So when’s the last time you were in a crowd of seventy people? It’s probably been a while, maybe eight months or so. Jesus was speaking to a crowd of seventy disciples in today’s Gospel. Seventy people is not a huge crowd, it’s about half the capacity of our chapel, but it’s no small get together either. These disciples were early Christians ready to go out on mission ahead of Christ to prepare his way. These disciples were not a casual crew, they were ready to die for the cause, and some of them would. Starting a speech to such a crowd demands a solid opening line.
“The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few” In other words, roll up your sleeves and get ready to work. Jesus knew he was short staffed and the work was going to pile up. There was no time for self-pity. There was no room for laziness. This was going to be tough work.
For better or worse, the closest anyone of us is going to get to being in a group of seventy Christians is on a large Zoom meeting with a gallery view. This is probably going to be true for a while. So what meaningful work can we do in the spirit of those original disciples?
Start by imagine how those seventy disciples felt standing there listening to Jesus. They were ready to get uncomfortable, willing to be vulnerable, and eager to try new things despite not knowing if or how they would work out. What work can you do that makes you feel such way? It could mean initiating a difficult, but necessary and meaningful conversation. It could mean making an apology and asking for forgiveness. It could mean a random act of kindness for someone who drives you crazy and you think doesn’t deserve such kindness. This could mean a simple email to someone who means or has meant a lot to you.
Now perhaps you do not want to reach outward, but prefer to go inward. Just as the original disciples went outward on mission to dangerous places, trying going inward to dangerous places. Explore the smoldering resentments you have. Dive into the earlies memories of fear you have from childhood. Take a long, scenic look at the guilt and shame you’ve carried in your gut for decades. These are dangerous missions inward. They are destabilizing, uncomfortable, and unpredictable, just like the missions the original disciples went on. Always remember that Jesus is following you just as he followed those disciples. You will have back up. We are not alone in this.
We have a tremendous opportunity as Christians right now to promote healing, reconciliation, and dialogue. Like any harvest, these lofty ideals are not going to come to fruition without work or courage. Start small. Start today. As always, start with prayer.
Lectionary Year and Proper: Year A, 22
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