Read: Luke 10:1-2
After this the Lord appointed seventy others and sent them on ahead of him in pairs to every town and place where he himself intended to go. He said to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”
In Luke’s recounting of the sending out of the seventy, he could have easily been gazing at a field of thistles instead of wheat and chaff as he recounts the potential harvest and need for committed workers. Thistles could have made his point about the need for universal discipleship since they are universal weeds that take over fields in a single season.
The thistles’ history is one of survival by brutality and yet still they contain a purple center that even Solomon in all his glory cannot match. Their extracts can heal and detoxify the liver, and the silky down makes the best paper. Thistles offer a glimpse into the potential great harvests if disciples are willing to go out to the fields and be a part of the healing of the world. The call to a harvest is for all of creation to be cherished and to remember there is no one that needs to be condemned or left behind.
Thistles are a beautiful symbol for the mission of discipleship. They link the abandoned spaces to the rich potential of the harvest. It costs us nothing to harvest thistles and they reap great rewards. The call to mission is to enter the fields of the world and find the beauty others have discarded as useless. When we go to the fields proclaiming love, we find ourselves confronted by the injustices of poverty and lack of care for the folks who have been abandoned. When we say we love the world, we need to be concerned about people’s economic well-being.
The work of economic empowerment and justice is a journey to the forgotten fields to find the richness even among the weeds. The vision of mission is a movement that calls us to harvest what others have discarded and share the bounty so that all people can participate in the great harvest.
Holy God, giver and sustainer of all life, you call us to use our gifts of time and talent and treasure for the healing of the world. Surround us with your presence, anoint our heads with a balm of peace, then show us the work you would have us do in the world around us. Teach us what it means to fall in love with whole world and love our neighbors as ourselves. Help us work toward the economic well-being of our brothers and sisters. Help us live out this prayer not only with our lips but also in our lives, by giving up more of what we claim as ours for the care of others. Amen.
Becca Stevens is an Episcopal priest and founder of Thistle Farms, a community of women who have survived prostitution, trafficking, and addiction. Thistle Farms includes a two-year residential program and advocacy services as well as social enterprises including a body care company and marketplace.