February 2017

"The harvest is plenteous...pray to the Lord...go on your way"

(Luke 10. 2-3)

During the early years of Christianity, as the new religion was emerging and becoming distinguished from its Jewish matrix, there was a period of uncertainty as to whether or not the Good News of Christ should be extended beyond the people of Israel. The argument, however, was short-lived, and we are here today as evidence that it was won by the mission-minded.

In John's gospel, this month's Saying relates to the Samaritan mission. In the days of Jesus, Samaria was a kind of no-go area for the rest of Judaism: Samaritans were (in the words of the Irish metaphor) "beyond the pale". Jesus made it clear, both by his teaching and his actions, that the Good News of God's eternal love and compassion is boundless, i.e. boundary-less. In other words, there are no "no-go" areas.

Note the order in this Saying: first the statement about the field for mission, then "pray", then"go". This is significant, and needs more thought than can be put into words in this brief commentary.

We have a tendency to be narcissus-like in our religious practise. As individuals we can very easily focus on ourselves (witness for example the old phrase "making my communion" which is really a contradiction in terms). As a church or congregation we are often tempted to arrange things principally to suit ourselves (witness the sometimes rancorous discussions that can ensue when it comes to changing the time of a service). And in prayer, if we are truly honest, we frequently frame our praying as if we were saying "my will be done."

In contemplative intercession, I think of the "plenteous harvest" that Jesus referred to, not simply as people, but in more universal terms. It may begin with other people, God's human creation, but it surely must come to include the whole of the created order, every galaxy and every atomic particle, and the sovereignty of God over all. The more that people are aware of this, the more we human beings will be able to align ourselves with God's loving purposes.