The Harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few.

Jesus makes his point by using agricultural metaphors and analogies. “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few.” With this picture of the ripe harvest, he leads us to saying, “Yes Lord, I will gather the harvest.”  And if it were just winnowing wheat, and the hard work it would be, we would be all in.
But to harvest the people, what Jesus is really talking about is not easy, especially in our country where discussions about religion are taboo, more taboo than politics. Further, we grew up when we didn’t have to talk about our faith—we just lived it. Talking about faith was what the preacher did.
So now some of us are ill-equipped and graciously hard pressed to talk about how we come to love Jesus Christ. And yet, the fields of our streets are filled of cynical or lost people who would really benefit knowing about God’s love shown through Jesus Christ. How do we share the message of Jesus Christ’s love in a desperately needy but suspicious world? We will talk about that today.
Pastor Gerry
The Gospel Reading:  Matthew 9:35-38
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.”

Serve Others

As you can imagine, there are many stories from the Hurricane Katrina mission trips to Bayou La Batre, just south of Mobile, Alabama. On this trip, we were working on the new construction of a Habitat for Humanity house. While we were there, some other professionals were working on the house too. When lunch time came, we all took the break to eat our peanut butter and jellies at the same time.
One of the professional workers was pretty young, perhaps in his twenties. With his Creole accent a clue, I asked if he was local. He was. Then I asked him a simple question that was a tough question for him – I asked where was he during the storm.
He said that he and his girlfriend were living in a house about a mile from the gulf. He convinced her to stay at the house during the storm with him. At night, the water started to rise and enter the house, from under the front door. They were mad as they put their TV and other items up higher in the room. But the water kept on coming. By daybreak the water was up to their necks and still coming. They pulled down the step ladder to the attic and climbed up. He brought his hammer with him in case the water would continue to rise and he would need to hammer through the roof.
There they sat. Cold and scared. In the attic, with the water rising. The young man confessed to his girlfriend. “I am so sorry that I did this to you. I am so sorry that I put you in a position that could harm you or take your life. I am so so sorry.” The water continued to rise to the attic, and he took his hammer and banged out a hole in the roof and his girlfriend and he crawled out and three hours later, they were rescued from the roof.
They are married now. He works on Habitat for Humanity houses as service in thanksgiving for still being alive and in the hopes that these houses will withstand the unwanted drama that he faced.
When I think about it, the happiest times in my life have been when I am serving, especially doing something for someone that they can’t do themselves. Sure, it may make us feel needed, but it also makes us feel purposeful and kind and those are two things we need to survive. Think about your willingness to serve the church or outside the church. Sometimes it is hard to sign up, but when we get engaged in the project, we do so happily and joyfully—and we make a difference. Somewhere, Jesus is in all of that. After all, he told us he came to serve.
Pastor Gerry

“Lord, Save Me!”

Have you ever been rescued? Have you ever spoken the words: “Save me?” It is really hard for a guy to admit that his life depends on the capacity of someone else to save them. We see rescues out of traffic accidents or at a hurricane when someone is stranded on a roof. When it is you, when the words come out of your mouth, it is a whole different thing.

We can’t say to Jesus, “Lord, save me!” until we admit we need saving. We can’t yield to God unless we know that we can’t do it ourselves. In our independence and self-sufficiency we will try everything else before we get to the point, we say “save me.”

Jesus has already saved you and me. He has already pulled us out of the trap of short term life that we have here and promises new life in him. You can believe that or not. But I ask “What do you want to have happen?” Wouldn’t you rather bank on what you want or is good for you? Just like Peter, Jesus pulls us out of the water. Jesus saves us. Reach up and see what happens.
Pastor Gerry

The Gospel Reading: : Matthew 14:22-23

[Jesus] made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead to the other side [of the Sea of Galilee], while he dismissed the crowds. And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, but by this time the boat, battered by the waves, was far from the land, for the wind was against them. And early in the morning he came walking toward them on the sea. But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, saying, “It is a ghost!” And they cried out in fear. But immediately Jesus spoke to them and said, “Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.”

Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat, started walking on the water, and came toward Jesus. But when he noticed the strong wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!” Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him, saying to him, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” When they got into the boat, the wind ceased. And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”

Walk the Talk

You have heard the saying, “Walk the talk!”  That means that your actions are consistent with what you have been saying.  That is important criteria when we judge people.  If someone says they care, then leaves us hanging to fend for ourselves, you would say that the person’s actions are not consistent with their words. You may conclude that the actions are true and the words are a lie. St. Paul has a word for walking the walk: Cruciform – that everything Jesus said and did was consistent with his purpose. Jesus said he would lay down his life for his friends and he did.

Can you imagine Jesus preaching all day and then not being able to shake off the people and have them leave?  So, it is getting late.  It is time to eat.  Can we hear Peter addressing the crowd, “The show is over, go home!”   But that is not Jesus, is it?

In this story of Jesus feeding the five thousand, Jesus shows his true colors.  He shows he cares.  He shows that he means what he says.  He shows he walks the talk.  He shows he is Cruciform.  This is a great example for us to follow.  It is also a great comfort as we look toward our new life in him.
Pastor Gerry
The Gospel Reading: Matthew 13:24-30; 36-43
Now when Jesus heard this, he withdrew from there in a boat to a deserted place by himself. But when the crowds heard it, they followed him on foot from the towns. When he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them and cured their sick. When it was evening, the disciples came to him and said, “This is a deserted place, and the hour is now late; send the crowds away so that they may go into the villages and buy food for themselves.” Jesus said to them, “They need not go away; you give them something to eat.” They replied, “We have nothing here but five loaves and two fish.” And he said, “Bring them here to me.” Then he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven, and blessed and broke the loaves, and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. And all ate and were filled; and they took up what was left over of the broken pieces, twelve baskets full. And those who ate were about five thousand men, besides women and children.

Where is the good seed?

Do you feel like you are surrounded by weeds? Like Jesus says in the parable, the sower sows good seeds and someone comes by and sabotages the crop by planting weeds. So, when the crop grows, it is impeded by the weeds.

I’ll admit that at times I feel surrounded by tall weeds.  It seems like the people that believe in Jesus and the people who try to be good are few, and cannot be seen over the weeds. Even the people who should be good seed sometimes look like weeds.  Maybe, at times, I look like a weed.

What Jesus is saying is that we can’t tell the weeds from the grain until the harvest, when the seeds are different.  I don’t think this is a predestination idea but to know that the people around us may look like weeds but in the end actual be grain.  That somewhere along their growth, they become grain—disciples of Jesus Christ.  Or maybe, while it looks like we are alone in faith, we may find in the end, that we are not as alone as we thought.

I think this parable also suggest that we need to grow as tall and as strong as we can. We need to be nourished with the water, soil, and sunlight of God’s word. And that takes our reading the bible, our praying, our worshiping, our giving of ourselves, our service, and our having and being spiritual friends. It is not easy to grow in a weed infested land, but for God’s sake and the people around us, we need to grow as individuals and a community. Because it is what we are. We are good seed.

Pastor Gerry

The Gospel Reading:  Matthew 13:24-30; 36-43

[Jesus] put before [the crowds] another parable: “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to someone who sowed good seed in his field; but while everybody was asleep, an enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and then went away. So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared as well. And the slaves of the householder came and said to him, ‘Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? Where, then, did these weeds come from?’ He answered, ‘An enemy has done this.’ The slaves said to him, ‘Then do you want us to go and gather them?’ But he replied, ‘No; for in gathering the weeds you would uproot the wheat along with them. Let both of them grow together until the harvest; and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Collect the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.’

Then he left the crowds and went into the house. And his disciples approached him, saying, “Explain to us the parable of the weeds of the field.” He answered, “The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man; the field is the world, and the good seed are the children of the kingdom; the weeds are the children of the evil one, and the enemy who sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are angels. Just as the weeds are collected and burned up with fire, so will it be at the end of the age. The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will collect out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all evildoers, and they will throw them into the furnace of fire, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Let anyone with ears listen!”

The Parable of the Sower

A parable (Greek for “turn around or turn aside”) is a story that leads you to an unexpected conclusion and a different way of thinking about something.  It usually has a shock value.  If the parable that you hear in the Bible doesn’t shock you, then I think you don’t fully understand it.
In this parable, there is a story, but originally (at least for me), there is no shock.  I hear it and go, ok, I get it.  We all do different things with the grace we have been given.  So where is the shock?  As a farmer in Jesus day, they grow a crop and careful divide a portion of the harvest to save for seed next planting season.  You don’t want to place too much seed aside and have some left over, because you could have sold it and made money.  You don’t want to place aside too little and jeopardize the size of next year’s crop.  So, you want to make a thrifty decision with what seed is going to be saved for next year’s planting.  When next year comes, the sower is very deliberate and stingy with the precious seed.  He certainly does not want to waste any.  Yet this sower is careless with the seed and throws it on a path and rocky ground.  This carelessness would have gotten the ire of the farmer’s listening.  Why wouldn’t the sower just sow only on the fertile soil?  The carelessness of the sower would have driven the sowers that heard this “crazy.”
Jesus is saying that he gives everyone a chance to get the seed and to grow.  He is generous with his seed. The seed is his responsibility and the growing is our responsibility.  He may even know that the seed might be wasted, but Jesus will give us a chance with the hope that some crop will grow.
Pastor Gerry
The Gospel Reading: MATTHEW 13:1-9, 18-23

That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat beside the sea. Such great crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat there, while the whole crowd stood on the beach. And he told them many things in parables, saying: “Listen! A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seeds fell on the path, and the birds came and ate them up. Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and they sprang up quickly, since they had no depth of soil. But when the sun rose, they were scorched; and since they had no root, they withered away. Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. Other seeds fell on good soil and brought forth grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. Let anyone with ears listen!”

“Hear then the parable of the sower. When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what is sown in the heart; this is what was sown on the path. As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; yet such a person has no root, but endures only for a while, and when trouble or persecution arises on account of the word, that person immediately falls away. As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the lure of wealth choke the word, and it yields nothing. But as for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty.”

Come Unto Me…

This picture is of those that are weary with heavy burdens.  These people have been devalued, displaced, with nowhere to go.  They have only what is on their backs and what they are carrying which isn’t much.  Worst yet, they can’t see the future being good for them. Everything we can see from this picture and what we know tells the tale of extreme outside pressure that weighs these people down.  Through no fault of their own, they are caught and they can’t get out of it.  I think this is the extreme of being weary and with heavy burdens. 
These people cannot change their fate.  What happens to them depends on the saving grace of other people.  They need someone to step in and help them.  Someone that will give them rest and a new start.
Jesus says, “Come to me all you who are weary and with heavy burdens and I will give you rest for my yoke is easy and my burden light.”
            From the extreme situations of these pictures, we can see the people’s burdens thrust upon them and we can understand the need for grace from others.  That is the point for us this morning.  But this pattern is not just for such extreme situations.  We are all captive to sin and cannot free ourselves.  We can fool ourselves that we are pretty good, but we have an inherent selfishness.  Some people think because of their success or accomplishments that they are above and beyond sin. Today we hear St. Paul talk about this and Jesus offer a promise of grace for us.  This promise lightens our load.  It gives us hope.  Let’s see.  

Pastor Gerry

The Gospel Reading: : MATTHEW 11:16-19, 25-30

 Jesus said to the crowd, “To what will I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling to one another,
        ‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we wailed, and you did not mourn.’
For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon’; the Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ Yet wisdom is vindicated by her deeds.”
At that time Jesus said, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and the intelligent and have revealed them to infants; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. All things have been handed over to me by my Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.
       “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

Our Role in the Kingdom of God

As we know what the Kingdom of God is, how it works and that that it has the ability to be visible through us, what is it that we are supposed to do?  Is just being in the Kingdom of God enough?

I think that if we see the Kingdom of God and are part of it, then it is pretty hard to keep this discovery to ourselves.  We can’t go around like pious angels and say we are worthy because God has revealed himself to us.  We can’t be satisfied that God is here and we all are happy.  Frankly, I do not think God would be satisfied with that either.  In fact, biblically, Jesus says so—a zillion times.  Today, Jesus tells us to go be fishers of people.  We think of the happy pictures of a great catch and we think that it is all fun and joy.  We may even think if we don’t catch a fish that we are not cut out to be a fisher of people.  But what is fishing like really and what do you think Jesus said and the disciples understood about fishing for people?  Today we may find out a little more and we hope it makes us be better fishers ourselves.

Pastor Gerry

The Gospel Reading: : MATTHEW 4:18-25

As he walked by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the lake—for they were fishermen. And he said to them, ‘Follow me, and I will make you fish for people.’ Immediately they left their nets and followed him. As he went from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John, in the boat with their father Zebedee, mending their nets, and he called them. Immediately they left the boat and their father, and followed him.
Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and curing every disease and every sickness among the people. So his fame spread throughout all Syria, and they brought to him all the sick, those who were afflicted with various diseases and pains, demoniacs, epileptics, and paralytics, and he cured them. And great crowds followed him from Galilee, the Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea, and from beyond the Jordan.

KingdomOfGod, Virginia… Where is it?

The Kingdom of God is within you.
To be clearer, maybe we should say the power of the Kingdom of God is revealed through you.  Yes, God works through all of us to reveal his kingdom.  Sometimes we know it.   Sometimes we don’t.  Most of the times it is after something happened that we look back and say, “What just happened there?  That wasn’t my intent.  That wasn’t me that made that happen—there were too many other factors.”  That is the power of the Kingdom of God.
When we realize that we are the vehicles that the work of God gets done, we pause and we start asking questions.  What is God doing through me now?  What is it that God could do through me?  How do I make myself ready to do what God needs to spread the gospel?  These are all the tough questions that prime us for our next mission whether we know it or not.
Today, we talk about the parable of the mustard seed ( an underestimated parable of the Kingdom of God)  to lead us in an understanding of the power of the Kingdom of God within us.

Pastor Gerry

KingdomOfGod, Virginia

Kingdom of God, Virginia
 
On Sunday June 18, June 25, and July 3 we will have a Sermon Series on the Kingdom of God. The reason that I picked this topic is that I think that we need to be reminded that the presence of God is around us and part of us---or at least part of what we are trying to do individually or as a church.  If we understand that God is trying to show himself in his kingdom, here in Leesburg, VA through us that may help us in our self-understanding as we begin our planning process.
 

What is it like?

More than anything else, Jesus talks about the Kingdom of God. The Kingdom of God is like….this.   But it is still so fuzzy.  We feel the need to ask the come down to earth questions: Who? What? Where? Why? And How?  That is because Jesus doesn’t give us a tangible picture.  Why is that (oops!)?   The next Three weeks we will talk about that. We will explore how God works among us and how God is revealed to us in all the Kingdom of God moments that we experience.  
This week, we will be talking about what the Kingdom of God is like.  Where is it? How do we see it?  And maybe it is more tangible than we thought.  So maybe the Kingdom of God will be near this Sunday morning, you won’t know unless you see for yourself.  Let us find out together.
 
Pastor Gerry