As Jesus saw the crowds, his heart was filled with pity for them, because they were worried and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. So he said to his disciples, “The harvest is large, but there are few workers to gather it in. Pray to the owner of the harvest that he will send out workers to gather in his harvest.” ~ Matthew 9: 35-40, Good News Bible
I spent much of Sunday in conversation at home and in town. I asked the same question of everyone: “How you holding up?” No one said “fine,” “well,” or “good.” Cashiers were harried. Many had been berated by customers over circumstances they had no control over. Shopkeepers were worried about the potential of lost income. Parents were worried about how to speak with their kids. Older people were “just trying to make it through.”
But I also noticed how large an impact a single sentence or action can make. I held a door for a stranger and from the amount of gratitude they showed, one would think I had rushed into a building to save their child from a fire. I offered to bring someone a coffee and it was as if I had given them a winning Lotto ticket. This experience was not unique to me; many people told me about small acts of kindness that had made a big difference in the middle of a stressful, confusing day. Some had received a call or text from a person they hadn’t heard from for a while. Others remembered the one nice customer who patiently waited while others complained.
Jesus looks at the crowds, who seem worried and helpless. He yearns for “workers to gather in the harvest.”
Edward Everett Hale once wrote, “I cannot do everything, but still I can do something; and because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do something that I can do.” Many people are feeling powerless in the wake of more and more shutdowns as the virus continues to spread. And yet, God gives us the power to do something.
Paul writes, “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind (2 Timothy 1:7, New King James Version). We have the power to make a difference in someone’s day. We have the power to create a ripple effect of calm, tranquility and peace. Christ gives us this power through the Holy Spirit.
I am a pastor, but every Christian is a minister. And today, we are all shepherds. Our job is humble. We don’t need to do anything big, just look around to see if a sheep is feeling anxious, has wandered off or is heading for a cliff ~ and use our shepherd’s staff (our words, our love, our company) to gently retrieve them, to call them back to the green pastures of hope, the still waters of tranquil thought. May someone (Jesus or another person) do this for you today ~ and may we each do this for each other. In so doing, we will fulfill the words of Christ. Amen.