Jesus tells us there is work to be done – start small, work together.
READ: Matthew 10:40-42
“We are all intimately linked in this harvest work,” writes Eugene Peterson who wrote the Message translation that we read from today.
If you were to look at other translations of the biblical text, you’d notice that Peterson added this sentence along with another in this passage. Yet I chose this version because it opens with this wonderful reminder that we are all interconnected in this great body called the church, whether we are here in person or online.
But we are more than intimately linked. We are linked for a purpose. And that purpose is to do the harvest work.
If we had read all of Matthew 10, we’d see how it’s not an easy chapter for the disciples. In it, Jesus sends them out into the world… “like sheep through a pack of wild wolves” to live out God’s mission. He warns them, “be cunning like a snake but inoffensive like a dove.”
Jesus is offering us instructions that describe what discipleship means. Like the 12, he is sending us out on a test run to prepare us for something bigger to come. It’s going to be tough, he says, and we have to be tougher, even with our kindness. More importantly, we have to be willing…to accept the call.
In chapter 10, Jesus is pretty much saying that being a disciple doesn’t mean your life will be carefree and painless. It’s an endless, constant, repetitive job. Like cleaning up after children. No sooner are the Legos are in the bin, that they’re all over the floor again. However, those who accept the call will become children of a God who doesn’t tire of cleaning up our messiness.
The other sentence Peterson adds is, “This is large work I’ve called you into, but do not be overwhelmed by it. It’s best to start small.” Even though this is not part of the original text, I can actually hear Jesus saying this. Easy does it, slow and steady, no one is born running…we all start out taking baby steps.
I remember having my first solid meal in the hospital after surgery on my throat. I was instructed to take small bites but I was so hungry that I started shoveling food into my mouth, and pretty soon I began to choke. It was too much all at once. Jesus is telling us the same thing: there is work to be done, so don’t bite off more than you can chew.
You might have a lot on your plate, a lot of responsibilities or emotional things that are piling up in your life. If you are not careful, they can overwhelm you and cripple you from getting anything done. This is one of many passages where Jesus offers us words of encouragement. Take one small job at a time (as simple as giving a cup of water) and remember you are not alone, we are intimately tied to one another, for the purpose of doing this work!
This past week, I gathered with folks from the National Association of Congregational Christian Churches at Piedmont College in Demorest Georgia. One of the tasks we set out to achieve was to make 20,000 meals for Rise Against Hunger, an organization that helps feed starving families around the world.
If I had to do this alone it would take me weeks, if not months to complete the task. Instead, there was one person who opened the bag, a small task. Another placed a protein packet in it…a small task. Then someone put in the vegetables and another poured in the rice. My job was to weighed the bag before someone else sealed it and passed it off to be boxed up. All small jobs that when combined made a large impact. In less than 90 minutes we made just over 21,000 meals.
God works in small ways. And it’s in these small acts the world is filled with God’s love.
The takeaway here is this: there is work to be done – start small, work together. For it’s in all of our small gestures that people begin to see the gigantic love of God in their midst.
The challenge for each of us is to think small?
I know many of you know how to do this, because most of you are already doing it. Perhaps you may not even realize that you are a disciple of Jesus already. Hollie and I talked about this over breakfast…how the little things we do, making a meal for our kids or talking to a grumpy neighbor…teach the world to be like Christ.
Here are a few suggestions to help you think about what you can do to take up the cross of discipleship.
This one might not seem small, but you might be willing to lead a home church for us. This is not as hard as it might seem. It will take some work, commitment, and thinking outside the box. I can help you through it, after all we are intimately tided together.
Is that too big for you? Go smaller. Open your home for a bible study or a group that takes up a cause that helps the community. This is a simple yet important gift to advancing Jesus’ ministry in the world. A big thank you to Tom and Sharon for providing this space for us to worship in today. And to Rich/Trudi…Bo/Hollie
You could also support a ministry, or a mission, or both…there are people out there doing God’s work but they can’t do it alone. Whether it’s financial or emotional support through letters, care packages, or daily prayer...never underestimate the gifts you’ve been given and the wealth of what you have that can be offered to others.
You know about the concept of Paying it Forward: One night at the movies, we accidently cut in line of a family, the mom kinda made a small stink about it under her breath. Before I could reconcile, it was our turn to buy tickets. To honor Christ, we paid for her family’s tickets as well; not for recognition but for the simple surprise that a small act of kindness can afford.
We all have the power to gift another with unexpected grace: paying for someone’s movie…or coffee…or toll...can shift their whole way of being into one of gratitude and appreciation. A small gesture that speaks to Jesus’ great sacrifice.
Want something smaller? Offer to help a person by giving them a ride, taking them shopping for their groceries, helping them to clean out their storage rooms. I bet you Jesus would do the same. In fact, each time you smile at someone, open a door for someone, share your time or peace with someone, especially someone you do not know, you are reminding the world that Jesus is present. In the way we love, serve, forgive, heal…Jesus is alive and with us, shepherding us through a world full of wild wolves.
We do not do even the smallest of things without God seeing us through it. Our life in Christ exists because of what God has done, what God is doing, and what God promises to do for all eternity.
And so I encourage you to think about what it means for you to be a Christian, a disciple of Christ, and what small step you might take each day to show God’s love in the world. “This is a large work I’ve called you into, but don’t be overwhelmed by it,” Jesus says. “It’s best to start small. The smallest act of giving or receiving makes you a true apprentice. You won’t lose out on a thing.” This is the word of God, the Good News of Jesus Christ.
Prayer: Lord, there is so much need in our world yet it seems that the workers are few. I pray that you would raise us up and send us out into the harvest field and change the world. Help us to take up our cross and follow you. And help us to be willing to be identified with you and to share your love in all circumstances. I offer you this body as a living sacrifice in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.
has been blogging under the name: Jesus not Jesús: Looking for Christ in the face of strangers. You can read his posts and browse his archives by clicking here.
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