Faithbook: “Sharing”

 

Faithbook–Biblical Lessons for the Digital Age: “Sharing”
A Message on Matthew 9:35-38

For Jacksonville First United Methodist Church
Sept. 23, 2018
By Doug Wintermute
dwinterm@yahoo.com

Matthew 9:35-38 (NRSV)

 

Then 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. 36 When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. 37 Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; 38 therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”

 

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Jesus didn’t speak English and didn’t take English classes in school. If he had, however, I have no doubt that his English teachers would have given him high marks for his use of metaphors.

 

Now I’m sure all of you were excellent students in English class and remember that metaphor is  “a figure of speech in which a word or phrase is applied to an object or action to which it is not literally applicable.”

 

Jesus uses a metaphor in the scripture we read today from the Gospel of Matthew. “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”

 

Part of the challenge for us to understand this metaphor in our current time is to remember what it meant to the people who heard Jesus speak it in the 1st Century.

 

If we want bread, we just go to the store and buy it. If we are really adventurous we might even make bread ourselves, but we do so with flour and yeast that we get at the store.

 

In the 1st Century it was a much different story. Grain was planted, grown, harvested, and then processed into forms in which it could be eaten.  In most cases, it all happened where people lived. There was shipment of grains by ship and donkey and other means but for the most part it was “Farm to Table” well before it was cool.

 

When the grain was ripe it was harvested by hand, tied into “sheaves” (thus the song, “Bringing in the Sheaves”), taken to a nearby threshing floor where it was “threshed” (where the grain was separated from the rest of the plant). It was then “winnowed” where the covering of the grain, called the chaff, is removed from the grain.

 

Remember that 1st Century farmers didn’t have combines. Harvest was labor intensive. Very labor intensive, with almost all of it done by hand.

 

When the grain was ripe it was all hands on deck to harvest it. The longer it stayed in the fields the more grain was lost to animals, weather, and even susceptible to fire.

 

And unlike us today, a crop failure for whatever reason could be catastrophic to the community. Starvation was always around the corner.

 

So when it came harvest time everybody helped out. Everybody worked. Everybody shared in the work of the harvest, and everyone shared in the fruit of the harvest.

 

Today we are finishing up our sermon series on “Faithbook: Biblical Truths for the Digital” age by looking at “sharing.”

 

Now there is a difference between “liking” and “sharing.” Liking something means… well, that you like it. But “sharing” is more.

 

According to social media expert, Brian Carter, “[W]hen we click share, we’re obviously saying ‘I like this so much, I wish I had created it myself. I want everyone I’ve connected with on Facebook to see it. I’m ok with my family, coworkers, supervisors, bosses – and anybody else I’ve friended, knowing that I like it.’” [https://neilpatel.com/blog/shared-the-most-on-facebook/]

 

So to paraphrase using my own words, sharing is like a turbo-charged version of liking.

 

So what kinds of things do people share on social media? Well I’m glad you asked.

 

Here are the results of research done on a global scale of the things people share on social media. The top 10 are:

 

“Photos” (43%)

“My opinion’ (39%)

“Status update of what/how I’m doing” (26%)

“Links to articles” (26%)

“Something I like or recommend, such as a product, service, movie, book, etc.” (25%)

“News items” (22%)

“Links to other websites” (21%)

“Reposts from other people’s social media posts” (21%)

“Status update of what I’m feeling” (19%)

“Video clips” (17%)

“Plans for future activities, trips” (9%)

 

So, what do the top items shared on social media have to do with Jesus words about the harvest being plentiful but the workers are few?

 

I think it has a lot.

 

Somewhere in the history of the last 50 years or so a myth was developed that as Christians we are not to share our faith. The myth says that faith is a personal thing and that we should keep our faith to ourselves, that it would be rude and inconsiderate of us to share our faith with others.

 

I think there were some things that probably contributed to that myth. People standing on street corners telling passersby that they are going to burn in hell if they don’t repent probably contributed to it. Increasing societal emphasis on the individual over the group probably contributed to it as well.

 

Whatever the reason, it happened. Anyone who shared their faith was considered a “religious fanatic” or a “Bible thumper.” It wasn’t “cool” to share one’s faith.

 

But is that the way Christians are supposed to be?

 

At the end of Matthew’s gospel, Chapter 28, the disciples gather at the mountain on which Jesus told them to gather after his death and resurrection. Jesus appears to them and gives tell them what they are to do. “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you.” (Matthew 28:19-20)

 

This is what is called “The Great Commission.”  Go into the world and make disciples. Simple. This is what you are to do. Disciples of Jesus Christ are to make disciples of Jesus Christ.

 

If you ask me, this flies directly in the face of the “don’t share your faith” myth. As followers of Jesus Christ, as disciples, we are called–actually commanded–by Jesus to make disciples. This means sharing our faith, not keeping it to ourselves.

 

When I talk to people about this one of the reactions I get is “Well, I’m just not comfortable sharing my faith.”

 

Which brings me back to social media.  How is it that we are perfectly comfortable sharing so many things on social media and have no problem doing that, but yet are uncomfortable sharing our faith?

 

We will share a photo of the meal we are eating, but won’t share about the bread of life.

 

We will share a great deal with got on some new fixtures for our house, but won’t share the light of the world.

 

We will share photos of fish we catch but don’t want to be fishers of people.

 

We will share an inspirational quote from a movie but won’t share the Word of God.

 

We will share about where we are going and what we are doing on the weekend but won’t share about being in church and worshiping with other believers.

 

We will share our political views but won’t share about the King of Kings and Lord of Lords that surpasses all governments and earthly rulers.

 

Hmmmmmm.

 

What if we were as eager to share Jesus as we were the things we share on social media? What if the definition we read about “sharing” applied to being a Christian: “I like this so much… I want everyone I’ve connected with on Facebook to see it. I’m ok with my family, coworkers, supervisors, bosses – and anybody else I’ve friended, knowing that I like it.”

 

You get the idea.

 

And the need is great. In the scripture we read from Matthew today we find Jesus talking about the crowds and how so many people in those crowds had needs.  “…he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” (Matthew 9:36)

 

The same is true today. People have so many voices screaming at them that they are lost. They are looking for love and often in the wrong places. People are in need of the Good News, and we are called to share the Good News with them.

 

So my challenge for you to you this week is to share Jesus. Not in a “turn or burn” kind of way, but share how Jesus has made a difference in your life. (And if he hasn’t made in a difference in your life, come see me.) Share Jesus as much as you share other things on social media. After all, isn’t Jesus more important? (If you think the answer is no, then again, come see me.)

 

The harvest is plenty but the workers are few. Won’t you be a worker and share the love of Christ?

 

In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, Amen.

 

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