A sermon at the Kingston North Good Shepherd congregation, Kingston, Ontario July 8, 2001
by Robert Brow     (www.brow.on.can)

Do you ever pray that the church will grow here in Kingston and the surrounding areas? That is what Jesus, the Lord of his church, is asking us to do. So I want us to think about the first two verses of our Gospel reading :

"After this the Lord appointed seventy others and sent them on ahead of him in pairs to every town and place where he himself intended to go. He said to them "The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest" (Luke 10:1-2).

DISCIPLES - By the time these seventy were sent out, the church was already growing rapidly. Jesus' method was to find any who wanted to learn, and he enrolled them among his disciples by baptism. This is the normal method in any school or university. People are first enrolled and then they are taught. But we enrol to impart wonderful good news. In this school of the Holy Spirit the first thing the new disciples learned was that God accepted them and forgave them. Inevitably there were drop outs : John's Gospel reports that at one time "many of his disciples turned back and no longer went about with him" (John 6:66). And the reasons for this are pictured in the parable of the sower.

In any school you know very little when you join. When Peter and James and John began they knew very little, and it took two or three years before Peter realized who Jesus really was. "You are the Messiah, the Son of the Living God" (Matthew 16:16).

Meanwhile the number of disciples was growing rapidly. In fact John records that "the Pharisees had heard that Jesus is making and baptizing more disciples than John the Baptist - although it was not Jesus himself but his disciples who baptized" (John 4:1-2). You can see Jesus must have baptized the first few disciples himself, but then left his own disciples to do the baptizing. At first he personally taught the new disciples, but soon he trained up his trusted disciples to do this.

But there were still hundreds of villages in the surrounding areas that had not received the good news. So Jesus appointed twelve apostles (the Greek word means those who are sent on any kind of a mission for the sender). They would go out further afield, baptize those who wanted to learn, and begin teaching the new disciples. From time to time Jesus would then appoint a mountain or other place where people could come for more teaching.

But that still did not meet the need. In our Gospel today we see how he sent out another seventy to do this work, and evidently their mission was successful. Later in this chapter the seventy returned with joy, saying "Lord, in your name even the demons submit to us" (Luke 10:17).

Now you can see that in Kingston and the surrounding area the work of enrolling disciples and teaching them needs to go on so every one has a chance to learn the good news that Jesus brought.

HARVESTING The problem as Jesus explains is that "The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few" (Luke 10:2). Our granddaughter Julia was way up in northern Ontario during May and June with a tree planting team. Then the tree planting ended due to the dry season. But the team heard that there was a great need of workers to pick the huge cherry tree harvest in British Columbia. So they moved there half way across Canada. Without pickers the cherries would have rotted on the trees.

In Jesus' day harvesting was also a very busy time. First there was the barley harvest, closely followed by the wheat fields. They needed workers to cut the grain with scythes. Then it was thrashed by having an ox going round and round separating the grain from the husks. The husks would be thrown up in the air and blown away by the wind, leaving the good grain behind. The grain then had to be put in bags, and taken to market. The figs needed those who could climb up high into the trees. Olive trees had to be beaten with sticks so the olives would fall on to netting below, and they had to be collected and put in jars or squeezed out for olive oil.

The grape harvest was something else. Vines first had to be pruned, as Jesus said, so they would bring forth more fruit. The actual harvest needed hundred of workers moving along the rows collecting the fat bunches of grapes in baskets. They would tip these into a huge vat. The young people would jump in the vat, and stomp with their bare feet, and dance and sing joyfully as the grape juice was squeezed out. It was collected in specially prepared wine skins to be stored to ferment in a cool place, and three or four years later after the fermentation was complete the mature wine would be sold. All this needed very large numbers of workers for all the different jobs.

In the New Testament there is only one church in each city and the surrounding country (as in Antioch, Ephesus, Philippi, Thessalonica, Athens, Corinth, Rome). And from the Lord's point of view there is only one church here in Kingston. But there are many tasks that need workers in a wide variety of different kinds of harvesting. I will leave you to decide which denominations take care of the barley and the wheat. Which are like olive trees that need beating down with sticks, which are the high fig trees? You might want to guess who are those who like to dance and sing as they stomp out the grapes in the wine vat. Jesus' point is that there are many different tasks to be done, and hundreds of people are needed if the harvest is to be brought in. It must not be left to be picked off by birds and rot like cherries in the trees.

PRAYER - I suggest that as you pray, don't just think of this particular congregation of the Good Shepherd. Pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers for every task that needs to be done to bring in the harvest in every denomination in this city and the surrounding area. I don't think the Lord wants you to pray for more people to attend this particular place of worship so we can pay the bills. That will take care of itself as part of the bigger harvest in the city. Our task is to pray for the laborers the Lord needs, not just in Anglican congregations, but all the varied work of harvesting barley and wheat, figs and olives. You may not want to stomp and sing in the wine vat, but that is also part of the Lord's harvest. If you began to pray like that, you would find it very enriching, and you would be wonderfully encouraged as you rejoiced in the Lord building his church in every part of our city. Why not try doing that this summer, and see what the Lord does among us this fall.

model theology home | essays and articles | books | sermons | letters to surfers | comments