He told them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.
-Jesus, Luke 10:2
Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near.
I love officiating weddings, and this past weekend I led my first Covid-era ceremony. Congratulations, Keith and Robin! It was beautiful.
And it was no ordinary wedding! The ceremony took place on the deck of a riverboat, just behind a riverside restaurant, with those in attendance standing spread out on the dock so that they could still join the celebration while distancing. As you can imagine based on the rehearsal picture, we had to think creatively about many things. That’s the part of the fun of unique weddings!
On the wedding day the DJ didn't have a chance to connect the sound system until immediately before the ceremony, so we got the speakers set up facing the shore (and the outdoor section of the nearby restaurant) with no time to test anything. The wireless microphone was not working for my first few sentences of my welcome. But right when it came time for the prayer, it connected…..
"FATHER GOD, WE ARE GRATEFUL FOR YOUR GOODNESS” all of a sudden came thundering off my microphone at a volume that could have made it across the Chesapeake. I’m pretty sure every single person at the restaurant 50 yards away turned and looked at us.
I quickly softened my voice and pulled the microphone away a bit, hoping to balance things out and not cause too much of a scene. And in a split second decision, I realized that this could be really rough, or really beautiful. Everyone who came for the wedding was just fine. But those sitting at the restaurant would either be bombarded with a loud wedding ceremony that forced its way into their dinner experience, or subtly invited to share in one of God’s beautiful moments if they leaned in just a bit. It was possible to hit a volume and style that invited but didn’t impose.
I see in our world different ways of how Christians express their faith and lives. Some use any chance they get to loudly insert themselves into the lives of others, whether it has been asked for or not. They are difficult to ignore, talking over others and assuming that the louder they speak the truth, the more faithful and brave they are, regardless of if others have any interest in hearing. Unfortunately, this often coincides with a lack of self awareness or sensitivity to others. As a result, those listening get annoyed, upset, or combative. On the boat I realized that too much volume (to quote the groom later) “might lead to some unwanted (and inebriated) hecklers at our wedding!”
But there is another way to use our voice. If we lessen our power a bit, we can still proclaim what is good and beautiful and worth sharing, and others can decide if it’s worth it to listen in.
I backed off the microphone as we continued on through the wedding, but I decided it was ok if we were still audible enough for outsiders to listen in…. if they chose to. And I have no idea, but I wonder what sort of impact this little wedding had, celebrating the beauty of human love and the wonder of God’s faithful love, on those who were unexpectedly leaning in to hear a bit more.
There are plenty of people in our lives who know who we are and what we’re about. And then there are others a little further out. They are within earshot of us, metaphorically speaking. They see and hear us in our neighborhoods, workplaces, and digital space. What we say and how we say it could either draw them closer or push them away. We do not have ultimate control of that, but we have some control, without question.
So disciples of Jesus ask ourselves:
What kind of message are they hearing?
What is the attitude that they are hearing in it?
Jesus told his disciples that the harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. According to Jesus, there are many out there longing to move toward this God whose rule embodies grace, hope, forgiveness, justice, compassion, and eternal life. People are ready to be invited in. But that’s far different than imposing our voice on them and drowning them out. And often, the message we're giving doesn't even sound a bit like Jesus.
How can we be humble yet still bold in our invitation? Every one of us has someone on the dock that is within earshot. People are listening in, watching our social media presence, and watching how we respond to the innumerable challenges of this exhausting season. They’re noticing how we parent and how we talk about people who are suffering. They see what we criticize and what we celebrate.
Does the way we present our message make them want to lean in a bit closer to the kingdom of God? Or are they wishing for a mute button?
Jesus, give me wisdom to express your message of hope with gentleness and humility to those who are listening.