On Sunday, July 7, we will celebrate our last worship service as pastor and congregation. The appointed reading in the lectionary cycle for that Sunday comes from the Gospel of Luke, chapter 10. It is a fitting message for this moment. Jesus commissions seventy-two disciples and sends them out to share the Gospel in new places. He warns them that it will be challenging, and he also reassures them: “the harvest is bigger than you can imagine, but there are few workers.” After their journeys, the seventy-two return joyously, filled with hope at their success in sharing the Good News.
Entering into a time without a leader can be daunting, whether it is because the leader leaves (as in the Acts of the Apostles, chapter 1) or because the people are sent. I am certainly not claiming to be Jesus as I leave you! But it is helpful to remember that, as long as we remain dependent on any particular leader or teacher, we too easily become comfortable in our supporting roles. Times of transition shake us up, and challenge us to reconsider the ministry to which every one of us is called through our baptisms into discipleship. Jesus promised a harvest beyond our wildest dreams.
Do we still have faith in that promise? We can see churches across the country declining and even closing, as if the harvest were dried up. But I believe the key is in the second part of what Jesus said: there are few workers. We’ve settled into expectations that the pastor and a small number of leaders will do the harvesting, while everyone else reaps the benefits. But this isn’t what Jesus imagined. If we want to see our churches full of life again, it doesn’t all depend on a pastor. Hear this time of transition as a call to you: the harvest is plentiful! Now is the time for the workers to answer the call.
May the Peace of Christ be with you always,