Afew months ago I attended a funeral for my friend John. John had been a minister for over fty years, mostly serv- ing as a rural parson in agricultural communities in Australia. During the eulogy, his sons recounted tales of how John helped the farmers of his community in practical ways, and they remem- bered fondly harvesting the golden wheat in the warm summer sun. Less romantic was the time later in John’s ministry when he ministered in a community of potato farmers. This time, help- ing with harvest was far less glamorous and mostly consisted of thick mud, sore backs, and the irremovable stench of rotten tubers. But John did not help with potato picking and wheat harvesting for their aesthetic or romantic value but rather as ways of helping out his ock and living out his ministry.
The Gospels contain many stories with explicitly agricul- tural metaphors. The sending of the disciples in Matthew 9–10 seems no exception. The account begins romantically enough: “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.” Yet even before their commissioning, the disciples’ task is clear based on Jesus’ actions: He has been teaching, healing, and pro- claiming. The disciples will have to key off Jesus’ own attitude toward the crowds: “He had compassion for them.” And the disciples will go in Jesus’ authority. Matthew makes it abun- dantly clear that being on a mission from God is not a romantic endeavor but rather a dif cult and perilous undertaking. As dis- ciples of Jesus today, the mission (and the risks) are the same. We are to bring in the harvest—even if it more often resembles picking potatoes in the mud than harvesting wheat in the sun.
God of sun and rain, help us to be faithful disciples in all times and places. Amen.
Two threads run through all the readings. One is the claim that God is powerful over all things. Psalm 116 makes this claim most eloquently with its assertion that God “has heard my voice and my supplications.” The story of the promise of Isaac’s birth demonstrates that it is God and God alone who gives life. Matthew situates the call of the disciples within the larger context of Jesus’ mission and understands their work to be the consequence of God’s decision to send workers. Paul emphasizes God’s power by recalling that God’s act of reconciliation comes within the setting of human alien- ation and hostility. The second thread is that of the unworthiness of those whom God chooses.
• Read Genesis 18:1-15; 21:1-7. When has God presented you with a laughable opportunity? What incredible offer would you like God to propose to you today?
• Read Psalm 100. How do you create a future of hope by recalling God’s faithful action on your behalf in the past?
• Read Romans 5:1-8. When have you looked for a superhero in a crisis situation? Who came to your aid?
• Read Matthew 9:35–10:23. What field of harvest is God calling you to? Do you yearn for wheat rather than potatoes? How do you go about an attitude adjustment?
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