MATTHEW 9:35-10:8 (NIV) - Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. 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 his disciples, "The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field."
He called his twelve disciples to him and gave them authority to drive out evil spirits and to heal every disease and sickness.
These are the names of the twelve apostles: first, Simon (who is called Peter) and his brother Andrew; James son of Zebedee, and his brother John; Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; Simon the Zealot and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him.
These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions: "Do not go among the Gentiles or enter any town of the Samaritans. Go rather to the lost sheep of Israel. As you go, preach this message: 'The kingdom of heaven is near.' Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received, freely give."
Charles Wesley's hymn, "Love Divine, All Love Excelling" with which we began this service of worship is a wonderful hymn of praise - and a wonderful prayer.
The praise - Jesus, thou art all compassion, pure, unbounded love thou art.
And the prayer - Visit us with thy salvation Enter every trembling heart.
The gospel begins today with these words about Jesus. As you just heard - but I want you to hear again:
Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness.
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 his disciples, "The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few.
Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field."
I think most of us are particularly aware of the importance of compassion - of the importance of compassion and of the great need that our world has for it - a world in which so many struggle to get along without anyone to direct them, - in which so many are left without a strong and caring presence in their lives - in which so many are like sheep without a shepherd - wandering, lost, often alone, often embittered, or, as Jesus himself puts it when he sees the crowds coming out to him for healing and hope, so many are harassed and helpless.
God wants us to live in family - for our young to be nurtured and guided and protected and taught and loved richly and well, and for our old to be respected and cared for and embraced and for those in between to be strengthened and given joy and strength and help as they fulfil the purposes in life for which God has breathed life into them.
God wants for us to be family together in our homes, living godly and righteous lives - lives of peace and joy and sharing; and God wants for us to be family together in his church - among his people to be a family, a people, a nation, that live according to his covenant, and who - because of that covenant keeping - and because of God's promises to us become a people who truly are different, a people who truly are dedicated to God's purposes and who not only have the ability to connect, but actually do connect, one another - and the whole world - to God, our heavenly Father.
But some of our homes are shattered. Some of our children are left without a father - or a mother - or both - who can model for them what the love of God is all about.
Some children in this world need so much that is not being given to them and you here today - I daresay each one of you - know that; and weep on account of it; and wonder what to do about it.
That weeping and wondering - that impulse of love - is the same impulse that moves the heart of God, and the heart of Jesus, as they look upon us and our world.
So many people are broken and in need of healing. So many need to hear and see how close the Kingdom of Heaven is to them, so many need the things that contaminate their lives to be cleansed, so many need the demons that afflict their lives to be driven out, so many need to be raised to new life - those they care for and those that they wish that they could care for - restored to them.
God's purpose for his people has ever been, as we heard from the Old Testament Reading this morning, to make us into a kingdom of priests and a holy nation, to make us ones who model - who set the example of what God is like and who, by our living, by our obedience to the word of God, help to connect the whole world to God - to bridge the gap that exists between what is - and what should be - to help bring wholeness to the world.
In this world that God has made that is what Fathers and Mothers are supposed to be about. They are supposed to be ones who turn to God and by keeping the word of God in their hearts and in their actions - provide what their children - and what our world needs.
And many of us have had such godly parents - we have had such Fathers Godly men who not only teach the way of the Lord to their children, but who live it out as well - with joy and with wisdom - with humility and with strength and so raise up after them a generation whose delight is in the Lord, and whose ways are God's ways. Praise God for them!
But - many others in our world have not had such fathers or mothers and we need them, our world needs them if we are to be whole - and our world with us.
We who are gathered here today in Christ's name are called to help answer that need.
"The harvest is plentiful" says Jesus as he looks upon the lost ones all around him,
"The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field"
And then he sends out his followers - and gives them the power they need to do the work that needs doing - the power and authority that they need to help bring salvation.
Each of us here today is called by God to be a healer - first within our own family - among our sons and daughters – our wives and husbands - our cousins and nephews and nieces - and, of course, among our brothers and sisters - our fellow believers
And as we continue to tend to those in our midst who are lost and who are broken, as we continue to encourage and teach those God has entrusted to us, we are called to remember those who are not yet part of our family, and to go and make disciples of all nations baptising in the name of the Father and the Son and The Holy Spirit and teaching them to obey everything that Jesus has commanded us.
We can do that - we can heal the broken and drive forth the demons that afflict our families and our world, we can be as our Father in heaven is - by allowing our Father in Heaven to guide us and direct us.
Pray my brothers and sisters for all parents today -Pray with thanksgiving for those who have lived and are living by God's word and who have raised up children to God in a godly way. And pray with tears and with hope and with desire - and with love for those who are lost and who need the healing of God in their lives if they are to be all God has made them to be.
Pray for workers who will bring the compassionate love of God – the compassionate love of our Saviour Jesus - to the world about us.
And Pray that God will empower you - through your devotion to his living word, to be fathers to the fatherless, shepherds to those who have no one to lead them to the still waters and to places that will restore their souls, and brothers and sisters to those whose who have no earthy family to love and care for them and to encourage them and guide them to the one whose family is not only eternal - but eternally blessed.