Sunday, July 20, 2014

Living with Weeds, by Rev Steven R Mitchell, for Mountain View United Church, Aurora, CO 7/20/2014 based on Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43

Living with Weeds

By Rev Steven R Mitchell

Mountain View United, Aurora, CO 7/20/2014

Based on Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43


        In this morning’s parable Jesus says, “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to someone who sowed good seed in his field; but while everybody was asleep, an enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and then went away.”  I cannot help but think that on this second anniversary of the Aurora Theater shootings and along with the two major news headlines of this week, Israel’s invasion of the Gaza strip and the murder of 292 people on Malaysian Airline MH17, as it was shot out of the sky over the Ukraine, as amplified examples of “weeds” in the world.  

        As I struggle to understand such violence in our world there is a certain reality to this parable about the evil one sowing bad seeds alongside the good seed.  Yet, one of the more troubling parts of this morning’s parable comes in the very first sentence: the kingdom of heaven may be compared to…  Jesus often preached that the kingdom of God is among us, here and now.  Heaven is the place we think of as where God dwells; and dwells for “eons”, meaning past, present, and future.  Heaven over the centuries has developed in the minds of many people as something that can only be experienced after one dies.  As I have shared in the past, Jesus’ understanding of heaven is it exists both in the present and in the future.  So if the kingdom of heaven is what I presently am living in, is there any hope for peace in the midst of so much violence, hatred, and fear?  And is the heaven of the future going to be any different?

        Rev Kathryn Huey shares: This week’s sower presumably uses good ground, but gets mixed results because of the actions of an enemy.  There’s tension and conflict in this week’s story, active not passive resistance to the work of God the sower.  Perhaps those early Christians (who Matthew was addressing) had a stronger sense of their own powerlessness, feeling small and vulnerable in opposition to the powerful but (clearly) wicked forces around them.UCC Sermon Seeds 7/15/2014   

Do we not experience these same feelings of powerlessness as we constantly learn of massive acts of evil going on throughout the world?  Young boys being kidnapped and taught to become killing machines, young girls being kidnapped and sold into slavery and sex trafficing, never ending killings between Palestinians and Israelis’, senseless attacks on civilians either on the ground or in the air, mass shootings of school children or in public places, and the list just goes on and on; how can we not feel powerless and at times lose our hope for a better world?  When will God’s kingdom actually come to fruition?

        Matthew’s story could be speaking about the world at large but he might also be addressing what was being experienced in a rapidly growing church.  As a church that was young and gaining new members, the community of faith was struggling with the reality that not everyone who had joined them had the same goals or understood the teachings of Jesus in the same way.  In other words there was internal struggle; weeds sown in their garden.

        The church struggles today with the same issue of not being unified, both as local congregations and as Christian Churches worldwide, usually around theological understanding.  So much so, we within the larger church family have divided ourselves with labels such as “liberal”, or “conservative”, or more sever “fundamentalist”, we have set up a situation that creates division and disunity by creating an “us” verses “them” attitude.  It is because of the adversarial atmosphere within and between churches and church related organizations, that non-churched folk’s question, “Why would I want to belong to something where so much fighting going on?  Weeds planted in God’s garden!

        In the summer of 2011, the New York Times ran an article about the battles over abortion.  Taking Fight Back to Wichita, Doctor Seeks Abortion Clinic”.  Listen to some of the article: Not long ago, Dr. Mila Means, the physician trying to open an abortion clinic in this city, received a letter advising her to check under her car each morning – because maybe today is the day someone places an explosive under it.”  There was reason for concern: the last doctor to provide abortions here was shot to death (at his United Methodist church where he was worshipping, by a Christian from Kansas City), because of his work.  I recall reading on face book comments made by some fundamentalist Christians, praising the actions of the murderer – as doing God’s will in order to prevent the killing of unborn children.  I wonder if this might be an example of weeds being pulled out among the wheat?

        I bring this article up as an example because it holds two sides of theological reflection within the church, those who believe in “prolife” and those who believe in “prochoice”.  Depending on which side of the issue you find yourself, the odds are that you have set up a “them” vs. “us” stance and know full well that God is on your side.  The reality of an attitude of “us” vs. “them” creates a road block to discuss an issue and prevents finding possible solutions that would benefit all.

        Here in Matthew, we can see where the evil doers will be judged, but by who?  Not by the church, and not by humanity, but rather, will be collected at the end of time by the angles and judged by God.  In the Wisdom of Solomon, it is written, “Although you [God] are sovereign in strength, you judge with mildness; and with great forbearance you govern us.  Through such works you have taught your people that the righteous must be kind, and you have filled your children with good hope, because you give repentance for sins.”

        Boy this is a true blow to those of us who feel we need to take “righteous” actions towards those that we perceive to be doing evil.  Barbara Brown Taylor describes the frustration of “good” church members who recognize “weeds” in the midst of the church that ought to be a refuge from the tainted world saying: ‘If God really is in charge, then why isn’t the world a beautiful sea of waving grain? Or at least the church – couldn’t the church, at least, be a neat field of superior wheat?’ 

        Then as now, “however the weeds get there, most of us have got them – not only in our yards but also in our lives: thorny people who were not part of the plan, who are not welcome, sucking up sunlight and water that were meant for good plants, not weeds”.  Doesn’t this kind of attitude set up an either/or, Us and Them situation, where some of us are “wheat” and others are “weeds”?  Who can tell the difference, and who can presume to pull the weeds without harming the tender wheat? 

Kermit the Frog may claim that “It’s not easy being green,” but Barbara Taylor again observes that it’s not easy being wheat, either, having to compete with the weeds for fertile soil.  How many people have thought they were doing the right thing, even if they use “hostile means” to rid the church of troublesome weeds, when they’re really doing the same thing as those they are fighting against? (I think of how the Nazis treated the German Jews and how Israel is now treating the Palestinians.)  Is it possible that the mystery of the parable has something to do with God’s timing, and our inability to judge or, for that matter, our unwillingness to trust in God’s own judgment?  God’s judgment, of course, is always better for someone else than it is for us.  Still, there is evil and wrongdoing, and surely we’re supposed to do something. 

Last month we initiated the Take 5 program.  We are working toward becoming an actively planting church; planting an awareness of love, peace, and mercy as an alternative to fear, hatred, and violence.  I wonder if any of you can share with us this morning what you have experienced by picking up these brochures and leaving them in places where others might pick them up and read?  As active planters, we are opening ourselves up to having people come visit us who might not do things the way we do them, they might not think the way we think, we might have to make changes in how we do things, but we are sowers of God’s love.

        Taylor says that “what God seems to know is that the best and only real solution to evil is to bear good fruit.  Our job, in a mixed field, is not to give ourselves to the enemy by devoting all our energy to the destruction of the weeds, but to mind our own business, so to speak – our business being the reconciliation of the world through the practice of unshielded love.  If we will give ourselves to that, God will take care of the rest…”

        Let us be reminded that God sends both sun and rain on the righteous and the unrighteous alike.  If God shows such generosity of spirit, can [we] do any less?  It’s hard to be a faithful follower of Christ, yet we must remember that Jesus told us to love our enemies. Sermon Seeds UCC, 7/15/2014   If we can work at doing this, we will be helping to stop the division that comes with the Us verse Them, and will allow us to place our energy on cultivating the “good” seed that God has placed within each human being.   Amen

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

How Does Our Garden Grow?, by Rev Steven R Mitchell Based on Matthew 13:1-9 & 18-23

How Does Our Garden Grow?

By Rev Steven R Mitchell

Mountain View United, Aurora, CO 7/13/2011

Based on Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23



        There is an old nursery rhythm that as children on the playground we would recite often, it goes like this: Mary, Mary, quite contrary, How does your garden grow? With silver bells, and cockle shells, And pretty maids all in a row. Who can tell me what that means?  People who study these things say One explanation is that it had religious connotations to it.  That it is a religious allegory of Catholicism, with bells representing the sanctus bells, the cockleshells the badges of the pilgrims to the shrine of Saint James in Spain (Santiago de Compostela) and pretty maids are nuns, but even within this strand of thought there are differences of opinion as to whether it is lament for the reinstatement of Catholicism in England or for its persecution.  So many of our childhood nursery rhythms have multiple means just as do the parables of Jesus.

  Jesus was using a parable in this morning’s reading about the sower planting his/her seed and what happens with that seed depending on the type of soil the seed falls upon.  I can even see a resemblance between this morning’s parable and our vacant lot east of the church. 

We have two sections in that east lot, one is considered vacant and the other we call a “community garden.”   The community garden is planted with tomatoes, lettuce, corn, bok chow, and many other varieties of vegetables and the vacant lot is planted with multiple types of weeds.  The vegetable garden received much care and water, while the weeds do not; yet both seem to thrive.   I wonder why that is?

When I look at that east lot, it brings back memories about how my dad attempted to garden on our 40 acre farm back in Kansas.  After moving out to this farm, dad decided that with forty acres and the free slave labor of three children, he would utilize as much of the land as possible and become a truck farmer.  A good share of this land was very sandy and of low quality, but there patches of very good soil as well.  We had no real equipment for this type of undertaking, so most all the working of the soil was done with hand tools.  The property had only one water well for the whole 40 acres, which was near the house with only one water spicate in which to water the plants that we were cultivating.

It’s a marvelous thing to watch everything that you have planted grow.  But do you know what is equally interesting; watching everything that you didn’t plant grow as well.  The technical term for these plants are “weeds”.  I remember long days of handling a hoe, chopping at the weeds, which seemed to thrive better than the plants that I was supposed to be tending. 

        Most often when reading what we now call “The Parable of the Sower”, we too often fuse over the types of soil that the seed is planted in.  This is  part of what the story is asking us to look at, but it is equally a commentary about the sower.  In this particular setting, it is easy to image that the sower is Jesus, or God, or possibly the Disciples, since they were the ones that Jesus was really speaking to. 

As a church, we also are the sower.  In the “Take 5” program, the taking of 5 church brochures and placing them at a variety of places that we find ourselves: the grocery store, the Dr’s office, a restaurant, when we leave these brochures we are in fact, scattering our seed onto soil that we do not know whether it will produce or not. 

        I often speak about trusting in God’s “abundance” instead of thinking in the world’s view of “scarcity”; yet in practice we act in scarcity instead of abundance; and I don’t mean on a personal level.  As a nation with excessive abundance, we chose to limit how many people are allowed into our country, we have issues with the concept of National Health Care, we would rather allow homeliness instead of providing affordable housing, and we want to restrict who can marry, to name just a few.  Why?  Why do we do we think this way?

Today’s scripture talks about how God “the sower” isn’t concerned about where the seed is throw – that is true extravagance, in fact it can be seen as downright wastefulness.  Throwing seed on ground that isn’t prepared, you know that seed is doomed for failure.  The scripture says that the birds ate the seed that fell on the road; the seed in the shallow soil withered under the heat of the day; the seed in the weeds is choked out.  It is only in the good soil that the seed produced.  But here is the kicker: we don’t know what will prove to be the good soil!    

        When we see a person with the illness of drug or alcohol addiction, we do not know if going into treatment will help this person beat their addiction, but the odds are pretty good that if they continue to work their program, one day they will move from rocky soil to fertile soil.  When we help our children learn right from wrong, we do not know if as adults they will become upstanding citizens or become a criminal, but we give them our love and instruction hoping they grow up to be a good person.  As a church, we don’t know if having a workshop on sexual identity will result in a phone call inquiring about whether or not as a congregation, we would really welcome a transgendered person, but we hold the workshops anyway.  When I stand up here each week and share my understanding about any given scripture, I don’t know which hearts will be fertile that day and which ones will be hard as stone, but my job is to share and let God do the work. 

        Yesterday, as we were passing out burritos to day labors over on 19th and Federal, a guy in a black pick-up pulls up wanting to know if we were selling burritos and if he could purchase one.  My first thought as I saw Judy Rowe speaking with him was, “This guy is with the city checking to see if we had a business license to sell burritos.”  As it turns out, he saw us and just wanted a burrito.  He wanted to know if he could pay for one understanding that what we were doing was a charitable work, but Judy insisted that he just take one.  He did and drove off, then minutes later, he came back to us and gave us $20 to help in our mission.  This is an example of how the seed fell onto fertile soil.

        As a community of faith, we have received the word of God, the seed planted.  The question that needs to be asked is, “What type of soil is this congregation made up of?”  Are we hard and rocky, who gives only the birds nourishment, as they eat the seed that doesn’t take root?  Are we soil that is full of rocks, there by not allowing the work of the Holy Spirit to take hold?  Are we soil where the distractions of the world take away focus from the needs of being nourished?  Are we the soil that receives God’s word and allow it to be nurtured within our hearts, to grow and be able to feed the needs of those we come in contact with?

The focus is on the sower.  The story is asking what type of soil is in the sower’s heart.  It is God who originally planted his word within us?  How have we received it?  God did not give his love for just some, but for all.  God loves extravagantly, giving the gift of reconciliation and healing to every broken heart. 

The question is this:  How have you received this seed from God?  Is your spirit one of hard packed soil? Is it one who received the love of God but because of life’s circumstances has found this love withering?  Or is your heart the type of soil that has received the love of God and has allowed it to flourish, thereby giving it freely to all that you met? 
As long as we, as a congregation, have open hearts to receive the extravagant love of God, we will continue to do the work that God has asked us to do, and we will reap abundance through Gods promise to us!  Amen       

Monday, July 7, 2014

The Devil Made Me Do It!, for Mountain View United, Aurora, CO 7/6/2014 Based on Romans 7:15-25a & matthew 11:25-30

The Devil made Me Do It!

By Rev Steven R Mitchell

Mountain View United, Aurora, CO 7/6/2014

Based on Romans 7:15-25a & Matthew 11:25-30



        Not long ago, during a pastors meeting, the Rev Leroy Jones, pastor of the “Church of What’s Happening Now”, was sharing a situation much like what the Apostle Paul is sharing in Romans 7.   It seems that one day the Reverend came home from the office to find that his wife, Lillian, had purchased another dress.  Now they had agreed several months earlier that she had been spending way too much money on dresses, in fact, her closets were over flowing with dresses that she had purchased over the past month alone.

        So Rev. Leroy’s wife begins to explain just exactly what had happened and why she had that dress.  She began to explain: I was doing my morning power walk in the Aurora Town Mal, minding my own business, when I stopped in front of the Dillard’s display window to see what the new Summer fashions were, when up from behind me comes the Devil.  He stopped and said to me, “Hey momma, what cha doing there looking so fine?”  I told him, “I was just looking through the window to see what was on display.”  “I also told him to get lost because I didn’t need to be talking with him.”

        The Rev Leroy said, “That sounds fine, but I don’t understand what that has to do with you buying this dress.”  Rev Leroy’s wife then said, “The devil wouldn’t go away and asked me if I was going to go in and try on the dress.”  “I told the devil that I wasn’t going to buy that dress, so I didn’t need to try it on!”  Then the Devil said, “Oh go ahead, try on the dress.  You at least owe yourself a try on!”  Then I told the devil, “Devil get behind me!”

        “Okay,” said the Rev., “Then what happened?”  The Rev’s wife continued her story by saying, “He got behind me, and then he started to push me into the story.  He just pushed and pushed until I was at the rack where the dress was hanging.”  “So I thought I would out smart that old devil by trying on the dress so that he would be satisfied and would leave me alone.”  “After I tried on the dress, he told me how ‘fine I looked in it on me’.” she continued, “I told him I had promised you not to buy any more dresses for the rest of the summer and that I wasn’t going to buy this dress, and to just leave me alone!”

        The Rev. then asked, “What happened? Didn’t he leave you alone?”  “Well,” said his wife, “after I pleaded with him to leave me alone, I found myself standing at the counter, where the devil forced me to get my check book out from my purse.  All the time I was screaming, ‘Devil, get behind me. Devil leave me alone!”  “Well, then what happened?” asked Rev. Leroy.  “After all that pleading and me telling him I wasn’t going to buy that dress, he pulled a gun on me and forced me to sign your name to the check!”

        The Rev Leroy then asked her, “Why is it that the devil always seems to benefit you and get you things that you want and he never seems to do anything for me.”  The Mrs. Rev. replied saying, “I asked him about that! And he says he already has helped you.  He said, ’If it wasn’t for him, you wouldn’t even have a job!’” from Flip Wilson Comedian Album circa 1960’s

        How many times have we not taken responsibility for our own actions and have placed the blame on someone or something other than admitting our short comings and admitting that we truly are responsible for our actions?  This is the struggle that Paul is sharing with us this morning.  He says that, as a follower of Jesus’ teachings, he still was finding that his actions were not always what he was wanting to do or at times not proud of.

        So, instead of saying “the devil made me do it”, Paul insists that it is the sin that is a part of being human that keeps him doing those things that he wishes he wasn’t doing.  This is the basis for the early 5th century theologian Augustine of Hippo and later, the early 16th Century Theologian John Calvin, in their development of what we now call, “the doctrine of original sin.”  The simplest explanation being: we are all born with a sinful nature and only through Christ are we given the freedom of life.  Curiously, Augustine through his observations of infants and toddlers saw behaviors of self need and want, which lead him to belief that all humans fell short of the glory of God.

        This point of view actually comes from the Hellenistic point of view, that the Spirit or soul is good but that the physical body is evil.  Paul, even though he was a Hebrew, was heavily influenced in this philosophy, which accounts for his conflict between his behavior and his intellectual desires.  I know what the right thing to do is, but somehow, I seem to do the opposite.  I don’t wish to do the wrong thing, but it just seems to happen.”  The spirit is willing but the body is weak.

        So, Here’s the question: Does the devil truly make us “do wrong?  Or are we born with sin that was started with the disobedience of Adam and Eve?  These are questions that humanity has asked itself for generations.   Paul speaks that by one man Adam came death, but by Jesus comes life.  This thought process developed the whole idea that sin is passed on through the “sin gene”, and because Christ was born without sin, he was able to provide the avenue of life.

        I am not sure that I agree with or at best understand the “original sin” theory in how it has been developed through the ages.  I do however understand the theory “free will” and tend to attribute my behavior more with this outlook than that of original sin.  The reason is this: if I am born this way, with original sin, then this can lead me to not taking responsibility for my actions (the devil made me do it!), whereby if I believe more in the concept of “free will”, it places the burden of my actions directly upon my shoulders and not that of how my parents may have raised me, or even on Adam and Eve’s disobedience.

        When we think about how we don’t act upon the right things that we could be doing with our lives, we can run the risk of becoming very negative about ourselves.  Paul, asks the question, “who can save me from myself?”  His answer is, “God!  Thank God, God has saved me from myself.”  In other words, we do not accumulate on our balance sheet of life, all the negatives and have them weigh against all the good that we also do.  We are a forgiven people. 

Jesus understood how the law which was designed to help us live as better people, can become perverted and burden us down with needless and harmful regret.  It is Jesus who calls us to himself.  He says, "Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out? Come to me. Get away with me and you'll recover your life. I'll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won't lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you'll learn to live freely and lightly."

It is just as the song says, “Softly and tenderly Jesus is calling.  Calling for you and for me; See, on the portals He’s waiting and watching,
Watching for you and for me. Come home, come home, You who are weary, come home; Earnestly, tenderly, Jesus is calling, Calling, O sinner, come home!

        As we come before Christ’s table this morning, listen to your heart.  Are you burden with those things that you do, but wish you haven’t done?  If so, release them into the arms of the God who lovingly calls us to come to His table of love and forgiveness.  For whether we are by nature prone to do the things we shouldn’t and not do the things we should, or whether we just choice to take the lesser paths in life, it is through the love of God that we are abundantly welcomed and extravagantly forgiven.  For walking with Jesus is a lighter path than walking on our own.  Amen

Farming for the Harvest, for Mountain View United, Aurora, CO 6/29/2014 based on Matthew 9:35-38 & 10:40-42

Farming for the Harvest

By Rev Steven R Mitchell

Mountain View United, Aurora, CO 6/29/2014

Based on Matthew 9:35-38 and 10:40-42


        I hope all of you who were not present in last week’s worship have had the opportunity to read what Bob Jordan shared in his discussion titled: Hot Buttons, Hot Topics, and What Would Jesus Do?  Bob gave an excellent summation of how “social justice” topics can stir the heart and many times divide a group of folks.  Bob took on the challenging saying by Jesus, “Do not think I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.” Relatives will turn against relatives, and friends against friends.”  As Bob pointed out, Jesus was not actively seeking to split families and friends, but rather was making a statement about what would happen when one takes to heart the message of God’s idea of justice.  These words were a build up to Jesus sending out his disciples among the many small villages in the region.

        Jesus then takes these negatives and ends his discussion with the positives that come with sharing God’s message; the promise of rewards! 41 Whoever welcomes a prophet as a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward, and whoever welcomes a righteous person as a righteous person will receive a righteous person’s reward. 42 And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones who is my disciple, truly I tell you, that person will certainly not lose their reward.”   When reading this text, it is easy to think about the concept of “hospitality”, which is a key theme in this morning’s reading.  Much of the time, however, we tend to think of “hospitality” as a one directional street.  We too often think as the person who is giving hospitality as the one who is “giving” the gift or reward.  Think about how much you give to those you invite people into your home for dinner.  You are gracious, warm, providing fine food, and good conversation.  What is it that you feel after your guests have left for the evening?  Yes, you are probably tired, but are you not left with a warm glow from the evening?  What is it that gives you that warm glow?  It’s not just from your putting yourself out to make someone feel good.  The warm glow comes because of what your guests have brought with them to the table, themselves.  In truth, the giver also is the receiver.

        It is the same for our congregation each Sunday.  Every person who walks through these doors are not just receiving from the larger group, but the larger group is receiving from each person.  From the strongest person in the building to the most fragile in this room, when we receive one another for who we are, we are in turn being given a most precious gift – the essence of one another.  We practice our diversity in part by making a special point each Sunday to recognize the children in our midst, with a “children’s time.”  We are not just giving time to the children but our hearts are mysteriously warmed by their participation in worship through this time.  By making room for them, we receive also.

        If the end of Chapter 10 gives us the promise of rewards, then what are these rewards for?  Good behavior?  Being nice to everyone we meet?  For coming to Worship a minimum number of times per year?  Is it for speaking out for Social Justice?  As a church we should continually be asking “What is the purpose of Mountain View?  Chapter nine gives us some very solid ground work about how Jesus saw his purpose, which helps us in answering our question of purpose.

        Through the first eight chapters in Matthews Gospel we read how Jesus sets up his style of ministry as He wonders the countryside teaching and healing, then in Chapter nine, he returns to his home town.  While there some friends of a paralyzed man bring him to Jesus.  Jesus does the unforgivable; he forgives the man of his sins.  Immediately Jesus is challenged by some of the teachers of the law about the blasphemy of forgiving sins.  Jesus decides to take it one step further by healing the man of his paralysis.  Jesus doesn’t stay in his home town but moves on and becomes acquainted with Matthew the tax collector.  Jesus once again breaks the rules and eats supper with him and all of his sinful friends.  Again, Jesus is questioned by the Pharisees about associating with sinners.  Jesus responds by saying, “learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’[a] For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

If being harassed by the establishment wasn’t enough, a couple of disciples from Jesus’ mentor, John the Baptizer, come asking Jesus why he doesn’t fast like John and other righteous people, in accordance to the law of Moses? 

All three of these encounters focus on doctrinal issues.   As Bob so artfully stated last week about the votes at this year’s Presbyter gathering allowing same-sex marriages in its churches, and the immediate call by some to withhold monies from their Presbyteries if these actions are allowed in their Presbyteries are examples of the father against father, mother against daughter.  Or of the defrocking of a Methodist minister for not promising to not perform same-sex weddings in the future after he had officiated such a ceremony between his son and his son-in-law.  Several weeks ago I was invited by Dawn Skeritt to listen to a lecture at St Andrews Methodist Church in Highlands Ranch, where the speaker was pastor of the largest United Methodist Church in North America, asking for people to come to the table with open hearts as they examine scripture with new eyes about the teachings of human sexuality and not dig in their heals which is leading to a denominational schism.  It’s the same old question of “mercy” over “sacrifice.”

Jesus keeps on traveling around the countryside, preaching the good news, and raising from death a little girl, healing a woman who had been bleeding for years, giving site to a blind man and speech to a mute.  And scripture says, “36 When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. 37 Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. 38 Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”

There is more in worshiping God than just coming to church.  Jesus tells his disciples that anyone who welcomes those he sends out, are welcoming him.  Anyone who welcomes Jesus, also welcomes the one who sent him, God!  Jesus was not stationary in his ministry.  Jesus went from village to village, talking about God and healing the sick.  Churches in their exuberance to provide a place where God can be praised and worshiped have become complacent in expecting the sick and the hungry to come to a building, to us.  Jesus’ example and call to his disciples was to go out into the villages and not just speak the word of love and forgiveness, but to heal the sick, to show mercy and not worry about whether what you are doing is doctrinally correct or put in more modern understanding is legal or not legal!  Why do we become so emotionally charged about someone whose only crime has been to enter this country improperly or has stayed longer than legally permitted and living a productive life?  Isn’t it more “God giving” by helping to keep a family together than tearing them apart because of a law that is out of step with human rights?  Shouldn’t we be more concerned with the rights of two people in love and wishing to make a life commitment to one another, instead of arguing whether or not the plumbing fits correctly?

As a body of faith, we have been asked by Jesus to go out into the villages and share the love of God, by word and by deed, not to sit around waiting for them to come to us.  This morning, you have the opportunity to do just that.  You are being asked to take just 5 brochures with you as you leave today and place them in public spaces, such as reception rooms, on public transportation vehicles, in your local grocery store, any place that you can think of, where someone might pick it up and read about what we have to offer as a faith community.  This does not require you to have any face to face encounters with anyone, but it is a small step in going out into our village and sharing. 

We say we are not a people who stand on doctrine, but rather a people of mercy.  There is a whole world outside these doors that do not experience mercy very often; don’t you think they deserve the chance to find a place where they too can receive mercy, love and support?  Through our invitation to receive these gifts, we too become more enriched by what they bring with them.  God has created a great harvest, let us go out into the world and become the workers.   Amen