Third Sunday after Pentecost

Third Sunday after Pentecost

Matthew 9:35-10:8, [10:9-23]

The Harvest Is Great, the Laborers Few

Then Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and curing every disease and every sickness.When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few;therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”

The Twelve Apostles

Then Jesus summoned his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to cure every disease and every sickness.These are the names of the twelve apostles: first, Simon, also known as Peter, and his brother Andrew; James son of Zebedee and his brother John;Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James son of Alphaeus and Thaddaeus;Simon the Cananaean and Judas Iscariot, the one who betrayed him.

The Mission of the Twelve

These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions: “Do not take a road leading to gentiles, and do not enter a Samaritan town,but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.As you go, proclaim the good news, ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’Cure the sick; raise the dead; cleanse those with a skin disease; cast out demons. You received without payment; give without payment. [Take no gold, or silver, or copper in your belts,no bag for your journey, or two tunics, or sandals, or a staff, for laborers deserve their food.Whatever town or village you enter, find out who in it is worthy, and stay there until you leave.As you enter the house, greet it.If the house is worthy, let your peace come upon it, but if it is not worthy, let your peace return to you.If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet as you leave that house or town.Truly I tell you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment than for that town.

Coming Persecutions

“I am sending you out like sheep into the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.Beware of them, for they will hand you over to councils and flog you in their synagogues,and you will be dragged before governors and kings because of me, as a testimony to them and the gentiles. When they hand you over, do not worry about how you are to speak or what you are to say, for what you are to say will be given to you at that time, for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. Sibling will betray sibling to death and a father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death,and you will be hated by all because of my name. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. When they persecute you in this town, flee to the next, for truly I tell you, you will not have finished going through all the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes.]

Now let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of our hearts, be acceptable in your sight O Lord; our Savior & Redeemer.


I recently had a tough visit with my new doctor. I was told that I’m getting older and, if I want to continue to get older, I have to stop eating like I’m still in my 20’s. It was, if you will, a “come to Jesus moment.” So I’m making some hopefully sustainable diet changes. 

This isn’t the first time I’ve adjusted my lifestyle after a physician required changes. I’m not really good at sticking with it. It’s easier to vow to make changes in the doctor’s office than it is following through. This week’s lectionary texts are about people following through—at least somewhat—after God has told them what to do.


In many modern churches, especially in the time around Pentecost, we spend a lot of time talking about mission, even if we’re not realizing we’re talking about it. 

  • Does the church exist to serve the members? 
  • Does the church exist to serve the community? 
  • And what do we mean when we talk about the church anyway? 

Like me with my Dr., we in the Church spend a lot of time TALKING, but don’t spend very much time DOING. 

  • What do we DO to serve our members? 
  • What do we DO to serve our community? 

We, like our texts show us, talk about what we should do a lot…but that’s not good enough we have to follow through.

In this week’s Gospel, we get a very different vision of the early church than we get in parts of Acts. In Acts, we often see the early believers arguing about doctrine, like who gets to belong and who doesn’t—and once we’ve decided who gets to participate, there are debates about how to participate.

This wek’s Gospel shows us all a vision of the early church in the way that Paul will practice it. Jesus gives instructions to his disciples to go out taking very little with them: no food, no money, not even a change of clothes. Their mission: “Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons.”

And what will they get for their troubles? They will be flogged in the synagogues and drug before rulers, where we assume a gruesome death will follow. Their message will divide families, but they are to persevere, to endure.


Jesus’ cry is for us to be more mission oriented…so we need to do less TALKING and more DOING. The God who called you is now ready to send you forth, for the harvest is plentiful but the laborers are few. In truth, the sending forth that really matters can only come from God. Help wanted? Yes! Now hiring? Yes! But God wants there to be no doubt about who’s running the show. God is the Lord of the harvest. Not only its owner, but the one who controls its entire management. 

God has put the harvest and its people who serve into the hands of Jesus. It is his great mission to bring in the harvest and we are to work under his direction and at his command. There is plenty of work to do and not a whole lot of people to do it. The time is ripe for our souls and hopes to come together. It is ripe for those who are receptive to God’s in-breaking activity. It is ripe for the harvesting of all of those in whom the work of God’s grace succeeds. 

The needs are great and the workers are few. The world cries out for those who are willing and prepared to share the good news of the gospel; the good news that this is God’s world, and in spite of all evidence to the contrary, one day it will be God’s way. We are partners with God and our prayers ought to be for more workers to join us in this great calling.


One way we can be partners with God is by looking out for our brothers and sisters who don’t have the privileges we have. This upcoming week of Juneteenth is a good example. How many people know what Juneteenth is?People my age ask why we celebrate Juneteenth, because we didn’t even learn about Juneteenth in our schools growing up in Appalachia.

Juneteenth is a celebration that takes place across our nation in many African American communities commemorating the end of slavery. The observance dates back to June 19, 1865. This was way before the internet and news traveled slowly. So slowly, June 19, 1865 was two and a half years after President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, which legally put an end to slavery.

The one name that is synonymous with Juneteenth, for most people who aren’t African American, is Fredrick Douglass. A man born into slavery but who never thought of himself as a slave. He would fight fiercely for his freedom and the freedom of others, eventually gaining that freedom and rising to serve as an advisor to Lincoln. Douglass would write: “Those who profess to favor freedom, and yet deprecate agitation, are men who want crops without plowing up the ground.”

What he was getting at is before planting crops, the soil has to be made ready. Rocks have to be removed before the ground can be tilled. 

  • The Emancipation Proclamation removed the first major rock—the rock of slavery—in 1863.
  • The 1954 Supreme Court decision that ended Jim Crow segregation was the lifting of the second major rock.
  • The passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act lifted another rock, putting an end to discrimination.
  • The passage of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, which prohibited racial discrimination in voting, lifted another huge rock.

Yet, despite all that lifting, we still face the challenge of the rock we call racism. 

I’m not talking about individual people who do bad things, because that’s too easy to dismiss. 

I’m talking about racism as systems that are created to keep other people (because of creed, color, sex, partner, etc.) in place of inferiority by policies and procedures that are made.

One, and it’s just one system, which manifests itself in the deadly behavior exhibited by some white police officers toward African American males. Now I am not anti-police, or saying all cops are bad, but when you can list names of cities like Baltimore, Milwaukee, Ferguson, Houston, Cleveland and in other cities in this land that is getting as long as the places getting shot up in mass shootings…then there’s a problem in the system. 

These shootings have given rise to the Black Lives Matter movement. I hear people say All Lives Matter, and that is true, but statistically by population and census Black Lives are being taken the most. Freedom still eludes us as long as one segment of our population’s freedom is in jeopardy.

Fredrick Douglass understood how precious freedom was and how necessary it was to fight for that freedom. Our faith teaches us that God is a lover of freedom. I don’t think it was accidental that the slaves latched on to the story of Moses and the Exodus. God has an ear, and I would argue particularly to the cries of those who long to be free.

Juneteenth is not just a commemoration of an event that happened 158 years ago. It is a call to pay attention to those places where people are still not free and to join in this movement, and other movements for other issues, to make the freedom that the forefathers envisioned real for every person and for every group that still lives with and feels the sting of discrimination. This is a way we can DO something to live in mission of curing the sick and casting out demons.