—Gavin Koh, Sunday after Trinity
Romans 5. 1–8; Matthew 9. 35–10. 8.
When [Jesus] saw the crowds,
he had compassion for them,
because they were harassed and helpless,
like sheep without a shepherd.
I was reading this passage and thinking, How relevant this was to Britain after the recent General Election!
The Bible was written at a time when most of the people listening to it were farmers, who would know a bit about sheep.
When the Bible was translated into English in the reign of King James I, most of the population of England was rural. Today, only a small proportion of the UK are farmers. Only a tiny proportion of us make our living off the land. The rest of us live in cities. Which means these farming analogies, these pastoral analogies, are lost on us, city-dwellers.
I'm not a farmer, but as it turns out I have a friend who is a farmer in Yorkshire, and she has sheep. So let me tell you what she says about sheep. She tells me that sheep are pretty stupid creatures. They get stuck in fences,caught in bushes, fall into holes. In the winter, she is forever having to pull sheep out of snow drifts. I get the impression from her that as a sheep farmer, a lot of her time is spent rescuing sheep from silly situations they have got themselves into.
In the Bible, the people of Israel, the people of God, we [look around] are often referred to as sheep.
It’s not a very flattering analogy, but I'm you can imagine our Father God, looking down on us from heaven, shaking his head in exasperation, saying, ‘What mess have you got yourselves into now?’
So, what happens next in this story?
The harvest is plentiful,
but the labourers are few;
therefore ask the Lord of the harvest
to send out labourers into his harvest.
Jesus, first asks his disciples to pray for God to send more labourers. And then it turns out that the labourers are to be Jesus’ disciples themselves.
How many times have you found yourself in a situation saying to yourself, ‘This is not good enough! Somebody should do something about this!’ And then you look around and realise, ‘Well, if I don't do it, I don't see who else is going to?’
The disciples prayed for more labourers, and they found themselves called to be those labourers. For out of his disciples, Jesus chose twelve apostles: One for each of the twelve tribes of Israel.
Why were they called apostles? What does an apostle do? The Greek word, apostolon, means ‘messenger’. So what is the message? It is the message of hope, that
‘The kingdom of heaven has come near’
If you are sick, you will be cured.
If you are a leper, you will be cleansed.
If you have a demon, it will be cast out.
If you are dead, you will come alive again.
It is God’s message of hope: That things are not right with the world, but they will be made right.
We live in a broken world, a suffering world, but by the grace of God through faith in Jesus Christ, the world will be made whole again, and we will share in the Glory of God. This is the Hope, poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, (as St Paul writes).
How can we bring the message of hope to a broken world?
Is there someone we could call, visit, write to?
Is there something I could join or start, that could make a difference in the world?
Let me sum the message up like this:
To a country full of harrassed, helpless people milling around like sheep without a shepherd, I think God calls us to take his message of hope to a chaotic, broken world.