2nd Week after Pentecost
June 14, 2020 | Bryan Simmons
Passage: Matthew 9:35-10:8
*prefaced by a joke about a person praying to God to win the lottery, but never buying a ticket*
I think we fall into that trap in our daily lives as well, in that we want things to be better; we hope for things in our own lives and the lives of the ones we love and the lives of the world God loves, and yet sometimes we seem to just stop there. We stop at the hoping things will get better, wishing things will get better, and we feel overwhelmed by the circumstances.
And I think that’s coming especially true in this time of pandemic and this time of social unrest with how racism is being so exposed on the front lines right now. And I think we get lost, and we say, “well, it’s such a big problem, what can I do?” So, we do things like tweet hashtags and maybe some have joined a protest, and those are good first steps, but there is more to it than just desiring something better; there’s more to it than just wanting more, hoping it gets better. And just like the prayer in the joke where the hope is to win the lottery without even buying a ticket, we need to recognize that we too need to actively participate in the kingdom that God is bringing.
Martin Luther’s explanations to the phrases in the Lord’s prayer address this very issue. Martin Luther says that God’s name is holy, in and of itself. It does not need our prayer to make God’s name holy, but we pray that we can make God’s name holy in our lives. “God’s will be done; God’s kingdom come on Earth as in heaven” not by our prayer, but we pray that we may be involved in what God is doing, that our actions may be in line with God’s will, and that what we do in deed shows people the kingdom of God.
Pope Francis once said, “First you pray for the poor, then you help them. That’s how prayer works.” So too it is with Jesus, looking out at this crowd of people that He shows compassion to, and He sees them harassed and helpless, harassed by the Romans and the Jewish authorities and even each other. And He realizes that the problem is too big for even Jesus. As much as Jesus can go around and heal in His earthly body, more doing the same compounds it. And just like in John, when He promises the disciples that they will do greater things than Jesus is doing, it’s this compound effect that helps and magnifies the kingdom. So He commissions the disciples, the first apostles, which means “sent ones,” and He sends them out and gives them the power and authority to do the same things that Jesus does: forgive sins, heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out demons. The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few.
Kyle Idleman wrote a book called “Not a Fan,” and I think Kyle Idleman has a great name for this book. It’s the most ironic author name you can have for such a title, because it’s anything but being idle that Kyle champions here. He talks about how our relationship to God is not as though someone sitting in the fans section watching the action happen, cheering it on, but that we are so moved and so changed by what Jesus has accomplished in our lives, by the salvation that we have been given by God that we can’t help but get out of the stands and become participants on the playing field, actively working for the sake of the kingdom. There is a place for study, there is a place for prayer, but just as Jesus says here, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore, ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.” And then, Jesus sends them, and they go.
God’s will comes about with or without our prayer. God’s kingdom will reign with or without our prayer. But we are invited and called and compelled to want to be a part of what God is doing and that involves actively being on the field, that involves the work of getting into the game. If it weren’t for people actively getting into the game, scholars learning more about verses such as the Clobber passages in order to bring up objections, saying they don’t think that the traditional interpretations of these verses are quite right, we would be stuck and lost. We need to actively get into the game for the sake of God’s kingdom, which comes because Christ died once for all and rose from the dead for you and for me so that we may enter into a relationship of eternal love with the God who is love. The God who calls us into the dangerous places so that all may know God’s good name. May it be so for you so that you may proclaim the Good News of Christ.