Pentecost 7, Proper 8c, 2013 (July 7)
Holy Cross Lutheran Church
Rev. Todd A. Peperkorn
TITLE: “Hearing the Word of Jesus”
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord, Jesus Christ. Amen. Our text for today is the Gospel just read from St. Luke chapter Ten.
In much of the Lutheran Church throughout the country, this is ordination and installation season. New graduates from our seminaries are being dispersed all over the land, really all over the world. Churches are receiving their newly minted pastors. Our sister congregation, Mt. Olive in Folsom, will be receiving her new pastor at a special service next Sunday afternoon.
That kind of optimism is rather contagious, don’t you think? It is easy to think of the future as an unpainted landscape waiting to be colored. And of course, there is an element of truth to that. Our future is secure in Christ, and because of that, tomorrow is bright indeed, for all of us.
So in our Gospel today, we have the story of Jesus sending out the seventy-two to announce His coming. What do you think was going through these men’s minds as they went out into the countryside? Jesus gave them the sacred task of announcing His coming, the ushering in of the new creation. They went out two by two, like animals from the Ark, sent out to proclaim that things are different in the Kingdom of God.
Before we see how they go out, and the counsel Jesus gives them, it is important for us to pause for a moment and remember that this is the character of the Christian Church. The Church is always moving. It is either expanding or contracting. It stays the same in the sense that the message of the Gospel is the same, and yet the Church is ever changing. Just like each child is different from another, in the same way God brings forth His holy family in each generation. Each generation is different, unique, and yet each generation receives the same mercy and the same gifts from God. This is who we are as God’s people. If we forget that, we forget who we are. The heartbeat of the Christian Church is that God’s love is always going out, always moving, always seeking the lost and the lonely, the suffering and in need. If we become a preservation society, we have lost it. If we see ourselves as a spiritual museum, simply put here to remind people of a bygone age, we have lost it. If the most we can hope for and desire is that things don’t change, we have lost it. God preserve us from turning our head back to the plow, but let us look out to where God has placed us in His
(Ha! You got a sermon inside a sermon!)
Okay, back to our main point. Jesus sends them out, the text says, as “Lambs in the midst of wolves.” That’s kind of graphic, don’t you think? It’s hardly the cute, pastoral scene one might expect. Jesus might as well have said, “Oh my friends, today you go out as a divine mutton sandwich for the world to devour. I hope you’re tasty.”
So Jesus sends them out basically helpless, without any means of support other than generosity. They are day laborers in the fields. God gives them a message to send, an announcement to make, and with them comes the very Kingdom of God into the midst of the wolves. And some of those wolves, in the strangest biological cross breeding ever, some of those wolves will actually become lambs themselves. It’s lousy zoology, but it is great theology.
Oh and one more thing. Jesus ties His own presence to them. Remember Jesus’ words:
““The one who hears you hears me, and the one who rejects you rejects me, and the one who rejects me rejects him who sent me.”” (Luke 10:16 ESV)
So imagine a pair of these men coming into your town, announcing that the Kingdom of God is at hand. Imagine that these men claim God Himself is coming into your town, in the flesh. Imagine that kind of event, and you can start to imagine the response these men wherever they went. Some received them, some rejected them, and the men themselves were amazing at the power and authority of Jesus’ name.
But of course, you don’t have to imagine it, do you? That is what Holy Cross Lutheran Church experiences every day, and has done so for nearly twenty-five years. Holy Cross stands as a beacon of hope in a lost and dying world. The goods are here. Forgiveness of sins, life and salvation. Jesus’ very body and blood given and shed for you for the remission of your sins. God Himself is present in this place, day after week after month after year after decade. Some things change. New saints come in and old saints are carried up to heaven. Some times the day laborer changes, but the Church is still here.
So how does our community receive us? For most, I doubt they know we are here. Others may have some awareness. Still others might say, “oh that’s nice, but I’ve got a different place.” It is always a challenge for the Christian Church to continue to be the Church where God has placed her. We face apathy, boredom, the desire to be entertained, and sometimes even outright hostility to the message of the Gospel. And sometimes, people listen, and receive the Gospel, and God’s peace goes to them, and it is a wonder to behold. Sometimes God grants us that image of Satan falling, of hell itself being under the subjection of the Gospel. But sometimes we don’t see it, that is for us.
When this is the case, there are two important things to remember. The first is from St. Paul, and the second is from Jesus Himself.
First, St. Paul writes in our epistle from Galatians six:
“And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.” (Galatians 6:9–10 ESV)
Paul here encourages us not to grow weary. It is worth it, he says. When you are neck deep into stuff to get done, whether we talk about church or family or work or wherever God has placed you, when you are neck deep, it’s hard to look up and see the good that is coming. But it is coming. This is why, I think, Paul exhorts us first of all to take care of each other. It is impossible for us to care for our neighbor, and to be a light to the world if we cannot even learn how to love one another. That is where our encouragement comes from. When you see a brother of sister in Christ who is burdened and in need, help them. It’s that simple. They need you.
And that brings us to the words of Jesus for when we grow weary and worn. We hear from Luke at the end of our text:
“The seventy-two returned with joy, saying, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in your name!” And he said to them, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall hurt you. Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”” (Luke 10:16–20 ESV)
In success or failure, God is at work. Your rejoicing doesn’t lie in your success or failures. Those are fickle, and as often as not you can’t even tell if something is a success or failure until much later. No, your joy comes from the beautiful fact that your names are written in heaven. You have a place here! That is where true joy is to be found.
The new pastors being placed around the country are in a great place, and so are you. Your names are witten in the book of life. You are washed. You are fed. You are healed. You are at peace with God.
Believe it for Jesus’ sake. Amen.
And now the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in true faith to life everlasting. Amen.