Thursday, October 03, 2013

The Laborers Are Few

“Today is holy to the LORD your God.  Do not be sad, and do not weep”– for all the people were weeping as they heard the words of the law.  He said further: “Go, eat rich foods and drink sweet drinks, and allot portions to those who had nothing prepared; for today is holy to our LORD.  Do not be saddened this day, for rejoicing in the LORD must be your strength!”  Nehemiah 8:9B-10

He said to them, “The harvest is abundant but the laborers are few; so ask the master of the harvest to send out laborers for his harvest.  Go on your way; behold, I am sending you like lambs among wolves.  Luke 10:2-3

Receive me, Lord, as you have promised, and I shall live; do not disappoint me in my hope (Psalm 119:116).

With 800,000 Federal employees (including this humble writer) on an indefinite furlough, for a nanosecond, I thought about saying something about my colleagues who have been deemed “essential” or non-exempt from furlough.  During the current government crisis, they have the privilege of working without getting paid.  A few laborers to harvest the work of the nation. 
But that may be a coincidental analogy.  Upon reflection, it’s not the focus of this reading from Luke.  For that, the Holy Spirit gave me a special scene to witness yesterday.
Jesus sent his disciples out two-by-two.  Jesus knew that sending workers out into the field alone would be a great risk.  Maybe they would be injured or beaten up.  Maybe they would be discouraged when their efforts were in vain.  Sending the disciples out in pairs might help assure that they would both be safe and not get depressed or sad.
Nehemiah had another solution…live it up!  Nehemiah advised his followers to eat rich food.  Drink sweet drinks.  Every ordinary day is holy to the Lord.  What is ordinary in our eyes is extraordinary in the Lord’s eyes.  So every day is a day to celebrate.
Yesterday (Wednesday October 2) we had temperatures reaching a high of 88F.  On a bike ride to Ashburn, I stopped to rest at a picnic table where there were several groups of people.  Some wore biking attire and when finished, they headed back onto the trail.  They had work to do to get to the end of the road and back to their homes. Some had business attire.  After finishing a tempting rack of ribs (Carolina Barbecue is at mile 27 of the Washington & Old Dominion Trail), they would be heading back to work – filled with those ribs, macaroni and cheese, potato salad, and other rich foods.  They had work to do. Off in the distance were two young men wearing dark slacks, white shirts and neckties.  They had the telltale signs of being on their missionary year for another church.  They took turns snapping digital pictures of each other in front of the big smoking grills out front.  They had the look of young men who had traveled far from their homes to do this work.  Maybe they wanted to send souvenir photos home or post images to their social media sites. After their lunch and “modeling” session, they went back to modeling another type of behavior for us -- knocking on doors two-by-two, passing out literature for their church and speaking to whomever would listen.

THAT is what Luke and Jesus are talking about.  Not some political-economic crisis.  They are talking about going out and being an itinerant preacher just as Jesus was on every ordinary day. 

We make a lot of appointments.  Meeting up with a co-worker for drinks after work.  Meeting up with a family member to do some shopping.  Meeting up with a contractor or worker to get some task done around the house.  Have we ever made the kind of appointment and commitment of those two young men – who have given up a year (or more) of their life to live far from home and every day pick up their duty assignment for evangelization in a new neighborhood?  Just think how hard it is for us to recruit friends for a Cursillo weekend.  Imagine how much harder it is to talk to complete strangers! 

Who will you talk to about Christ today?  How will you talk to them?  And remember, always speak to Christ about someone before speaking to someone about Christ. 

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