Today, in addition to being the Nineteenth Sunday after Trinity it is also the Feast Day of St. Luke. I have chosen the alternative readings set for St. Luke to base my homily on.
2 Timothy 4: 5-17 Luke 10: 1-9
Many of us have a number which is of special significance. It may be the number of our house which we then adopt as our ‘lucky number’. Instead we may choose the date of our birth. The reason why we have a significant number is individual to us and special to us.
Jesus appointed seventy to go out in pairs to every town and place that he intended to go and visit. He recognised that he had a major undertaking ahead of him. “The harvest is great…. the workers are few”. He knew his mission and where he would need to go. But alone? The task was just too great. Hence the seventy. Why seventy? Why not eighty or any other number?
To the Jews the number seventy was symbolic. It was the number of the elders who were chosen to help Moses in leading the people across the wilderness. It was also the number of the Sanhedrin which was the supreme council of the Jews. Seventy was also believed to be the number of the nations in the world. Luke was the man who had the universalist view of the world and he was probably thinking of the time when every nation in the world would know and love his Lord.
Well, the seventy were sent off with their instructions. They were not to worry about packing for the journey but to travel light. Not being encumbered with bits and pieces there were better able to concentrate on the task in hand. Off they must go and not allow themselves to be side-tracked. It would be so easy to stop whilst on their journey to exchange greetings with people they might meet on their way. Such a greeting would not be a simple ‘Good afternoon’ but instead a lengthy and drawn out series of questions and blessings. Each encounter would take up many minutes and if there were many it would seriously eat into the time and reduce the period left for the aim of their mission – to spread the Good News of the love of God.
This is all good advice being given to those being sent out. It holds true for today in many ways. If we surround ourselves with so much that we become blinded to God we are in danger of not only loosing sight of him and his work in his creation but we will start to fail in our task of spreading the love of God to all with whom we meet and associate.
God is at work each and every day. That is no better seen than at this season of the year. A look outside at our garden and we will see flowers spreading wide their petals and allowing their colour to shine in the creativity of God. A few minutes spent in our allotment or vegetable patch will see us harvesting crops that have been carefully grown. This is the harvest season and a time for giving thanks to God for his work in creation and our interaction with him as we tend our crops.
It would seem that, at long last, the message is getting home to me. Up to this year we have often gone away for a break, a holiday, in mid-September, early October, just as the fruit has ripened on the trees, the runner beans ready to be picked ready for cooking. Time and time again we have missed this gathering of the crops only to find that the fruit has dropped onto the ground and been eaten by all sorts of creatures, and the beans have had a similar fate from the insect and slug population. This year we won. We did not go away at the crucial time. We stayed at home and reaped a harvest to be very pleased about. Yes, this year we can earnestly give thanks to God for all he does provide – only not in a church full of decoration, flowers and produce followed by a Harvest Thanksgiving meal. We can still give thanks though.
Therefore, we are privileged to reap our crops and we are also privileged to go out to tell of Gods’ goodness. Like the seventy being sent out to prepare the towns and villages for the time when Jesus would visit them we go out and tell of how God has worked for us (and how we have beaten the slugs).
Collect for the Feast Day of St. Luke
who built your Church upon the foundation
of the apostles and prophets,
with Jesus Christ himself as the chief cornerstone:
so join us together in unity of spirit by their doctrine,
that we may be made a holy temple acceptable to you;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.