When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to them, "The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field."
~ Matthew 9:36-38
We seem to be wandering. When I was a youth I used to love discovering a new grape vine circling a tree. Often my friends and I would cut, and then see how far we could swing out. Sometimes the trip would take us out over a small valley, or a steep hill. If the vine were strong enough, and secure, we could soar out over a great distance. But, if it weren't securely fastened to the canopy of the tree, the result would mean a tumble that could be more than just a little frightening.
It is just something that we did as young people. As we grew "older and wiser," we learned that swinging out on an unknown vine, over a steep valley, was not necessarily the best of ideas.
You might say we were in need of guidance, but experience, and a few hard knocks, taught us a lot.
I know that times have changed. The first time I took my children back through the "hills and hollers" of Southern Indiana where I grew up, I was met with a lot of questions about what I did for fun. Especially when they learned that on a "good day" we might have four television stations.
I learned a lot about growing up through the friendships I encountered, and the neighbors that lined the hills along the winding tar road we lived on.
Even when we encountered hardships through droughts and heavy snows, as well as, through times when my parents struggled to keep things together, there was an optimism that things would "get better."
Jesus encountered people who knew something about hardships, and wandering for that matter. He understood that times would be difficult and that at some point, the people make poor decisions, have varying levels of faith, and simply experience difficulty.
He reminds us that we need to have "a shepherd." Someone who will lead us to green meadows and places where still water provide for a peaceful place. A shepherd that keeps us safe, while keeping us aware of present, or possible danger.
In our world today, there just seems to be so much chaos and pain. I wish I could communicate the words and follow it up with the actions to ensure that things will "get better."
The Psalmist in the 23rd Psalm reminds us that "surely goodness and mercy shall follow us." Our need for that promise to be made whole relies upon our ability to allow the living Christ, the good Shepherd, to lead in our wanderings. To provide hope, when there seems to be only hopelessness, and to remind us that God will be present with every turn.
"The workers are few," is the reminder to us that we must also be the bearers of hope, even when we find that we are wandering. It is our ability to be present for one another, among the fields, the hills and the hollers. In dark valleys and times of trouble, we are still called, because hope will always remain as long as there are those who are hopeful.
Stay in God's grip!
G. Todd Williams (c) 2018
Rev. G. Todd Williams lives in the Houston metro area and is a Hospice Chaplain at Essential Hospice, Webster, Texas, and is an ordained Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) pastor.