(July 3, 2016 sermon by Deacon Kevin McGrane, on Luke 10: 1-11,16-20)
There are many things going on in today’s rich Gospel reading. It’s difficult to pick out one thing to meditate upon.
For example, there are the 70 appointed missioners that Jesus sends out to the surrounding countryside. Notice that they are NOT the apostles, but a group of hand-picked and commissioned preachers/healers/teachers. IOW, regular people from the community. That’s one thing to consider.
Another is how they were instructed to conduct themselves while on mission. They were to conduct themselves with modesty and reserve, being polite and unburdensome guests. No prima donna’s allowed.
Another is that these people were granted power and authority by Jesus. They could cure, forgive, and preach as official representatives of Jesus of Nazareth. Their authority was supernatural.
I want to go back to the very beginning of the reading today, though, and consider verse 2, which says, “The harvest is plenty but the laborers are few…therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into the harvest.”
This should speak to us this week, particularly in light of Rev. Peter Van Horne’s sermon last week and what he described as the “death tsunami” which is rolling towards much of the Christian church…the tsunami of people 65 yrs and older who will disappear from the churches, leaving a rather large leadership gap behind.
I am SO SORRY I missed that sermon! I have never heard a sermon with the phrase “the tsunami of death” somewhere inside of it! That must have been so cool! I can just hear it now from an echo-chamber: “THE TSUNAMI OF DEEEEATH!”
Peter+ is right, of course. We know that among most mainline churches, for every 40 clergy retiring, there are only 25 new clergy stepping up to take their place. You’ll notice the discrepancy between those two numbers.
What to do? Well, don’t panic. We’re not dying. In a decade or so, the number of new leaders taking over will match the number of those retiring, and we’ll reach a point of equilibrium. Also, there will be an entirely new set of circumstances in the church…what that will be, I don’t know…no one does….BUT…
…there is a very important thing we can do, and we just read about it in verse 2 of today’s Gospel reading: we can pray for more workers and leaders to arrise from our community. And I, as a deacon, can do yet one more thing, which is the following…
I am certain there are future priests and deacons and lay ministers sitting in this congregation right now. We all have a vocation based on our baptismal covenant; make no mistake about that! Yet there are some people here who have a vocation to an ordained life, and I am officially, publicly inviting you to answer your call.
Some people here may think I am talking about someone other than you…as if I’m speaking to your child or that person sitting in the next row who is really involved in whatever ministry.
Well, yes, them too…but, I’m actually talking to you.
You may be thinking, “No. No way. I’m too old or I’m too young or I’m too married or I’m too single or I’m too you-fill-in-the-blank. At one time, I said the same thing. God answered and told me, “Not your decision. That’s between Me and the faith community. Your job is to answer the call.”
A call to follow your vocation comes in many forms and most of them are not a voice from heaven. It’s not like the Tsunami of Death phrase…”This is God! You are called!” Nope. Usually not that way.
Let me tell you about mine. I think I’ve described it before in another sermon once upon a time, so I’ll keep it brief.
Catherine and I attended an adult ed class at Emmanuel called “We Believe”. It was something like an “Episcopalian 101” course, six weeks long. Deacon Susan Naylor gave the class on types of ministers in the church, and she described how deacons are, among other things, “ones who are sent”…sent by God and God’s community to preach, teach and model diakonia, sacred servanthood. I loved that. It really spoke to me.
That same week, I watched a youtube of Bishop Smith’s sermon at the annual convention, and I was deeply impressed by his call for all of us to “go deeper, and go outside”. We are to deepen our faith in Christ, and take our faith beyond the walls of the sanctuary. Once again, I was much affected by his words.
When I experienced these two events back-to-back in one week, I had this “Eureka Moment” and realized that I wanted to go deeper, go outside, and be sent. I understood this to be my call…and here I am, speaking to you today.
No voice from an echo chamber spoke to me. No beams of light from a Technicolor sky shone down on me. But it was a life-changing moment never the less.
One of the best parts of my journey is coming here and becoming your friend.
Is today the beginning of your eureka moment? I hope so. I’m going to do my part and invite you; I pray that you do your part and answer. And I really am going to pray for you. We will start the Tsunami of Life together. With Christ with us, who can be against us? The harvest is plenty, the laborers few; we need many more laborers, and I believe you are going to be one of them.