Matthew 9:32-38
Hosea 8:4-7, 11-13
Psalm 115:1-10

Have you ever had one of those dreams when you’re trying to scream but you can’t?  Or you try to run but your legs won’t move?  It’s a real feeling of helplessness and powerlessness.  I’m always glad to snap out of those dreams into the world where my voice and my body do the things that I want them to do.

When I read this passage about a mute demoniac, I sympathize.  When I hear about people helpless and harassed my compassion is stirred.  When Jesus says the harvest is plentiful but the laborers are few I want to raise my hand.  “Here I am, Lord!  Send me!”

That’s why this is such a well worn passage for ordinations and calls to evangelism.  It reaches into the natural sympathy we have for those who suffer.  And immediately after this passage Jesus calls his twelve apostles and gives them power over all these demons and diseases.  It’s a stirring recruitment call.

So I want to raise my hand, but it feels like it’s pinned to my side.  In this protracted period of pandemic, in the boiling pot of racial tension, in culture wars and divided families…I want to say, Here I am, Lord send me!  But I’m beset, my voice just won’t respond.  I’m left like a fish out of water gasping for oxygen.  Powerless, helpless.

I listen again, “Jesus had compassion on them because they were helpless and harassed, like sheep without a shepherd.  Then he said to his disciples, the harvest is plentiful but the laborers are few: therefore “ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers.”  I try my voice again,

“Oh God, make speed to save us.  Oh Lord, made haste to help us.”

This is the prayer that has been shimmering out at me from the pages of our office books lately.

Jesus isn’t just asking for a show of hands of willing volunteers.  His instruction is to ask the Lord of the harvest to send laborers.  This is the province of prayer as much as of action.  To pray for our own deliverance.  To ask the Lord of the harvest to do for us what we cannot do for ourselves.

Oh God, make speed to save us.  Oh Lord, make haste to help us.

John Cassian, a bedrock figure of Christian monasticism, has meditated deeply with this verse.  He says, “It contains an invocation of God against every danger, it contains humble and pious confession, it contains the watchfulness of anxiety and continual fear, it contains the thought of one’s own weakness, confidence in the answer, and the assurance of a present and ever ready help.  For one who is constantly calling on his protector, is certain that He is always at hand.  It contains the glow of love and charity, it contains a view of the plots, and a dread of the enemies, from which one, who sees himself day and night hemmed in by them, confesses that he cannot be set free without the aid of his defender.”

Oh God, make speed to save us.  Oh Lord, make haste to help us.

Send laborers into your harvest, Oh Lord.  Amen.

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1 Comment

  1. Pat on July 31, 2020 at 23:34

    I felt your words in a powerful way. Powerless, helpless and afraid. Thank you for your words

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