still gets work done today through his disciples. These were not religious professionals or rabbis, but common ordinary people, just like us.
Throughout scripture, Jesus sent his disciples out two-by-two, just as He sent out the twelve:
Today, we think of young Mormon missionaries going out two-by-two. Why two-by-two? It gives courage, confidence and strength to go out with a partner. One reason Mormon missionaries are the most effective evangelists in the world today is because they are trained in missionary faith and then they are sent out together. Going together made for effective evangelism two thousand years ago and still works today.
Jesus gave these new disciples some warnings:
• The work is urgent. There is not time to waste, for the harvest is ready.
• It won't be easy. In fact, sometimes you'll feel like you are like a lamb stalked by a wolf. Sometimes when you think the 'harvest is ready' it won't be --- there will be some who will be less than welcoming.
• You don't need to take much with you. No cash or credit card. No change of clothes. Not an extra pair of shoes. Not your cell phone, your car, or your Facebook page.
• You can’t control how people respond. You are just the messenger, the one speaking on behalf of Jesus.
As an example – here I am at wonderful ST. David’s. Where I was greeted with love. Who, knew?
• You need to anticipate rejection by the world which is essentially hostile to the love of Christ. If a village does not return peace, you must brush the dust off your sandals - leave and go somewhere else.
I have no plans of going someplace else. Unless I am told to.
• You will need to be able to simply accept the gifts of those who welcome you.
And I do – I accept what gift you each have. I learn more from you than you do from me and I’m sure you all agree with that!
On the other hand, Jesus gave his disciples the following assurances:
• You will have a companion with you; you will never be alone. You will have each other to help keep your eyes on the goal; help each other when things get tough.
I remember sharing with you the scripture verse that sustains me when I am in a new and unfamiliar situation. I used it when I went to All Saints and I used it when I came here.
It comes from Jeremiah 1:4
The word of the Lord came to me, saying,
“Before I formed you in the womb I knew[a] you,
before you were born I set you apart;
I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.”
“Alas, Sovereign Lord,” I said, “I do not know how to speak; I am only a boy.”
But the Lord said to me, “Do not say, ‘you are only a boy.” You must go to everyone I send you to and say whatever I command you. 8 Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you and will rescue you,” declares the Lord.
Then the Lord reached out his hand and touched my mouth and said to me, “I have put my words in your mouth
So, I was never alone – and clearly now – with each of you, I am not alone. God – through his Spirit works wonders
• We all have a simple message --- We are to declare God’s peace wherever you go.
What a simple message!
We often tend to make things far too complicated. When a new comer finds her way into this church through streaming, morning prayer or our website, curiosity, or invitation, public relations will only get us so far.
If new comer isn’t welcomed at the door; if a member doesn’t extend kindness to them; if the new comer doesn’t hear the Gospel preached simply... they probably won’t return.
All of these unique gifts – welcoming, inclusion, true preaching of the good news of Jesus and friendship, are like what the seventy offered so long ago.
People are reached in the same way today: with kindness and with a message of peace. It is not fancy, but it is still very effective.
Jesus wasn’t going to send his disciples into places where he himself was not intending to go.
Jesus was found in the company of tax collectors, adulterous women, thieves, prostitutes, ego maniacs, power hungry authorities.
And today, Jesus sends us into places and situations where He wants us to go and where he himself plans to be present. And he knows where the need is the greatest. . . where the harvest is plentiful.
The great news is we are doing a little of that now. Our faithful Eucharistic visitors bring the good news of the church to folks who can’t be with us.
The great news is we bring the good news to the homeless and vulnerable at the church without walls.
The great news is we bring the good news to the local veterans for fellowship and to apricate them.
The great news is that we bring the gospel to people on line and on television.
The great news is we welcome the community into our midst.
In Jesus’ day as in our times, people understood when the fields were ripe for harvesting. Plowing, planting, watering, caring for, weeding are all different activities before harvesting. Harvesting means that the plants are ready to be gathered in. Jesus was saying that people were ready to be harvested, gathered in.
Jesus knew there were people ready to belong to his flock but what was needed were more disciples. Jesus believed that people were ripe and ready for the gospel, ripe and ready for the kingdom, ripe and ready to hear the love of God. The time was right; the people were ripe. We dare not wait a moment longer.
Sometimes it is a lot easier to tell when a real harvest is ready to be brought in than it is to tell when one is ready to hear the message of God.
Perhaps this is why Jesus says we should be generous in our sharing. "Just go and do it," Jesus seems to be saying. Leave the results up to God.
The same is true today: there are people all around us who are ripe and ready to hear about the love of God. But the laborers are few. (PS – that’s us)
There are many faithful people who keep this place running. We need to remember that the priority is to share our Christian journey with others, so they can be a part of our community. To be a disciple of Jesus, we must ALL must do everything we can to lead people to the church and the love of God and Jesus.
The word evangelism is scary and almost un-Episcopalian.
But don’t be intimidated.
It’s really about sharing your story. Your story of how God has made a difference in your life. It’s that simple.
You don’t need to walk the streets with a sandwich board and a blow horn.
Some basic principles of evangelism are derived from this gospel lesson:
We don’t need to be Billy Graham
We don’t need a degree in theology – like some -I’m not naming names.
• The disciples were to reach out to people who knew their need of God and their need for the ways of God.
• The disciples had an attitude of compassion and not criticism.
• The disciples were not religious professionals but common ordinary people.
So, I challenge each one of us to reach out to just ONE person, carrying the message of the Love of God through Jesus. It isn’t that hard:
• Greet someone here who you do not know
• If you see a new comer welcome them at coffee hour and ask them to come again
• Ask your neighbor to come to a church function.
If you do, marvelous things can happen!
Remember the words of Saint Teresa of Ávila:
Christ has no body but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
Yours are the eyes with which he looks
Compassion on this world,
Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good,
Yours are the hands, with which he blesses all the world.
Yours are the hands, yours are the feet,
Yours are the eyes, you are his body.
Christ has no body now but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
Yours are the eyes with which he looks compassion on this world.
Christ has no body now on earth but yours.
Rev. Dr. Harvey Hill
Third Order Franciscan