Gogh, Vincent van, 1853-1890. Harvest in Provence, from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN. https://diglib.library.vanderbilt.edu/act-imagelink.pl?RC=55315 [retrieved June 30, 2022]. Original source: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Ernte_in_der_Prov%C3%A9nce.jpeg.

RCL Year C Proper 9 Alternate Readings
Isaiah 66:10-14, Psalm 66:1-8, Galatians 6:7-16, Saint Luke 10:1-11 and 16-20

When Jesus sends out the seventy others in today’s Gospel, you should know that earlier he has sent out the twelve on a similar mission;[1] that Peter has confessed that Jesus is “the Messiah of God”;[2] that Jesus has given his first prediction of his Passion and Resurrection;[3] that in the sight of Peter, John, and James he has been Transfigured on the holy mountain;[4] and that he has given a second prediction of his Passion.[5] Last Sunday, we read that when the time had come for him to be taken up, he had “set his face to go to Jerusalem.”[6] Taken together, all these things comprise a turning point in Jesus’ ministry. His mission is being shared with increasing numbers of his followers. The crowds are swelling. He is determined to glorify his Father in Jerusalem. The die has been cast, as Cæsar said when he brought an army across the Rubicon. For Cæsar and for Jesus, all things point to a conflict that will be resolved by violence.

This entire context needs to be kept in mind when 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.”[7] In the parish where I was ordained a deacon, that sentence was often an Offertory Sentence, as it is in the 1928 Prayer Book.[8] It speaks of an abundant harvest, a harvest so ample that we have not the people we need to take it all in, for indeed the whole world needs to turn to God.

That ample harvest contrasts sharply with most of my experience over thirty-six years of vestry meetings, where the discussion usually returns to limited resources which perforce restrain what we can do. It has taken most of those thirty-six years for me to realize that the harvest of which Jesus speaks is not the parish checkbook. The harvest is people, the baptized whose allegiance is to Christ, who live Christ’s sacraments to work out their own salvation, and who thus become the risen, ascended humanity of God.

That harvest really is abundant, whatever condition the parish checkbook may be. The harvest becomes abundant because of the kind of things Jesus is determined to do in Jerusalem. There Jesus willingly dies to make it possible for the baptized to work out their own salvation. Following Jesus’ example, they recognize there is always a truth to tell, and there is always God to glorify. Telling the truth and glorifying God, as Jesus does in Jerusalem, always mirrors and shapes an abundant harvest. In every circumstance, each of us is free to tell the truth and to glorify God. We learn from Jesus that telling the truth and glorifying God can involve suffering even to the point of agony. But telling the truth and glorifying God remain the mediums of exchange in his kingdom. They bring the abundant harvest into being. They open the door to salvation. And those who truly follow Jesus walk through that very door, being forgiven, loved, and free. They bring the kingdom with them and remind the world what it means to belong to God and to be fully human. For all that Jesus did and does to make these things possible, may God’s holy Name be praised.

[1] Saint Luke 9:1.

[2] Saint Luke 9:20.

[3] Saint Luke 9:21-22.

[4] Saint Luke 9:29.

[5] Saint Luke 9:44.

[6] Saint Luke 9:51.

[7] Saint Luke 10:2.

[8] BCP (1928), page 73.