THE WORKERS ARE FEW
HOOE to HASTINGS
A lazy day today after walking in to Hastings. Lazy or restful – Is there an important difference?
Extract from Reflections Journal – Thursday 24th August 2017
A day of striking contrasts today. Our walk took us through some beautiful countryside in the morning, through peaceful pastures and beautiful woodland. Later we met up with Nicola in the village of Crowhurst and came into Hastings through a large housing development. For 2 miles we walked along the streets of this residential estate which felt tired and neglected. I understand that this area of the town has something of a bad reputation and this made me wonder about what creates this kind of thing. How does a particular area of any town or city get a reputation for being ‘the place to avoid’, ‘that part of town’? I know that there are some ‘simple’ answers which might be given that focus on the behaviour of the people who live there, the presence of drugs related issues or anti-social behaviour etc. but these answers only address the situation now and not how it came to be.
In so many of our towns and cities across the country, and even in some villages, there is an area where ‘they’ live. It is that part of town that most people avoid. It is that place where ‘all the trouble starts’. It is avoided, moaned about, blamed – neglected, overlooked, ignored – isolated, marginalised, forgotten. Perhaps these placed are marked as areas of higher unemployment, crime, drugs, single parenthood. Perhaps they are places where the people aren’t like ‘us’!
Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming 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.
Matthew 9:35-38 NIV
I think that it is true that most of us would prefer to engage with and minister to people who are like us. We are drawn to people who come from the same background, who are in the same economic/financial bracket as us, people who we can relate to. Sure, there are places across the country where church communities have reached out to the marginalised, and maybe even planted a church in the middle of these places, but on the whole most of us who say that we follow Jesus, avoid or miss those people Jesus ministered to. Jesus didn’t just minister to the people who he knew the best, or the people who thought they were the best – he ministered to everyone. Jesus spent time with the people that nobody else had time for, and was criticised for it. He made relationships with people by getting up close and personal with them. He showed them compassion, friendship and love, and he offered them hope, forgiveness, and salvation.
Jesus knew that some of the people he encountered were in their unhealthy situation partly, or perhaps wholly, because of their own bad choices but he didn’t use that as a reason for ignoring them. Jesus knew that some of the people he encountered were in their unhealthy situation because of the actions or behaviours of others who had abused or abandoned them but he didn’t follow the crowd and ignore them. Jesus cared dearly for people; he had a deep compassion for these people because they were lost. They had no direction and Jesus was burdened for them because they were lost, because they were harassed and helpless.
At the end of this passage in Matthew Jesus says; ‘The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few’. Sadly this is still true today. We might see other churches or charities and agencies working with the hopeless and homeless, the marginalised, the lonely, the desperate and the lost, and think that we can leave that work up to them – but Jesus calls each one of us to follow him. Not some. Not them. Not the specially trained.
All of us.