I don’t know if Jesus was an expert on farming either, but he seemed to understand the basic principles of farming. The first principle is simple -- if something looks ripe, then you better pick it! The second principle simply insists that it takes workers to harvest a crop. Jesus may be correct about the principles of farming, but I don’t think he was interested in farming per se! So, maybe in this passage, when he talks farming, he’s talking metaphorically!
In this passage Jesus casts an eschatological vision that declares God’s concern for people who wander through life as if they’re lost and alone. These are, Jesus says, sheep without a shepherd. In his mind, this is a people in need of God’s compassionate care and feeding.
This is an important point – God needs us. God may be at work planting and caring for the fields but when it comes to bringing in the harvest God needs us. That means that we’re important players in God’s work of redemption. God is calling us to share in building the kingdom.
2. Jesus’ Ministry is our Ministry
If God needs us to complete this eschatological vision, then the question is how we should go about it. And here we get some direction. If you compare Matthew’s description of Jesus’ ministry, with that of the twelve disciples you’ll notice that they’re almost exactly the same. In other words – Jesus’ ministry is their ministry, and their ministry is our ministry. Don’t let the use of the word Apostle make you think that this passage doesn’t apply to us. Apostle simply means “sent out one.” We usually think of apostles as the earliest church leaders, but the New Testament never uses the word that way. An apostle is simply a missionary – and we’re all called to be missionaries.
So, in sending out these twelve Apostles, Jesus commissions them to preach the good news and heal the broken and the hurting. If we look to Luke’s gospel we can get an even broader sense of what it means to share in Jesus’ ministry. In Luke 4, Jesus claims the mantle of Isaiah and insists that God has called him to “bring the good news to the poor, He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor” (Luke 4:18).
Because I only have one more Sunday left, I had to decide whether to load it on you or keep it short and simple! Taking the better road, I’ve decided to keep this thing short! As I looked at this passage this week, the word I heard was simply this: We are a missional people. We’ve been called by God to make a difference in this community and beyond. We’re not a social club or even a service club – we’re the church of God. In other words, we’re a missional church. And as we think about being a missional church there are a few things we can learn from this call to apostolic ministry.
- First, do what Jesus did -- Our calling to missional ministry is to do what Jesus did. Preach the good news, care for the sick, and offer spiritual comfort to those in need of it.
- Second, don’t get caught up with the money. This is a congregation that has been blessed with resources that can fuel and sustain its ministry. Use the money wisely, but use it for the kingdom. Don’t hoard it when it can be used to expand the work of the kingdom.
- Third, travel light – I’m not the best person to talk about traveling light. In getting ready to move, I realize that I have a lot of books to move. I hate to give them up – so traveling light isn’t an easy thing for me. But, if you continue reading into chapter 10 of Matthew you’ll find Jesus telling the twelve what to take with them. He tells them, to leave behind gold, silver, and copper coins, and in fact, don’t even take a bag of clothes. Just take the clothes on your back and depend on the goodness of your hosts. That’s traveling light! But the point is, to be a missional church requires us to act in faith and trust in God for our sustenance.
The harvest is ready, and the call has been issued. May we hear it and respond accordingly!
Rev. Dr. Robert Cornwall
Pastor, First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
5th Sunday after Pentecost
June 15, 2008