Homily Trinity 1 2020

Trinity 1 2020

Matthew chapter 9 v 35- 10.8

The workers are few

Last week as you will remember it was Trinity Sunday and now we are faced with a long time until we get to the next named Sundays before Advent. The time between Trinity and Advent is known in the Church of England as ordinary time. I really don’t think these Sundays, 23 or so of them are anything like “ordinary time” and especially at this moment. But each Sunday in its own way has more of a unique theme. The timescale of our gospel reading today emphasises that Jesus time on earth was running out. He had a further 18 months or so in which to finish the training of his Kingdom army from his ragtag collection of followers. As He looked out on the sick, unsaved, and unshepherded people of Israel, he knew that if his Kingdom Revolution was ever to reach the whole world he needed to multiply workers and multiply them fast. ”Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”

Jesus conferred on his followers his own authority and power, and expected his Father to work as faithfully through his delegates as he did himself. Jesus did not expect his followers to innovate, merely to imitate him. They were to preach the same message that he did, that God’s Kingdom had come. Like Jesus they were to offer the Gospel promise of peace, whilst also threatening judgement upon all who rejected him. They were simply to listen to what Jesus whispered in their ear through the Holy Spirit, and to speak this out aloud to all who would hear. “As you go proclaim this message: The Kingdom of heaven has come near. Heal the sick; raise the dead, drive out demons. Freely you have received; freely give”

St Teresa of Avila said “Christ has no body now but yours. No hands, no feet on earth but yours. Yours are the eyes through which he looks compassion on this world. Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good. Yours are the hands through which he blesses the entire world. Yours are the hands, the feet, the eyes, you are his body. Christ has no body now on earth but yours.”

In the context of today’s Gospel reading things were going pretty well for Jesus in his ministry. He had encountered a degree of opposition, so there was already a hint of the suffering to come, but for the moment people were flocking to hear him, to be cured by him, to see others cured by him. He had acquired followers and he had momentum. Yet the Gospel records that even Jesus was constrained by human limitations. He recognised the task of bringing the Good News of the kingdom to all, was too much for one person. So he sends out the 12 disciples to help in this task. They become his hands, his feet, his eyes, as St Teresa described. We don’t have any record of the reaction of the disciples to this instruction, but like you and me, they were human and I think there would have been some gulps of trepidation as well as some scratching of heads, not to mention the use of colourful fishermen’s language. The disciples were given a daunting task, which – by a series of relays- has been passed on to you and me. To all of those who love the Lord Jesus. The disciples were the hands, the feet, the eyes of Jesus back then. We are his hands, his feet, his eyes, now- right in the midst of this pandemic and all its ensuing repercussions. In the midst of the BLM protests, and the wilful destruction of our history, lamentous though much of it is now. Knowing the love of God does mean sharing the love of God. It should as it were radiate from us as heat and light radiate from the sun.

Following the idea that we are the hands, the feet, the eyes for Christ, we are not so much encouraged to preach salvation (although that is always a possibility) but to be salvation. St Francis of Assisi is attributed with the phrase “”Preach the Gospel at all times, and when necessary use words”. Whichever angle you come at this instruction, it can be a thoroughly daunting responsibility that Jesus lays on our shoulders. If we are to fulfil it, we need to find ways of allowing the love of God to flood our hearts more and more abundantly. It will then overflow from us. It is a very simple outcome of a difficult task. Ultimately, it is always God doing the work, ours are the hands, the feet, and the eyes through which the Holy Spirit draws people back to God and to his son Jesus.

The church exists for 3 purposes; the first, is to worship God; the second is to work for his kingdom in the world; and thirdly, to encourage one another, to build one another up in faith, to pray with and for each other, to learn from and teach one another, and to set examples for others to follow, challenges to take up, and urgent tasks to perform. Yes, we are individuals, but we are also communal human beings. Without those around us we are next to nothing, as we have come to realise in lockdown, being separated from friends and family and not being able to hug one another. The disciples whose calling we heard about in today’s reading were not sent out alone but in pairs. They had the fellowship of the other 11 disciples and of the wider group of disciples who were not members of the 12, and they had others with whom they could talk things over, who they could encourage and be encouraged by, with whom they could debate what they were going to do next. Above all they had Jesus and the power of God. And so through prayer do we. We are not alone.

We may be daunted by the statement given to us “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. “ But we should take heart from the following instruction “Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field”. But a word of caution; if we pray for God to send out workers into his harvest field, he might reply that on that occasion he wants you to be his eyes in his world, and not only God will be depending on you playing your part as eyes, but the rest of us the hands, the feet, etc will be relying on you the “harvest worker” that is the eye, to play your part. We all need God, and we all need each other.

“Christ has no body now on earth but ours,
no hands but ours, no feet but ours,
Ours are the eyes through which to look out Christ's compassion to the world
Ours are the feet with which he is to go about doing good;
Ours are the hands with which he is to bless all people now.”

Here I am Lord. Send me.

Amen                          

Preached by Kairen Ball                   Lay minister  14th June 2020