"Ask the master of the harvest to send out laborers..." (Luke 10:2).
In his masterpiece novel about the French Revolution, A Tale of Two Cities, Charles Dickens began with the words, "It was the best of times; it was the worst of times." It is the nature of history that every crisis is also a moment of great opportunity. Times of tragedy also produce enormous courage. Disasters purify motivation and force wavering, indecisive people to act in ways that will define them for the rest of their lives.
Who is know if we do not live in such a moment now? Only in hindsight will the world realize that it was brought back from the brink by heroes we cannot predict but will some day honor for their wisdom and bravery.
When Jesus sent out the 72 disciples to prepare the way for his arrival in the surrounding villages, he knew that forces were marshaling against him in Jerusalem and Rome, in the palace of Herod and the precincts of the Temple and the Sanhedrin. At the very moment he foresaw his own death and rejection, he proclaimed that a great harvest was ready, He sent out the 72 disciples "like lambs among wolves" to proclaim the imminent arrival of the Kingdom of God, to heal and drive out evil spirits. The fact of his own death was for Jesus the fulfillment of his call to be God's Suffering Servant. He embraced his call with confidence that from the chaos would rise the beloved community, the New Creation.
Do we feel this same call in our lives now? For many it is only the worst of times, reason to withdraw and seek personal safety, or to go passive and give up hope, or to grow cynical and detached about the fate of the world as inevitabilitly takes its course and vents its pathological fury in one calamity after another.
Or are we being called to be laborers in the harvest of insight and compassion and solidarity with others, to enter the fray and work for peace and justice, to join with others in creative solutions and community building. Recent tragedies in storm ravaged areas of the country and the shocking violence in Las Vegas display examples of people choosing hope over despair, active engagement over flight and detachment. Love triumphs over death when people choose life in the face of suffering and loss.
Dickens' novel ends with a lone hero going to the guillotine, giving his life to save another, knowing that despite his many personal failures, "It is a far far better thing I do than I have ever done."
The Lord is calling,The harvest is great, but the laborers are few. Who will come into the fields to do the Lord's work?