This month we are acknowledging Indigenous Awareness Month, and yesterday we were privileged to host the Blanket Exercise, which taught the history of the relationship between indigenous and settler people in Canada. Two peoples who would have very different interpretations of our gospel today, as would have those first disciples of Christ. When we think of Jesus words today, “The harvest is plentiful, but the labourers are few “ what interpretation comes to mind? There have been many interpretations over the years, especially regarding that harvest. What we understand we are planning to harvest certainly affects where we spend our labour. Now I have quite a garden at home, and spend a fair amount of time working towards achieving a healthy vegetable patch and a thus when Jesus speaks of harvest I tend to think automatically of tending the garden for growth. However, there is also the interpretation that the harvest spoken of refers to a harvest of souls. That the end times are to be the time of harvest and the harvest spoken on is that of the saved…and that our duty as labourers is to save souls. This theology has been put to devastating effect in the history of the church, as the theology of salvation by any means necessary has been misinterpreted and abused. We know, here in the church in Canada what the horrific results of that interpretation of scripture can be. So it is worth looking at the what this harvest and labour was about to those who heard it first. In that way the disciples had a very distinct advantage over us, as we read… “…Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and curing every disease and every sickness.” Jesus went about alot… much of the gospel has Jesus moving from place, to place. Jesus went where the people were. Certainly, he taught in the temple, but most of the time Jesus wandered about; and where Jesus went the disciples followed. It was clear that Jesus was the teacher and the disciples were, as is the definition, students. They went with Jesus to the cities and villages, and listened to him teach, heard Jesus proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom, that God is with us. The disciples saw him cure disease and sickness. Approach and interact with those who were sick and those who were well, the ritually clean and those who would never be allowed in the temple. The disciples learnt while Jesus spoke, touched, healed the socially approved and those who were outcast. They learnt through word and action. They saw that Jesus had compassion for everyone. They saw that Jesus lead, not as dictator, king or as an absentee landlord, but like a shepherd. This meant knowing and caring for each and every, sheep, ewe and lamb by name. They followed as Jesus strayed into gentile territory, into the homes of tax collectors and sinners, as he fraternized with those of every aspect of society, but especially those who were harassed and helpless. The disciples learnt by example what Jesus felt for and how he treated those he came to save. The disciples saw that this teaching, this action, this compassion drew crowds. Large crowds. A very, very large garden with the potential for a very, very large harvest. As the crowds grew Jesus couldn’t do all the work by himself. To go out into the world there were more hands, more labourers needed. “Then Jesus summoned his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to cure every disease and every sickness. The harvest is too great for one man, even the Son of Man, to handle. So, Jesus summons his students and commissions them, to use a familiar term. Jesus blesses them, authorizes them to act in his name. From that point, I’m not sure you noticed, but from that point the 12 are not referred to as disciples, one who learn…but apostles…one who are sent, sent with authority. The authority that the disciple come apostles had was rooted in a deep relationship with Christ, not a perfect one by any means, but an intimate one. They were sent “to cast out evil spirits, and to cure every disease and every sickness” and to proclaim repentance and the Good News, as they had seen Jesus do. The gospel tells us that they did well and came back rejoicing at the good they could do, but in Mark’s gospel we hear another angle of the story. Mark 9:38-40: "John said to him, ’Teacher, we saw a man casting out demons in your name, and we forbade him, because he was not following us.’ But Jesus said, ’Do not forbid him; for no one who does a mighty work in my name will be able soon after to speak evil of me. For he that is not against us is for us’" Even with Jesus before them, disciples can misinterpret Jesus’ teachings…turning the authority given to cure and to make whole into a power to misuse and divide. The man was doing good, but we stopped him because he was not one of us. This misuse of the authority granted to the apostles, and in turn their ordained descendants has been endemic throughout history. We have been trusted in the garden, and we have pulled out many a beautiful plant in error. Our Blanket Exercise yesterday made abundantly clear how much damage has been done throughout the garden of God’s creation and to that beautiful and plentiful harvest Christ refers to through mis-interpretation of scripture and willfull misappropriation of the authority given to us, as apostles and especially as priests in apostolic succession. We like the apostles are commissioned by Christ: “As you go, proclaim the good news, “The kingdom of heaven has come near.” Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons. You received without payment; give without payment.” Reading further Matthew has Jesus continue. “Take no gold, or silver, or copper in your belts, 10no bag for your journey, or two tunics, or sandals, or a staff; for labourers deserve their food. 11Whatever town or village you enter, find out who in it is worthy, and stay there until you leave. 12As you enter the house, greet it. 13If the house is worthy, let your peace come upon it; but if it is not worthy, let your peace return to you. 14If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet as you leave that house or town.” This is NOT what we have done, especially when our words were not welcome. Which tells us clearly that what those first settlers did and taught was far less about Christ and tending the garden and far more about power and self interest. Christ never said to force faith or convert with violence. The call of Christ has always been one of compassion. To have a good harvest, the labourers must tend to the crop, care for the plants. Pruning when required yes, but the majority of crops do not thrive when beaten to the ground. Many years have past since Christ’s words were spoken, but we continue to interpret and reinterpret them as times change and circumstances evolve. As we take our turn to interpret the gospel today it is important not only to know what you believe, but to be aware of how Christ’s word have been interpreted in the past and especially how Christ’s words are being interpreted to you from places of authority. It was from the seats of power, including, perhaps especially the pulpit that the word spread that the European people alone held God’s word. That compassion was to be interpreted as assimilation, and that any difference in life or look was an unclean spirit to be cast out. Clergy bear the responsibility of teaching the words of Christ, the scriptures of God, but the church needs to not simply listen and obey, but listen and critique…and especially hold the clergy accountable. I would agree that clergy have been given authority, but should never be given absolute power. The authority given by Christ is authority to do good…the commissioning is a call to be as Christ. We, the church, have been sent as labourers into God’s garden…to nurture, to tend, to heal and help grow. To proclaim the good news…to give hope and truth. To cure the sick in body, mind and spirit…to care for those whom the world has labeled broken. To raise the dead… all that is good in the world which has been left to rot. To heal the lepers…to uplift, practically and spiritually those who are outcast. To cast out demons…to fight against lies, hate, abuse and addictions. Even, when Christ’s word is mis represented, to fight against the church and those in authority. We are called to be laborer’s in the garden, the fields of the Lord. We are called to go out and to tend to creation and all in it. We are called to make thing whole, in Christ’s name. We are called to reconciliation, to healing and wholeness. Each of us are apostles, commissioned and sent…labourers in the garden of God. We have each been given the authority to act as representatives of Christ and we each have a serious responsibility to interpret carefully what that looks like. When Christ sent out the apostles in Matthew’s gospel, he sent them to the lost sheep of Israel, Jews sent to teach and re interpret scripture to Jews. It may be that we are called to do the same. Perhaps the harvest we need to be concerned with is not that of who hasn’t heard of Christ but rather of those who have and have interpreted the crook of the Christ the Good Shepherd for the Rod of proverbs that spared spoils the child. In that complicated book of end times, Revelation there is a vision of God’s garden and at it’s center is a tree spanning a river fresh and clear, a tree which bears 12 kinds of fruit, producing each month so that no one will ever be hungry and the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. This is what we labour towards, this is the garden, the harvest we toil for. It was never meant to be us and them, the saved and the damned, the righteous and the heathen. Reconciliation has always been about mending the broken relationship in this world, God’s creation, so that we can be in right relationship with God. Throughout June we spend time looking in depth at one of those broken relationships that need healing. We are indeed blessed by God and forgiven, but that doesn’t negate our need to repentance. To labour in the garden, to have compassion, to seek healing and use the authority Christ gives to go out and do as Christ would do, to act as Christ would act and to believe as Christ believes so that we can bear good fruit ourselves in the Lord’s harvest.