Each month we’ll be hearing from one of our Regional Ministers, to encourage us along the way as we continue empowering missional disciples in our communities across the West of England.

Last month we thought about how Jesus shaped and brought personal and cultural transformation through his words and actions.  This month we are thinking about some of the things Jesus taught his disciples so that they (and us as his modern-day disciples) could continue his work of creating community, caring for the needs of the people, and proclaiming the kingdom of God.

The disciples went off two by two….hurrah!

With the commissioning of the seventy-two in Luke 10:1-11, Jesus delegates assignments to his disciples — both for the purpose of announcing the Kingdom AND for their own development. This commissioning establishes God’s pattern for his mission in and through the church.

As Jesus sends out the seventy-two to prepare the way for his coming, he gives them detailed instructions.

He sends them out two by two because this work was never meant to be about the ‘lone wolf’ worker. Sadly, our models of ministry and our culture’s high value on independence often prizes such ministry over that done in community. 

Harvest time is a time of urgency

Jesus’ focus is on sending his disciples out into the harvest. Why? Because harvest is a time of urgency in every culture. Even in the UK, farmers need thousands of additional foreign workers every summer/Autumn to pick the broccoli, beans, Brussel sprouts, pumpkins, and soft fruit. There simply aren’t sufficient labourers in the domestic workforce prepared for the hard graft.

Whilst Jesus’ is talking about a spiritual harvest, he knows that this sense of urgency will resonate with the disciples and so he says ‘the harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.

Jesus is teaching the disciples that prayer must be their/our first response to the task ahead. Jesus also provides instruction on the ‘hard graft’ and challenges that will be encountered. ‘Go!’ He says ‘I am sending you out like lambs among wolves. Do not take a purse or bag or sandals…’

Domesticated?

We are told that harvesting will be tough work. I wonder if as modern-day disciples we may have become over-domesticated and comfortable. Maybe, and understandably, we fear the risk, hard graft, and potential opposition that we might encounter. Perhaps, in our weariness, we’d like the Lord of the harvest to draft in extra non-domestic labourers for the task? Then again, possibly, we’re not even certain that there is a harvest out there anymore. This week, through numerous encounters with folk across the socio-economic spectrum, I have been reminded that people are desperately hungry for good news – we, his people, have that good news! I am certain that the waiting harvest isn’t going to pick itself and wander in through our doors.

So, what does Jesus tell us? He tells us ‘to go.’ He doesn’t tell us to first purchase extra security blankets, take plenty of money, food, and clothing or to get all our ‘ducks in a row.’  Against expectations, Jesus instructs his disciples to walk in vulnerability – the same vulnerability that he modelled.

Eat what your given…

Further, whilst we should, of course, adjust how we deliver the message to ensure that it is contextually relevant/can be understood, Jesus makes it clear that the message itself – ‘the kingdom of God has come near’ must not to be changed based on the host’s receptivity.

That is not to say that the disciples (then and now) should arrogantly impose this message.  Far from it! Humility is key – as disciples embodying the message, they, and we, are to humbly accept the hospitality of the stranger, eating what is provided (even the Brussels?), healing the sick, announcing the in-breaking kingdom of God and offering blessing wherever we go.

As such, we have the joy of continuing three key aspects of Jesus’ ministry.

  • The creation of community (through table fellowship).
  • Caring for the physical/emotion/spiritual needs of the people, and
  • The proclamation of the kingdom.

A new year challenge

As we are delivered from the fingertips of 2023 into the unknown arms of 2024, it is as good a time as any to re-evaluate the call God has on our lives. 

God is longing to reach this world with the culture shaping, life transforming message of his Kingdom. Will we respond in obedience to the call on our lives as God’s people to humbly enter the harvest field? It will be a place of challenge, but we are not to wait until our ‘ducks are in a row’ – the time is now! (- the day you are reading this, and henceforth….)

As we step out in obedience, we will find that Jesus provides for our needs. We may find that we lose some of our pride and fear, and we will certainly grow in humility and love. We may find our prayer lives enriched as we pray for others to join us in this Spirit-led adventure, and we will certainly grow deeper as disciples. Jesus’ call to us is, after all, for the purpose of announcing the Kingdom AND for our own development. Amidst it all, just like the seventy-two (Luke 10:17a), we too may experience greater fruitfulness and real joy!

So, as you tuck into your Brussel sprouts this Christmas Day (or make every effort to avoid them), remember that the harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Pray to the Lord of the harvest to send more workers….and get ready ‘to go’ as you form part of the answer to your own prayers.

‘May the joy of the angels,

The eagerness of the shepherds,

The perseverance of the wisemen,

The obedience of Joseph and Mary

And the peace of the Christ-child be yours this Christmas.

And the blessing of God Almighty, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, be among you and remain with you always.’

 

Lindsay Caplen

Regional Minister