Woohoo! 2020 is finally over. For many of us it was a year to forget. We had the global pandemic, protests, wildfires, economic stress, presidential election chaos. And my personal favorite, murder hornets.
It was the year when what could go wrong did go wrong.
Many of us entered 2021 with a renewed sense of hope. We are hoping for a return to normal.
Here is the problem, however. There is no way to return to normal after the past year of turmoil.
I believe this moment has forever changed us as individuals, churches and communities.
How can we go back to normal after seeing what we have seen?
How can we go back to normal after watching the video of the death of George Floyd?
How can we go back to normal after seeing the destruction from the wildfires?
I believe we have been and will be forever changed by these events. While we need the time and space to process the traumatic year, we as followers of Christ still have work to do.
In Matthew 9 we read of Jesus coming to the aid of people in need. He heals the man who was paralyzed. He calls Matthew, a tax collector, to be a disciple and hangs out with people the community deemed to be sinners. He brings a dead girl back to life and gives sight to two blind men. He gives voice to a man who was unable to speak due to the demon that kept him quiet.
In the midst of all of these things, Jesus turns to his disciples and tells them it is now their turn.
In Matthew 9:35-38, Jesus is traveling to all the cities and villages teaching, proclaiming the gospel and healing the sick. As more and more crowds gather to see Jesus to have their needs met, Jesus tells the disciples now is the time for them to be who they were called to be: “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few.”
Like this moment in the Gospel of Matthew, I believe the church is presented with an opportunity in 2021. Now there is more need than ever. Our communities are still trying to heal after a traumatic year.
Friends, the harvest is plentiful. Now is the time for us to be who we were called to be.
In 2020, my congregation and I had to figure out new ways to serve our community.
We had a project where we stuffed winter socks full of goods for the homeless.
We attended protests around the city to stand in solidarity with Black lives.
We donated money to wildfire relief efforts as many were displaced from their homes.
I was asked to speak at a vigil for Herman Graham III, a Black man targeted with racial slurs and murdered by a white man.
Yet there is still more to be done. People are still in need of comfort. People are still in need of healing and support.
What better time for us to be the church? What better time to answer the call that being a follower of Christ places on our lives? What better time to show the world that not only is God on your side, but so is the church?
I understand we are craving normalcy. I understand we want to get back to our familiar church activities.
But right now, at this time, the world is ripe for the laborers. We must do our best to creatively meet the needs of the people around us.
This will not be an easy task. “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few” is a warning. These are words to reckon with. We will not be able to meet everyone’s needs. But we can “ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest” (Matthew 9:38).
And then ask ourselves if those laborers might be us.
We must not allow this moment to pass us by. We must not dwell on the wish that things would return to normal.
Now is the time to dream of something new. Now is the time to participate in what God is doing in our communities.
As we enter 2021, as our churches recover from the trauma of 2020, let’s remember the harvest is plentiful. As followers of Christ, we are called to be active in our world. We, the church, can be a place of hope and a people of healing.
May we answer the call for laborers in 2021.