The Ministers of the Church

Homily, The Ministers of the Church
Fourth Sunday after Pentecost, Proper 9C, 2022
Good Shepherd Episcopal Church
Tequesta, FL

The Rev. Derek M Larson, TSSF

Today’s Lectionary Readings:

Isaiah 66:10-14
Psalm 66:1-8
Galatians 6:(1-6)7-16
Luke 10:1-11, 16-20

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

On Monday of this past week here at Good Shepherd, a group of parishioners gathered to discern with someone how God might be calling her to serve the world, and the Good Shepherd school board received an update of the success of the school’s summer camp.

On Tuesday of this week more than 50 families received supplemental groceries from our food pantry, and a gathering of friends and neighbors came together in person and online to celebrate and mourn the life of a loved one.

On Wednesday of this week Good Shepherd parishioners joined with other Episcopalians across the diocese to learn more about how our congregations can better serve women and their reproductive health, at the same time as another group of parishioners joined to discuss how to offer continued support to our outreach ministries.

On Thursday of this week a group of parishioners joined on zoom to start their day off in prayer for one another, for their church, and for the world, and a member of the pastoral care team checked in on a parishioner going through an illness.

On Friday of this week a volunteer prepared and printed bulletins for today’s service, and a woman received financial assistance in a time of need.

On Saturday of this week two parishioners set the altar for our service today while others decorated and cooked for a gathering to celebrate one parishioner’s decades of ministry at Good Shepherd before she moves away.

And today, Sunday, this community gathers as it does every week—some of us having been here for a long time, and others of us here to visit for the very first time—some of us locally and in person, and some of us thousands of miles away online—to pray and worship and spend time with one another in fellowship. 

This is but a tiny glimpse of everything that goes on here day after day, week after week at Good Shepherd. And almost all led, facilitated, and embodied by you: the lay ministers of this church. The harvest is plentiful and the mission and ministry of Good Shepherd Episcopal Church is alive and well.

In our gospel passage this morning Jesus sends out seventy people into the country between Galilee and Jerusalem to proclaim God’s mission to the world. He tells them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Go on your way.” And so they go and when they return they are filled with joy at the things they were able to do in Jesus’ name.

But I have a question about this passage. Who are these people? Who are the seventy that Jesus sends out? This is the only time the seventy are mentioned in the entire Bible. And yet they must have been important to be sent out by Jesus and have their mission recorded. 

It’s interesting because this passage in chapter 10 is almost a mirror image of a passage in chapter 9 where Jesus sends out his twelve disciples to proclaim God’s mission to the world. 

In both passages the missionaries are sent out to heal the sick, to cast out demons, and to proclaim God’s kingdom. In both passages they are to take nothing with them for the journey. In both passages they are told to stay in one house per village. The difference is, we know who the disciples are. We know the stories of James and John. Of Peter and Andrew. We’ve heard the names of Judas, Matthew, and Philip. But who are these seventy?

I think the seventy are all those who volunteered to participate in God’s mission in the world. Not just a select few, but all who answered Jesus’ call. I think this passage is teaching us that the mission of God is reserved not just for a few but for all those willing to take it up. 

See, normally the twelve disciples for us represent a small group of leaders who carry on Jesus’ message. Each of the twelve went on to become bishops throughout the world and so in some ways the twelve disciples represent clergy. Ordained ministers. They represent those among Jesus’ followers with a specific role to lead and guide the community of the church. 

And yet, here in the gospel of Luke the seventy are sent out to do virtually the same work as the twelve disciples. The mission of God is proclaimed not only by Jesus, and not only by the twelve disciples, but by all who are willing to accept God’s call in their lives. If the twelve represent clergy, the seventy represent you, the lay ministers of the church. We are all called to do God’s work in the world.

And this is a foundational belief in our church. Take a moment and open to page 855 in the Book of Common Prayer in front of you. You may not know but there in the back of the prayer book is a catechism of what we belief in the Episcopal Church. It’s a great resource. But take a moment to open to page 855. What does it say?

“Who are the ministers of the Church? The ministers of the Church are lay persons, bishops, priests, and deacons.” Lay persons! That’s you! You are the ministers of this church. And God is calling you to carry on the mission and ministry of Good Shepherd in this community. The ministry of the church is not just for clergy, it’s for you. Did you know you were a minister? Minister NAME. Look around you. Did you know your neighbor is a minister of the gospel? Minister NAME. Minister NAME.

I think here at Good Shepherd we do know it. Because day after day, week after week, the people of Good Shepherd minister here in a thousand different ways. From volunteering at Pennies Thrift Shop to serving as a lay reader, from leading morning prayer to financially supporting our food pantry, our people minister every day.

And so at the beginning of a time of transition here at Good Shepherd, this is simply a reminder for us. We are currently without a rector. And yet, the mission and ministry of Good Shepherd goes on! This community is still full of ministers ready to continue the work of God in this place. This interim period is not a time to slow down or pause in our work. The harvest is plentiful. The needs of the community are great. The time for work is now. We have a place for you. 

So keep on ministering! And if you’re not involved in any ministries at Good Shepherd yet, I invite you, join in our mission. Stop by the welcome desk on your way out. There’s a form there with a list of ways to participate in our mission. And in a few moments when we pray our parish prayer, really pay attention. “Open my mind and heart to discern what you would have me do,” we pray. It’s a beautiful prayer. 

You are the ministers of this church. You are the ones being sent out into Tequesta, Jupiter, and beyond. You are being empowered to do God’s work. So let us rejoice at all God is doing through you in this community. Amen.