Fatherís Day Ė June 16, 2002

Best Not Done Alone  Matt.9:35-38

   It is one of the subtle ironies of life that while most people think growing up means learning to do more & more things for them-selves, there is also a side to growing up that recognizes there are some things that cannot or ought not be done alone.

   Being strong, independent, able to work hard on your own is great, except if you got four or five miles of irrigation pipe to lay out.  Laying out irrigation pipe is best not done alone.  It takes two, usually three people to do it well.

   A doctor doesnít release an 82 year old mother who has had surgery & been in the hospital nine days to return home to living by herself without arranging for a home health nurse to make regular visits for two, maybe three weeks, while other family members arrange schedules to make sure mom is not alone. A good recovery is best not done alone.

   Or how about when people are feeling healthy and well.  Whatís a good game of golf if you donít have someone to golf with.  Whatís the joy of having a ticket to a Big Red football game or a College World Series game if you donítí have someone to go with.  Having a good time is best not done alone.

  Even though we like to do things on our own, by ourselves, sometimes itís not in Godís plan for things to be done or experienced alone.

   Look at the public ministry of Jesus Christ and how Jesusí ministry started off as a one-man ministry.  Somewhere in the middle of Jesusí public ministry, Jesus knew, Jesus could see, if His ministry was to spread, if His preaching & teaching the Kingdom of God was to reach all those who might respond positively to His message, then Jesusí ministry was fast-becoming a ministry best not done alone.

   This is how Jesus began his ministry writes Matthew in Matt. 4:23

Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people.  News about Jesus spread all over Syria, and people brought to Him all who were ill with various diseases, those suffering severe pain, the demon-possessed, those having seizures, and the paralyzed, and he healed them.  Large crowds followed him.

  Such power & authority from God aimed at helping & healing ordinary, hurting, struggling people had not been seen before.  Peter, James & John, who were among the first to follow Jesus, must have watched in amazement as crowds of people gathered wherever Jesus went.

   By the time we get to Matthew 10, all twelve disciples have been chosen and are named.  Itís at the end of Matthew 9, the beginning of Matthew 10 that Jesus says to these twelve men:

   The time has come. Itís time to shift gears. Itís time to get you disciples involved. Itís time you in My name and with My power & authority to do what I have already been doing.  For the good of the Kingdom of God; for the salvation & love & peace of God to touch more & more people; for this ministry to go forward not backward, Jesus is saying, it's best this ministry not be done alone.

   All this is from Jesus who knew He had come into this world not to be served, but to serve and to single-handedly give His life a ransom for many, writes Matthew.

   The harvest is plentiful, Jesus said to His disciples, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, to send out workers into his harvest field.

   If on my day off I am asked to be a worker in a farm field to help lay out irrigation pipe, I may do that partly to stay in shape, and partly to get away from my office, but mostly I do it to help meet a very practical, sometimes urgent need when no one else is available.

   Yet laying out irrigation pipe is nothing  compared to laying down whatever else Iím doing to sit at the side of someoneís bed whose life is not long for this world; or visit someone who has recently lost a loved one; or go on a retreat with Junior High kids when itís hard to find other adults to go alone.

   And such acts of compassion & commitment to Christian ministry that are best not done alone is just scratching the surface.  Our world today, much like the world into which Jesus came, is filled with rivers of heart-ache & floods of frustration. If we stop & look around with the eyes of Jesus we will see people all around us who are living hard lives; people living with little to call their own; widows & widowers who sometimes feel helpless or hard-pressed to accept circum-stances over which they have little or no control.  Visit our Senior Center; visit one of the care homes; volunteer to deliver Meals on Wheels; be a mentor to a Junior High Student; we donít have to look too far to see people looking harassed & helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.

  If we are truly believers & followers of the compassionate, considerate ways of Jesus, dare we ask, Whatís all this to us? 

   Dare we say as if itís none of our business, The Lord helps those who help themselves?

  Not only does Jesus encourage His disciples & us to pray for workers in the harvest fields, but this word from Jesus challenges us to get involved in the work of ministry that is best not done alone.

   One of my favorite authors to read this spring has been Eugene H. Peterson who writes, We donít just receive Christís ministry, we share it. Each Christian is a nexus, a connection for grace, (like irriga-tion pipe laid out pipe to pipe & joined together for water from a deep well to reach dry, dry ground.)

   All the vigorous energies of Christís preaching, teaching, and healing spill out of our lives into the world, writes Peterson.   

   What kind of ministry are you good at?  Where & when & how can you be a nexus, a connection for grace, a living extension of Christís compassion & forgiveness?

 

   A Civil War chaplain approached a wounded soldier on the battle field and the chaplain asked the soldier if he would like to hear a few verses from the Bible.

   The wounded soldier said, ďNo, Iím thirsty.  Iíd rather have some water.Ē

   The chaplain gave the soldier a drink, then asked again about reading a few verses from the Bible.

   ďNo sir, not now Ė but could you put something under my head?Ē

The chaplain did so and again repeated his question. 

   ďNo, but I am starting to shake & really feel cold.Ē 

   The chaplain took off his coat and wrapped it around the soldier, but this time he did not repeat the question.  The chaplain started to leave when the solider called him back.

   ďLook, Chaplain,Ē he said, ďif thereís anything in that book of yours that makes a person do for another what youíve done for me, then I want to hear it.Ē

   This is exactly what Jesus is calling all of us to do together, to do for others what He has done for us.  And what makes us want to do for others what Christ has done for us is what the Bible is all about. St. Paul says it so powerfully in the epistle for this Sunday: 

   You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly.  Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

   By itís very nature, the Christian faith is best not done alone.  Itís best done by all of us. Together. In community.  Itís best done out in the everyday, rough & tumble world where we live; where life can be harsh & unpredictable; where people can get hurt & farmers can loose their crops as quickly as a barrage of huge hail stones can mow down a field of young corn.

   May we not lose sight of the fact there are things worse than hail that can hurt people -- war; prejudice; revenge; discrimination; gossip; divorce; disease; disabilities. 

   May we not lose sight of that fact that itís precisely because helping & getting involved with helpless, hurting people CAN BE risky & uncomfortable, discouraging & unpleasant, that itís best not done alone.

   The challenge presented to us from Jesus is to go into the harvest fields of life with a message of salvation & good news that is true & authentic.  And what makes the good news so authentic is the people who deliver it.

   People who are filled with joy.  People who enjoy being with one another.  People who share their varied gifts & talents willingly.  People who reflect the love & mercy they have found in Jesus. People just like you & me.  People who know that following Jesus and sharing the good news of Jesus in word & deed are best not done alone.  Amen