by Peggy Samuels, Deacon Candidate
In today’s Gospel from St. Matthew, Jesus says, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest” (Matthew 9:37; NRSV). What does He mean by this statement? I have titled this sermon “Help Wanted,” because I think that Jesus is seeking every believer’s help for the work that needs to be done in “proclaiming the good news of the kingdom” (Matthew 9:35; NRSV).
Certainly, there is much work to be done. I am sure all of you have seen the video of George Floyd, an African American man, who was stopped by police in Minneapolis for being suspected of forgery at a local store. Lying prostate and handcuffed, Floyd repeated, “I can’t breathe” while the white officers pinned him down on his neck and back for 8 minutes and 46 seconds. The police continued to tell the EMS workers that “he is resisting arrest” in order to prevent them from giving him medical attention. Like me, I am sure all of you are horrified by this evil act. This video has sparked protests all over the country and in some international cities. Our Presiding Bishop, Michael Curry, recently spoke about the other pandemic that is happening, and that is the “sickness of the sin sick souls.” Curry calls us to show the Way of Love to others. I believe that Jesus is putting out a Help Wanted sign right now to seek laborers to go into his harvest, and as a Deacon Candidate in the Diocese of Easton, I am ”interpret[ing] to the Church the needs, concerns, and hopes of the world” (BCP 543) .
What the world needs now is prayer and reconciliation. For those of you who have prayer books at home, I am asking you to pray daily for about nine minutes the Prayers for the Social Order found in the Book of Common Prayer on pages 823-827. The prayers in this section include prayers For Social Justice, the Poor and the Neglected, and the Oppressed. One of the lines in the prayer For the Oppressed is “Help us to eliminate our cruelty to these our neighbors” (BCP 826). Our Baptismal Covenant calls for us to “strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being” (BCP 305). So, what else can we do? What measures can we take to fight for justice? As our Presiding Bishop says, “we can walk in the Way of Love.” Part of “walking in The Way of Love” is to, perhaps, have courageous conversations requiring honesty and openness concerning the injustices we see. Listening to each other without judgment, but with a boldness to speak the “truth in love” might initiate social change of a positive nature.
Jesus gave his disciples “authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to cure every disease and every sickness” (Matthew 10:1; NRSV). While we need to find a vaccine to cure the Corona virus that has caused a pandemic of which we are still in the midst, we also need to walk in The Way of Love to cure the “sin-sick souls” as our Presiding Bishop, Michael Curry, has challenged us to do. Each of us can do something. We can all become laborers for Christ. We can show each other love and we can be “ministers of reconciliation” in a world that is hurting. We might be persecuted for speaking the “truth in love,” but we must not give up. St. Paul tells us in Romans that “suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given us” (Romans 5:3-5; NRSV). Through these pandemics of both the physical and “the sickness of sin sick souls,” we find our hope in Christ, and in finding our hope in Him, we will endure, but more importantly, we will continue to “strive for justice” as per our Baptismal Covenant.
Another question that the Baptismal Covenant asks is, “Will you seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving your neighbor as yourself?” (BCP 305). Abraham and Sarah demonstrated hospitality when they served the three men who came to visit them in Mamre in Genesis 18. Although they were strangers, Abraham immediately asked Sarah to bake some bread and he ran to give a calf to his servant to prepare. Many religious scholars believe that these three men represent the Holy Trinity of God, the Father, God, the Son, and God, the Holy Spirit. They came to bring the news that Sarah would bear a son. In the natural, Sarah was past her child-bearing years, so she laughed at this idea. Yet, nine months later, she had a son named Isaac (which means “laughter”) when her husband Abraham was 100 years old. This story reminds all of us to always hope in God, because He can do what we think is impossible.
It seems impossible now, doesn’t it? We are up against a pandemic with COVID-19. We have seen the brave doctors, nurses, EMT specialists, and other workers on the front lines do their jobs daily with such perseverance and endurance. Yet, we have also seen those with total disregard for the safety of others who refuse to wear masks or take proper pre-cautions. On the other pandemic, we have watched the news of both peaceful protests during the day and rioting and looting at night. We have witnessed both the goodness, kindness, and hospitality of people as well as the hatred, arrogance, and non-welcoming of others. We have seen acts of kindness and acts of cruelty at the same time. It is difficult for us to comprehend because it is so overwhelming. It is such a time like this that Jesus calls for laborers in his harvest from prayer warriors to social activists, from makers of masks to caregivers, and from conversationalists to advocates for just a few examples.
We are the Body of Christ and we have been given gifts of the Holy Spirit. Whether it be in faith, healing, prophecy, or any other gift, the most important thing is to show the fruit of the Holy Spirit which is love and to walk in The Way of Love. The Psalmist writes in Psalm 100 verse 5, “For the Lord is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations” (NRSV). So, my dear sisters and brothers in Christ, keep the faith and find your hope in Christ, so that after we pray, we can say, like the Psalmist, “I love the Lord, because he has heard my voice and my supplications” (Psalm 116:1; NRSV). God is with us in this storm. Jesus will still the waters, but He needs all of us as laborers. On the Church door is a Help Wanted sign.
How will you respond? Walking in the Way of Love is the only way to respond. Do this and the world will be a better place. Amen.