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Pentecost 2 June 18, 2017 - The Rev. Janet Campbell
PENTECOST 2 Proper 6 Year A
Exodus 19:2-8a; Psalm 100; Romans 5:1-8; Matthew 9:35-10:8 (9-23)
Christ Episcopal Church
Tacoma, Washington
Sunday June 18, 2017
The Rev. Janet Campbell
Be careful what you pray for.
Jesus said to his disciples,
“Ask the Lord of the harvest
to send out laborers into his harvest.”
So many people
harassed and helpless,
resource-less and desperate,
leaderless and left-behind,
like sheep
          without a shepherd . . .
a plentiful harvest
of God’s beloved children
to be gathered in
to God’s kingdom of justice and peace.
Perhaps the disciples thought
these laborers for which they prayed
would magically appear
from some labor pool
          and head out into the harvest.
But no.

Jesus sent them.
Simon Peter, Andrew, James, John,
Philip, Bartholomew, Thomas, Matthew,
another James, Thaddeus, Simon, Judas –
suddenly the twelve found
that they themselves
          were to be the answer
          to their prayer,
laborers sent out into the fields of the world
          to bring in God’s harvest . . .
Do be careful what you pray for.
Their marching orders revealed
how hard, how costly, their mission would be:
They would often be unwelcome,
their message rejected more often
          than heard and received.
They would find themselves like sheep
in the midst of wolves,
at the mercy of the predators
          of the world.

The message Jesus entrusted to them . . .
the message he had shown them
when he went about all the cities and villages
          teaching in the synagogues,
          proclaiming the good news of the Kingdom,
          curing every disease and sickness . . .
this message of God’s all encompassing love,
was threatening, explosive,
in a world of relationships
grounded not in
          mutual regard and love,
but in
          power over others and enforced inequality.
The apostles would find themselves
in a mess of trouble
with those who realized
that their power
would mean nothing
in God’s kingdom.

The apostles’ allegiance to Jesus
          and Jesus only
would put them at odds
with friends and family,
people in their community,
anyone who embraced
the skewed values of culture and world.
They would be hated and persecuted –
and they were to respond
according to the message they brought . . .
          not with anger or hatred,
          not with arrogance or argument . . .
They were to offer peace
          to those who would receive it,
and move on from those
          who would not.
Move on with their message,
labor on in the harvest,
endure to the end . . .
They themselves
were not sheep without a shepherd,
for their shepherd was Jesus,
          teacher, companion, example,
and it was to him they would return
          from the harvest
          to report on their
                   failures and successes –
          for they would have both.
I trust that each of us prays
in her or his own way every day
for God’s harvest of justice and peace,
just as, every Sunday,
we pray as an assembly,
the Body of Christ at Christ Church,
          for that harvest . . .
for civility and gentleness and sanity in our public life,
for the resolve to stand over against
          racial, ethnic, religious discrimination,
for the commitment to work for
          the healing of God’s wounded Creation,
for justice for the marginalized and oppressed . . .

Sometimes we conclude
our corporate prayer with this collect:
“Almighty and eternal God,
          ruler of all things in heaven and earth:
Mercifully accept the prayers of your people,
and strengthen us to do your will;
          through Jesus Christ our Lord.”
Strengthen us to do your will.
At the end of our worship,
we are dismissed, sent out,
ourselves the answer to our prayer,
          laborers in God’s harvest,
having been strengthened
by Christ present among us,
          within us,
          in Word and Sacrament
          in our fellowship
          in our shared commitment
                    to the mission entrusted to us.

Sent out to labor,
and not alone,
with others who work
          to establish justice and peace
whether they call it God’s Kingdom
          or by some other name:
Christians, Muslims, Jews,
Sikhs, Buddhists, Ba’Hai . . .
doctors, nurses, health care and social workers,
first responders, teachers, judges and lawyers,
elected officials, charity workers,
ecological and social justice advocates . . .
          all who hold and live for the values
                   of equality and mutual regard and love. 
We followers of Jesus
have our marching orders
and we will be tested
          as the first apostles were,
for the message of God’s kingdom
is as revolutionary now
          as it was then,
the resistance to it as strong,
          and the times hard,
          fraught with anger and anxiety.
The harvest is indeed plentiful,
but the task seems overwhelming.

Against the bullying, volatility, and violence
          of the perturbed and disturbed,
the greed of corporations,
the exploitation of the Creation,
the wars that go on and on,
and the resulting suffering of vulnerable millions . . .
Against the relentlessness of it all,
the despair that seeks us out
in our weakness . . .
how are we able to labor on
with hope?
Brother Curtis Almquist
of the Society of Saint John the Evangelist,
an Episcopal community of monks
offers this encouragement:
“Rather than experiencing the sorrows of our world
as a source of desolation,” he says,
“hear the news as a clarion call,
as motivation and clarification
for what we are to be about as followers of Jesus Christ.”
                                    [Br. Curtis Almquist, SSJE  “Brother, Give us a Word,” June 11, 2017]
“ . . . hear the news
as a clarion call,
as motivation and clarification
for what we are to be about
as followers of Jesus Christ.”

Hear the news,
hear the call,
go back into the fields
and work for the harvest . . .
And there is something else
we should remember . . .
God made the world
for God’s pleasure and enjoyment,
and for our pleasure and enjoyment,
and saw that it was good,
and full of beauty and possibility.
It is that goodness
and beauty
and possibility
we celebrate and seek to restore
          in its fulness.
On the seventh day,
God rested
from all that God had been doing in creation,
to enjoy the wonder
of all God had made.

God invites us not only into mission,
but also into God’s rest,
into God’s pleasure and enjoyment
of the world as God continues to bring it into being,
that we may be renewed and refreshed
to join in that work.
This past Friday,
after another week
full of awful news –
I was reminded three times  
of the activity of God’s creating Spirit
          ever moving in the world
At our Third Fridays at Noon concert,
there was the inspired grandeur of the music
          of Bach, Buxtehude, Grigny, Nivers, Mendelssohn,
          composers of centuries long past,
brought again to life
          by the gifted present day organist Samuel Libra,
on the magnificent organ imagined and built by
          John Brombaugh . . .
                   all these coming into being through the Spirit.

That evening,
at the Lakewood Playhouse,
there was the inspired silliness
          of Gilbert and Sullivan’s Pirates of Penzance –
a zany and sweet staging
          with its kick-line of pirates,
          bungling police marching about like wind-up dolls,
          the Modern Major General and his patter song
                   sung three times at ever increasing speed . . .
                   all these coming into being through the Spirit.
And later that evening
I received by email from a friend
a picture of a giant rubber duck
floating in the Thea Foss waterway.
Also a work, though a minor one,*
          of the Holy Spirit.
Let us remember
to see God
in all that is good and lovely,
          and silly and full of laughter,
in story and song,
in grandeur and awe,
in the ridiculous and the sublime.

So that rested and renewed,
and with the guidance of the Holy Spirit,
the encouragement of Jesus our Shepherd,
and the grace of God our Creator,
we will respond with new hope and vigor
to the clarion call:
The harvest is plentiful . . .
all laborers are needed . . .
come, let us enter into God’s harvest.
* following the 10:30 liturgy, a parishioner who attended the Tall Ships weekend remarked that having seen the way the crowds enjoyed the rubber duck, she felt its presence in the Foss Waterway was not a minor, but a major, work of the Holy Spirit.