An act of worship at home
Reading Matthew 9: 35 – 10: 8
Then Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and curing every disease and every sickness. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the labourers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out labourers into his harvest.’
Then Jesus summoned his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to cure every disease and every sickness. These are the names of the twelve apostles: first, Simon, also known as Peter, and his brother Andrew; James son of Zebedee, and his brother John; Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax-collector; James son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; Simon the Cananaean, and Judas Iscariot, the one who betrayed him.
These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions: ‘Go nowhere among the Gentiles, and enter no town of the Samaritans, but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. As you go, proclaim the good news, “The kingdom of heaven has come near.” Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons. You received without payment; give without payment.
Throughout Scripture there is a repeating pattern. Prophets, and then later the rabbis, all had bands of followers or disciples, those who would sit at their feet and learn from their master. Then, when they were ready (but often, I’m sure, before they felt ready) they would be sent out themselves to share what they had learned.
They all began as followers, chosen for their eagerness to study and learn, and perhaps many of them would have been content to stay in that role of sitting and listening and learning. But at some point in their discipleship
it was required of them that they take that extra step of being sent out to share their knowledge with others.
They were both called and sent.
So it was with Jesus and his disciples. These men were not scholars, nor were they particularly pious. They were a rag-tag bunch of fishermen and tax collectors, an unlikely lot called together to witness and be a part of the ministry of this new rabbi, Jesus. But he was different, his was not a ministry in the traditional rabbinic sense. He didn’t just sit under a tree and teach, at least not often.
He took those disciples on a march from Galilee to Jerusalem and back again, through all the villages and towns. He taught them but with words accompanied by actions. And the more he did and the further he went,
with his disciples right beside him, it became obvious there was just too much to do, there were too many sheep without a shepherd. And so today we hear Jesus as he asked his disciples to pray for God to send more labourers into this harvest field. Well, I’m sure we have all heard the saying, “be careful what you pray for.”!
I am sure the disciples would have been perfectly content to continue as they were, just to be with Jesus, to see what he did, to talk to him and to have him talk to them, to walk with him and to pray with him. But it didn’t work out quite that way.
They did exactly as Jesus asked. They prayed for more labourers and their prayers were answered. They became the labourers, the teachers. Just like Jesus, they were to declare that the heavenly kingdom had come near, and then to show it by their actions, healing the sick, raising the dead, cleansing the lepers: ministry in action. Asking no more of them than he did himself, Jesus sent this new community out to reveal to others
the unconditional grace of kingdom love, freely received and freely given.
They were both called and sent.
It happens again and again. The call of God starting with individuals but always leads to a call to community, and then, just when we get comfortable a sending out to bring the Good News to others. In this day and time we are the labourers called to go into the harvest field. Is it frightening? Only if we let it be. In this changing world do we know how we’re going to do it? Perhaps not, yet, but we will. We have heard Jesus’ words and have learnt of God’s mighty acts of healing and forgiveness and restoration, we are fed and strengthened and nourished.
We have been called and we will be sent. In our lives may we truly love and serve the Lord. Amen.
Loving Lord, you are the one who walks with us in our troubles, yet we sometimes cannot find you. We have walked through time together and have considered our own place and our own lives. So now we come and lay ourselves at your feet. We know our faults and problems. Awaken us anew. Cause our spirits to stir and arise.
Help us to know your forgiveness and your love, and bring us to repentance as our own grateful response.
Talk to us in the silence of our hearts, and may we find you again as the one who is all in all, the one for whom we live, the source of all our being and the reason we are here.
Open our hearts again, we pray.
And the people said: Amen!
Hymn StF 503 – Love divine, all loves excelling
Love divine, all loves excelling,
joy of heaven to earth come down!
fix in us thy humble dwelling,
all thy faithful mercies crown.
Jesus, thou art all compassion,
pure unbounded love thou art;
visit us with thy salvation,
enter every trembling heart.
Come, almighty to deliver,
let us all thy grace receive;
suddenly return, and never,
never more thy temples leave.
Thee we would be always blessing,
serve thee as thy hosts above,
pray, and praise thee without ceasing,
glory in thy perfect love.
Finish then thy new creation,
pure and spotless let us be;
let us see thy great salvation
perfectly restored in thee!
changed from glory into glory,
till in heaven we take our place;
till we cast our crowns before thee,
lost in wonder, love and praise.
Charles Wesley (1707-88)
In our lives may we love and serve the Lord.
And may the blessing of God rest upon us this day and always. Amen.