Scripture: Luke 10:1-11
“The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.” – Luke 10:2
One of the biggest fears in the Western Church, which has grown to a fever pitch over the past few decades, is the fear of declining congregations and the corresponding decline of the seeming importance of faith and Christianity in the world. With the decline in attendance has come the grim and mournful reality of church deaths and closures, something that many of us are well aware of here at Grace.
Throughout Europe and North America churches have been shuttered at an alarming rate, converted into housing projects and lofts, restaurants and any other number of uses. In light of our reality, it is easy to become cynical and overwhelmed with the inevitability of church decline, it is easy to focus on what seems like an insurmountable challenge of revitalizing the church for a new era.
When we hear Jesus’ words that I began the sermon with, in today’s climate of indifference or hostility towards the church it is easy to emphasize and focus on ‘the labourers are few’. Many people throughout the Church, and many of you here probably have felt tired and exhausted at times from carrying the ministry of the church forward for so many years. It is easy to focus on the scarcity of resources – both financial resources and people resources – and get discouraged and disillusioned.
But there is hope…
While there is no sugar-coating the fact that the church is facing significant challenges, the truth is that there has never been a time in the church when we haven’t faced significant challenges in one way or another. From the very beginning the church has faced opposition and indifference, hostility and marginalization. Even in the supposed ‘golden age’ of the Church, the challenges were just as present, although more hidden and insidious and dangerous. In fact, I’d say that if the church isn’t facing opposition or challenge then it isn’t fulfilling its identity as the very body of Christ – Jesus after all faced consistent opposition wherever he went and whatever he did or said, so we shouldn’t expect anything different for the church.
Jesus’ words are testament to the fact that the church has always and will always face opposition: the harvest is plentiful but the labourers are few. The labourers are few: there is more work, more challenges than we can surmount on our own.
While there is challenge, there is also hope and potential – because even though the labourers are few, the harvest is plentiful – the opportunities for the growth and flowering of God’s Kingdom are in our midst. The chance for the gospel to grow and flourish is real, it is ripe.
The world is full of connecting points, there is longing in our world and in our culture for belonging and community and genuine love for one another; there are people who are in need of a message of hope and healing in this broken world full of despair and hopelessness; there are people who need the Gospel message of joy in the midst of sorrow and sadness. All of this provides an opportunity for us, and for the church to renew the life of the church and see the flourishing of the gospel in our time.
Jesus tells his disciples to ask the Lord of the Harvest – to ask God – to send out labourers. Labourers to help us, not to do all the work – labourers to work beside us and with us, but not for us. As the old saying goes many hands make light work – as we pray to God, as we seek his leading, Jesus’ promise is that there will be more labourers, there will be help.
And then he sent out his disciples with ‘no purse, no bag, no sandals’ – he sent them out woefully unprepared – seemingly unready for the challenging task of sharing the Gospel with the world that opposed and
We have experienced God’s provision here at Grace as we have pushed out of our comfort zone serving our community through various ministries and opportunities. And we have seen people come from our community to support us, we have seen the potential growth of our community lunches through our partnership with the Nazarene church, while still in its early days has the potential for expanded ministry and relationship between our churches here in South Scarborough.
This is just one story, and I’m sure you have your own stories of the small ways that God has already been at work in the life of this church, in your life as a disciple of Jesus. These stories of Grace, can and should encourage us, they should embolden us to be more open and forthcoming with our invitation, because the Lord provides; He provides labourers; He provides the Holy Spirit to strengthen us, to help us grow in our lives.
Today as we continue our series looking at the ways Jesus invites us into the very the divine life of God, it is important for us to think about what our invitation looks like, how we welcome others to share in the love, grace and mercy we have received at God’s hands.
It won’t likely look like the invitation that the disciples shared in Jesus’ day. God doesn’t call us to necessarily go out in pairs of two with no shoes, no purse, no bag, shaking the dust off our feet when our message isn’t received – that would likely raise some eyebrows in our day and age – but God does send us out into the world, he sends us out naked of the crutches and veneers that we put up to protect ourselves and keep us from vulnerability.
The invitation of the church rests in each one of us, in each one of you – it rests in the lives of faith that you and I live on a daily basis, it lives in the ways we share your faith in small and simple ways. Our invitation rests in the way we serve our community, in the ways we love them for who they are and in the ways we give reason for our hope.
In everything we do as Christians, as disciples we need to be able to say that the reason we love, the reason we serve is because of Jesus, is because of the invitation that we have received. It is not enough to be good neighbours, it is not enough to be kind or generous – because anyone can be those things – it is the reason for our life that is just as important as the life we lead.
Each of us have been transformed by God’s invitation, each of us has had our lives changed – and in small and big ways the world needs to know. Everything we do as a Church is rooted in the very person of Jesus Christ, in his salvific work on the Cross and in the Resurrection. That’s why we’re all here after all, because Jesus is Lord.
The harvest is plentiful… may we pray for the Lord to provide labourers, let us work to reap the rewards of the invitation we have received.
Let us pray.