Sunday, September 30, 2018
Scripture: Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 & Luke 10:1-11
Rev. Troy Hauser Brydon

We moved into our permanent home in Grand Haven this May, and one of the features of the home that had me so excited were the two raised bed gardens in the backyard. I saw those and had immediate dreams about all the delicious food we would grow this summer. So, after putting away some of the boxes, tending to the garden moved to the top of my list. I went out and pulled the weeds. I turned the soil over. It was loose and ready to go. So the kids and I took the car to Countryside Gardens on M-45. Have you seen that place? I mean…my goodness. I had no idea such a massive greenhouse existed in our county. We wandered the aisles, carefully selecting our plants. We picked out zucchini and summer squash. We found three varieties of tomatoes to try. Brussel sprouts? I love eating them, why not try growing them? Green peppers. Jalapeños. Basil. Thai basil. Lavender. Oregano. My mouth was already watering as we wheeled the cart to the checkout, paid, and loaded the car up.

We carefully planted each sprout in the raised bed gardens. We watered them. We watched them start to grow. I’d go out most days and check their progress, carefully weeding around them to keep the garden looking great. Just a few short weeks, and we’d begin harvesting. Except harvest never really came. The zucchini and squash put on their flowers, but only two of them ever turned into vegetables. The cucumbers grew an inch or two and withered away. The brussel sprouts? Never saw one. Our basil and jalapeños did OK, but that was really it. Such a disappointing harvest this year!

For my garden, the harvest was disappointing. I needed no laborers to help.

But that’s not the case with the mission of God in the world. In Luke, Jesus tells the seventy, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few” (10:2). Jesus has the opposite problem. I had no harvest and plenty of help. Jesus’ harvest is abundant, but he needs more people ready, willing, and able to trust him enough to go out to harvest. The kingdom of God is breaking in all around them just as it is us, and the more laborers there are, the more evident God’s movement in the community will be.

Now, we’re a busy people. Undoubtedly. If you’re anything like me, you face a constant series of others looking for just a little of your time or for a donation or for your expertise. Schools are looking for help. Our kids’ teams need coaches and people to bring snacks. This organization needs help cleaning the beach or the highway. The church needs people to teach the children or make meals for people in need. Even the most generous and open-hearted of us get worn out from all the asks. I get it. Believe me I do, because I live it every day.

In the midst of all the good asks out there, it is vital that we seek to do the most good, for Jesus’ sake. That’s going to look different for each one of us, but mission must always be part of the equation for each of us. Because we all have a role to play in the unfolding of God’s kingdom in our community, and if we don’t play it, who will?

Matthew West wrote a song in 2014 called “Do Something.” The video for that song preaches better than anything I could say about it, so I’m going to sit down at let you watch it with me.

I woke up this morning
Saw a world full of trouble now, thought
How’d we ever get so far down, and
How’s it ever gonna turn around
So I turned my eyes to Heaven
I thought, “God, why don’t You do something?”
Well, I just couldn’t bear the thought of
People living in poverty
Children sold into slavery
The thought disgusted me
So, I shook my fist at Heaven
Said, “God, why don’t You do something?”
He said, “I did, yeah, I created you” (now listen)

If not us, then who
If not me and you
Right now, it’s time for us to do something, yeah
If not now, then when
Will we see an end
To all this pain
Oh, it’s not enough to do nothing
It’s time for us to do something

I’m so tired of talking about
How we are God’s hands and feet
But it’s easier to say than to be
Live like angels of apathy who tell ourselves
It’s alright, “somebody else will do something”
Well, I don’t know about you
But I’m sick and tired of life with no desire
I don’t want a flame, I want a fire and
I wanna be the one who stands up and says
“I’m gonna do something”

If not us, then who
If not me and you
Right now, it’s time for us to do something, yes it is, come on
If not now, then when
Will we see an end
To all this pain
Oh oh, it’s not enough to do nothing
It’s time for us to do something

We are the salt of the earth
We are a city on a hill
We’re never gonna change the world
By standing still
No, we won’t stand still
No, we won’t stand still
No, we won’t stand still
No

If not us, then who
If not me and you
Right now
It’s time for us to do something
If not now, then when
Will we see an end
To all this pain
It’s not enough to do nothing
It’s time for us to do something
It’s time for us to do something
It’s time for us to do something

Amen. Right? It is time for us to do something. I know we all feel it. Why do we feel it? Because the kingdom of God has drawn near. We see the hope and healing Jesus brings, and we know that should make a difference where we see pain and brokenness. We pray every week in the Lord’s Prayer for God’s kingdom to come, but this isn’t just well-wishing. It’s a weekly reminder that you and I are part of God’s kingdom coming into this community. In the Sermon on the Mount, shortly after the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus delivers these stunning words, “I tell you, do not worry….But put God’s kingdom first. Do what God wants you to do. Then everything else will also be given to you” (Matt: 6:25, 33). We worry about having enough resources for ourselves. We worry about raising our children well. We worry about so much, and Jesus comes alongside us with these words. Put the kingdom first, and then everything else will line up. We worry about so much, but our worries grow and fester when we have our priorities out of whack. Putting God’s kingdom first lines them all up. Do not worry about how you are going to change the world. Put God’s way first, and God will show you what comes next.

If you’re anything like me – and I suspect you are – then you hear these words of Jesus and start thinking specifically about your own life. Well, how can I make a difference? How can I put God’s kingdom first? How can I be better? Our texts today address that impulse to be lone rangers, and they say, “Don’t do it!” In Luke 10, Jesus sends 70 followers out in mission, but he sends them two by two. About the only comfort he gives them is companionship. He won’t let them bring extra clothes. They aren’t to bring money to buy provisions. They even go without shoes. They are to trust in God’s provision and to rely on the hospitality of those they encounter. Whether they are welcome or not, he gives them only one message: The kingdom of God has drawn near to you.

John the Baptist’s disciples once wondered if Jesus was the Messiah, so they came to Jesus and asked him, “Are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another?” Jesus replied, “Go and tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, the poor have good news brought to them (Luke 7:18-22). Or in other words, how do we know the kingdom is drawing near? We see peoples’ lives changing. We see broken people made whole. We see hope for the hopeless. We see people know God’s love for them because they have seen it embodied in another.

Lone rangers are terrible models for ministry. They burn out. They have little accountability. And, frankly, that’s not how Jesus wants us to approach mission. He sent his disciples in pairs to proclaim the good news. The Apostle Paul always had companions – Timothy, Barnabas, Mark, Silas, Priscilla and Aquila. I urge all of us to live out mission with others. Find a friend who wants to serve with you. Work at it with your family. Do it as a date with your spouse. We tend to think of calling as a singular thing, but it’s not. It’s shaped in community. Living as a kingdom person is too hard to do on your own. Living as a kingdom person is too amazing to keep to yourself.

Ecclesiastes tells us, “Two are better than one because they have a good return for their labor” (4:9). With another you have accountability. With another you have a friend to carry you when you are down. That section of Scripture closes with these words, “A threefold strand is not quickly broken” (4:12). After verse after verse about two, it shifts to three. Why? Because that third is the Holy Spirit of God at work in those two lives. It is what gives them the strength to do what God has for them.

Mission is not a lonely venture. It is something we do with others. As we enter this month where we are committing ourselves to going out to serve our community well, I encourage you to do this with others. Serve with your family. Serve with a friend. Find a new friend in the church who has a similar passion to you. Don’t serve alone! The harvest is plentiful, and you are the laborers that God is sending into that harvest – together. Mission is a community adventure, and I can’t wait to see how God uses us this month!