Therefore, pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest. It’s a familiar passage, so it’s easy to just read the first part without really paying attention to the rest. Perhaps even to fill in something we think appropriate: The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few… So, let’s get out there! Everybody get to work!
But what are the actual instructions Jesus gives to the seventy-two as He send them out? The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore, pray earnestly to the Lord! Wait, what? There’s a ton of very important work to be done, so let’s start praying? That doesn’t sound very practical.
And yet, what is the work that needs to be done? I have made you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth. That’s what the Lord commanded his apostles in today’s Epistle reading. It’s a pretty tall order. Just getting to work ourselves isn’t going to cut it. A task like that needs wisdom, courage, endurance, compassion, and a whole lot more workers than seventy-two. A task like that needs… God.
And so the prayer needs to come first. We can only go out if He first makes us into His light. Before God gives us His Holy Spirit, we’re actually part of the waiting harvest, not the workers. But that’s how God’s salvation can make it to the ends of the earth. The more harvest, the more workers – we reap the overflowing bounty of our God: the Creator, the Redeemer, the Lord of the Harvest.
By His grace, we pray for Him to send workers, including us, into His harvest field. And whether we meet with persecution or with rejoicing, we can be filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit. Through prayer, we can listen to what God actually says to us, instead of what we think ought to be done. We first receive God’s good gifts, so we can distribute them generously to others, and we rejoice that He has called us to share in the work.
I have so much to do that I shall spend the first three hours in prayer. Martin Luther
The Old Testament lesson is from the book of Isaiah, chapter 42, verses 5-12:
Thus says God, the Lord,
who created the heavens and stretched them out,
who spread out the earth and what comes from it,
who gives breath to the people on it
and spirit to those who walk in it:
“I am the Lord; I have called you in righteousness;
I will take you by the hand and keep you;
I will give you as a covenant for the people,
a light for the nations,
to open the eyes that are blind,
to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon,
from the prison those who sit in darkness.
I am the Lord; that is my name;
my glory I give to no other,
nor my praise to carved idols.
Behold, the former things have come to pass,
and new things I now declare;
before they spring forth
I tell you of them.”
Sing to the Lord a new song,
his praise from the end of the earth,
you who go down to the sea, and all that fills it,
the coastlands and their inhabitants.
Let the desert and its cities lift up their voice,
the villages that Kedar inhabits;
let the habitants of Sela sing for joy,
let them shout from the top of the mountains.
Let them give glory to the Lord,
and declare his praise in the coastlands.
The Epistle lesson is from Acts, chapter 13, verses 44-52:
The next Sabbath almost the whole city gathered to hear the word of the Lord. But when the Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy and began to contradict what was spoken by Paul, reviling him. And Paul and Barnabas spoke out boldly, saying, “It was necessary that the word of God be spoken first to you. Since you thrust it aside and judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life, behold, we are turning to the Gentiles. For so the Lord has commanded us, saying,
“‘I have made you a light for the Gentiles,
that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth.’”
And when the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord, and as many as were appointed to eternal life believed. And the word of the Lord was spreading throughout the whole region. But the Jews incited the devout women of high standing and the leading men of the city, stirred up persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and drove them out of their district. But they shook off the dust from their feet against them and went to Iconium. And the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit.
The Gospel for the Feast of Saint Barnabas is from Luke, chapter 10, verses 1-7a:
After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them on ahead of him, two by two, into every town and place where he himself was about to go. And he said to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest. Go your way; behold, I am sending you out as lambs in the midst of wolves. Carry no moneybag, no knapsack, no sandals, and greet no one on the road. Whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace be to this house!’ And if a son of peace is there, your peace will rest upon him. But if not, it will return to you. And remain in the same house, eating and drinking what they provide, for the laborer deserves his wages.