The Fifth Sunday of Easter, Year C, Celebration of New Ministry, Church of the Holy Spirit, Nashville

“The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few” (Lk. 10:1).

God is generous in his dealings with his People. He gives good gifts in abundance. The Psalmist says, “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not be in want” (Ps. 23:1). God gives us everything that we need. God forgives all our sins; again, as it says in the psalms, “He forgives all your sins, and heals all your infirmities” (Ps. 103:3). God is merciful towards us; once more as it says in the psalms, “the merciful goodness of the Lord endures for ever on those who fear him” (Ps. 103:17). As it says in our first reading today, “Be strong and courageous; do not be frightened or dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go” (Jos. 1:9).

God’s generosity and his infinite mercy are rooted in the character of God. We say in the Creed that God is “the Father, the Almighty.” The prophet Daniel says that wisdom and power belong to God; “He reveals deep and hidden things; he knows what is in the darkness, and light dwells with him” (Dan. 2:20-21). Or again, as it says in the psalms, “Great is our Lord and mighty in power; there is no limit to his wisdom” (Ps. 147:5). Generosity is part of God’s nature, rooted in the infinite power and wisdom of God.

God is generous and provides what we need, so we may be surprised to hear that though “the harvest is plentiful… the laborers are few” (Lk. 10:1). The setting in our Gospel this evening is Jesus’ sending of the disciples out in mission, to go before him through the towns and places where he himself would later journey. They were the “advance team,” preparing the way. Their job was to heal the sick and to announce the coming of the kingdom. This is the abundant harvest that Jesus is speaking of: the opportunity to proclaim the Gospel. Jesus did not send the Twelve but seventy others, two by two. When they returned they told Jesus that even the demons submitted to them.

But the whole mission begins with Jesus observing that the laborers are few. In the midst of God’s abundant power and wisdom, and the plentiful opportunity of the harvest, there is a disturbing scarcity. There are not enough laborers to reap the harvest of opportunities for mission and ministry; not enough people to do the work. Scarcity is not part of the message, part of the good news, but here we find it at the heart of our Gospel reading.

The scarcity of laborers is part of our reality in the Church. We encounter it right now in the Episcopal Church where there are not enough young people being ordained to supply the needs of the church. One generation retires, and the church looks to raise up a new generation to carry forward the work of the Gospel. We still stand in need of redemption, and the good news of Jesus’ death and resurrection. The need has not declined even if there are fewer laborers!

This is why Jesus in our Gospel today sends out seventy others to prepare the way for the kingdom. He does not limit himself to the Twelve, but looks to raise up other servants for the mission and ministry of the Church. If we limit ourselves we will find scarcity, but if we are open to God’s generosity we will discover abundance. God has given us all the gifts we need for the ministry he has set before us. Our task is to remove the blinders we have imposed upon ourselves so that we can see the abundance of the harvest and the laborers who are ready to work.

This afternoon we celebrate the new ministry that Fr. Nicholas Cho and the Church of the Holy Spirit have begun together this year. Fr. Nicholas and his wife Grace have been faithful in answering the call. They have come a long distance to work in a distant part of the field. Fr. Nicholas’ ministry here among us is a reminder that God is generous to us in giving us all that we need to do the ministry we are called us to. God has raised up servants to work with us. He has sent them out, two by two, to do his work among us.

Remember that Fr. Nicholas and Grace will not be able to do this work by themselves. They will be praying that God will be generous in raising up other servants for this work at Holy Spirit. They will be calling upon you to find your own ministry here. There is work to be done and you are the ones who will do it! God will give you the gifts you need for the work ahead. We will need to pray together that the Lord of the harvest will send out laborers into his harvest. Our God is generous toward us; he is powerful and knows what we need. All the gifts that we need are here to do this ministry and to fulfill this mission. If the harvest is plentiful and the laborers are few, our generous God will supply what is needed from among us.

  • The Rt. Rev’d John Bauerschmidt, Bishop of Tennessee