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Sermon for Fourth Sunday after Pentecost – Proper 9- 2019

Psalm 66:1-8 Isaiah 66:10-14 Galatians 6:1-16

Luke 10:1-11, 16-20

A little girl asked her mother, “Where did humans come from?” The mother thought for a minute and replied, “Well, honey, God made Adam and Eve, and they had children, and that’s where we all began.” Two days later, the girl asked her father the same question. He answered, “The human race evolved from apes over millions of years.” The confused girl returned to her mother and said, “Mommy, you told me that God created people, but Daddy says they came from apes.” “Well, dear, it’s very simple. I told you about my side of the family, and Daddy told you about his.”

We all have things that we want to hold on to. But Jesus sends the 70 out – carry no purse, no bag, no sandals. They are empowered and given the work of God’s hands to complete. They are laborers in the harvest. While the disciples may hate the Samaritans, Jesus sees a harvest among them. Jesus sees that they are ripe for the harvest.

The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. On this Fourth of July, we celebrate the great journey of our country. Independence Day marks our separation from the Kingdom of Great Britain. During the American Revolution, the legal separation of the American colonies from Great Britain actually occurred on July 2, 1776, when the Second Continental Congress voted to approve the resolution of independence. After voting, Congress turned its attention to the Declaration of Independence, prepared by a committee of five with Thomas Jefferson as its principal author. The Fourth of July marks the date of this document’s official signing, but most delegates actually signed the Declaration on August 2nd. We hear a lot about Thomas Jefferson and John Adams and Benjamin Franklin, but we hear less about the Georgia signers – Lyman Hall, Button Gwinnett, and George Walton.

The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Lyman Hall graduated from Yale College in 1747 and studied theology. In 1749, he was called to the pulpit of Stratfield Parish, now Bridgeport, Connecticut. His pastorate was a stormy one and he was dismissed after charges against his moral character. He continued to preach while he studied medicine and taught school. He moved to South Carolina, then to Georgia where he was one of the leading citizens of the newly founded town of Sunbury, which is in St. John’s Parish. In January of 1779, Sunbury was burned by the British. Hall’s family fled to the North, where they remained until the British evacuation in 1782. Hall then returned to Georgia, settling in Savannah. He was elected governor of the state in 1783. While governor, Hall advocated the chartering of a state university, believing the education, particularly religious education would result in more virtuous citizens. His efforts led to the chartering of the University of Georgia in 1785. Hall returned to his plantation in Burke County and died here in 1790. The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few.

Button Gwinnett was born in 1732 in England to Welsh parents. He arrived in Savannah in 1765. He abandoned his mercantile pursuits to buy a tract of land and begin a plantation on St. Catherine’s Island. The Revolutionary crisis got him actively engaged in politics. In the Assembly, Lyman Hall was one of his closest allies. Gwinnett did not become a strong advocate of colonial rights until 1775, when St. John’s Parish, which encompassed his lands, threatened to secede from Georgia due to the colony’s rather conservative response to the events of the times. Gwinnett served in the Georgia state legislature and in 1777, he wrote the original draft of Georgia’s first State Constitution. He died in May of 1777 from a wound received in a dual with his arch rival Lachlan McIntosh. He is buried in Savannah’s Colonial Park Cemetery. The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few.

George Walton was the last of the Georgia delegation to sign the Declaration. Walton was born in Virginia. His parents died when he was an infant and he was adopted by his uncle and became his apprentice as a carpenter. He was a political ally of Scottish-Irish General Lachlan McIntosh and a foe of Button Gwinnett. He was censured for his role in the dual that resulted in Gwinnett’s death. Walton was a colonel in the army, and was hit in the leg by a cannon ball while riding his horse. With a broken leg, he was held captive by the British army for two years. He was exchanged for a British naval officer and released, despite his having been a signer of the Declaration, which made him a traitor to the British crown. Walton died at his home, College Hill, in Augusta in February of 1804 and is buried beneath the Signers Monument on Green Street in Augusta. The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few.

It is sad to hear that the workers are few. Having too few workers at harvest time can be a disaster – just ask Tanya and Joe about harvesting blueberries. Fortunately, Jesus' workforce is growing - from 12 to now 70, but it is hard enough to find committed workers. Too many people make excuses. Just prior to the Sending Out of the Seventy, as Jesus is assembling his laborers, we read: “He said to another man, 'Follow me.' But the man replied, 'Lord, first let me go and bury my father.' Jesus said to him, 'Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God.' " (9:59-60)

How many in the church are actually involved in the harvesting? In America, at least, it seems that many are involved in what meets their needs and their children's needs, but shy away from mission to meet others' needs. We have an abundance of churches, but few workers -- and perhaps few actual disciples. Disciples, you see, are those who follow Jesus in his work, who deny themselves, take up their cross daily, and follow him. Their discipleship is not a matter of their own comfort but of Jesus' mission. So when I read that "the workers are few," I grieve. Jesus seeks to recruit all of us as workers in His harvest, and it involves more than just showing up for church.

We all have our strengths and weaknesses. A water bearer in India had two large pots that hung from a pole across his neck. One of the pots had a small crack in it. The other pot was perfect and always delivered a full portion of water at the end of the long walk from the stream to the master’s house. The cracked pot arrived only half full. For two years, this went on daily, with the bearer delivering only one and a half pots full of water. Of course, the perfect pot was proud of its accomplishments; perfect for the task it was created. But the poor cracked pot was ashamed of its imperfection, and miserable that it was able to accomplish only half of what it had been made to do. After two years of what it perceived to be a bitter failure, it spoke to the water bearer one day by the stream. “I’m ashamed of myself, and I want to apologize to you.” “Why?” asked the bearer. “What are you ashamed of?”

“For two years, I have been able to deliver only half of my load. The crack in my side lets the water leak out all the way back to your master’s house. Because of my flaws, you have to do all of this work, and you don’t get full value for your efforts,” the pot said. The water bearer felt sorry for the old cracked pot, and in his compassion said, “As we return to the master’s house, I want you to notice the beautiful flowers along the path.”

Indeed, as they went up the hill, the old cracked pot took notice of the sun warming the beautiful wild flowers on the side of the path, and this cheered it some. But it still felt bad at the end of the trail and apologized again for its failure. The bearer said to the pot, “Did you notice that there were flowers only on your side of the path, but not on the other pot’s side?” That’s because I have always known about your flaw, and I took advantage of it. I planted flower seeds on your side of the path, and every day while we walk back from the stream, you’ve watered them. For two years I have been able to pick these beautiful flowers to decorate my master’s table. Without you being just the way you are, he would not have this beauty to grace his house.”

The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. We can’t use excuses to not be a part of those laboring. Each of us has our own unique flaws. We’re all got a lot of wear and tear. But it’s the cracks and flaws we each have that make our lives together, as a community of faith so very interesting and rewarding. We’ve just got to take each person for what they are, and look for the good in them. There is a lot of good out there. There is a lot of good in each of us and we are all ready for the harvest. I’m so grateful for all the cracked pots in my life – they make life more interesting and so much more beautiful. The harvest is plentiful but the laborers are few. Thanks be to God. Amen.

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