Sunday, July 7, 2013

Sermon -- 7th Sunday after Pentecost (July 7, 2013)

LUKE 10:1-12,16-20

In the name + of Jesus.

     Jesus told his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few.  Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.” (Luke 10:2)  Immediately after he encouraged his disciples to pray for workers, Jesus sent out seventy-two men into the harvest. 
     The harvest is, indeed, plentiful.  Current census numbers estimate that the harvest field is well over seven billion people right now, and continuing to grow.  And they are all loved by the Lord.  “God so loved the world,” (John 3:16) right?  Jesus is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. (John 1:29)  There is no one who is without sin so that he does not need forgiveness.  There is no one so wicked that Jesus refused to make atonement for him.  Jesus Christ has come for all so that all might be saved.  Whoever calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.  But they cannot call on the one of whom they have never heard or known.  Therefore, workers must go into the harvest.  You, too, pray that the Lord will send them.
     We might think of going to the far reaches of the world for this harvest.  After all, China and India have more than 2 billion of the world’s 7 billion people.  But Jesus did not send the seventy-two to the far corners of the world.  At this point, Jesus did not command, “Go into all the world.” (Mark 16:15)  He sent them on ahead of him, two by two, into every town and place where he himself was about to go. Luke 10:1)  Jesus sent them to their surrounding communities.  These people needed a Savior, just like the people you see and know around you.
     Now, some young men here may one day be among the ministers whom the Lord calls to go into his harvest field.  The Church will never run out of its need for pastors, because the world will never run out of sinners.  Sinners, even Christians, will never outgrow their need for a Savior.  Therefore, the Lord still calls men and ordains servants to go and to speak in his stead and by his command. The Lord Jesus Christ still pours out his mercy through his servants, because the world still needs it.
     In the same way, the seventy-two were sent to preach.  You can understand if they were afraid when they went.  They did not know how they would be received, or if they would be received.  I can relate.  You might find it interesting to see people’s reactions when I wear a clerical collar around.  Some quickly turn away.  They avoid me at all costs.  They don’t know me, but the collar shows whom I represent.  And even if people have no interest in repenting, they know they should.  Because of guilt or anger, they turn away.  Others are drawn to the one wearing a collar.  They yearn for a pastor to pray for them.  Some might come right up to me and say, “Father, I have a question…”  Again, they know by sight what to expect from me, whether they are eager to hear it or eager to challenge it.  But please understand: This is not about me.  It is about the office of the ministry.  And for all who are called or ordained, the call is the same: Preach the word.  Proclaim the kingdom.  Point them to Jesus.
     But not all Christians are called and ordained ministers.  In fact most aren’t.  Perhaps you are (or will be) an engineer, a doctor, a mechanic, or a janitor.  You may not be ordained to speak in the stead of Christ, but you still bear the name of Christ.  You still get to confess your faith.  You are still the salt of the earth, preservatives of greater wickedness in the world, and lights to the world, reflecting the light of Jesus Christ in a sin-darkened world. 
     Some will cherish your confession.  Others will despise it.  Even though some may despise you or lash out at you, these people are not your enemies.  They are lost souls whom Jesus loves and for whom Jesus died.  They are captives of the real enemy.  Your enemy is the devil who prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.  Your enemy is sin which desires to claim you and condemn you.  Your enemy is death, which longs to hold you for eternity.  But fear not!  Jesus has conquered the enemy and gives you the victory.  And Jesus has given you authority over the enemy.  The very word you believe and confess assures that your place in the kingdom of God is firmly established.  That word renounces the enemy’s claim on you.  You are forgiven of your sins.  You are free from death and the devil.  Jesus has secured it.  Jesus gives you authority over the enemy.
     Whatever fears the seventy-two had when they were sent out, that apprehension was gone when they returned.  The seventy-two returned with joy, saying, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in your name!” (Luke 10:17)  You can appreciate their excitement.  They were overjoyed at how well everything went.  The crowds had, apparently, received them well.  And even the demons trembled before them.  This was exciting stuff!
     Jesus corrected them.  They had reason to be overjoyed, but not because their ministry had gone so well.  It would not always go so well.  Others had preached before them, and almost no one submitted to their message in the Lord’s name.  Jeremiah was imprisoned.  Amos was threatened.  Tradition says Isaiah was sawn in half.  What was their joy supposed to be when they were so harshly rejected and cruelly treated?  What is your joy when you are mocked or attacked because of your confession? 
     Jesus said, “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 10:18-20)  Your joy does not rest on how well people listen to you or treat you.  Your joy is this: Jesus has given you authority over the enemy.  His sufferings mean that you will not suffer for your sins.  His death means that the grave has had its fill.  It must forfeit its prey.  It must give you back.  Jesus’ resurrection means that you will rise from the dead with a body that is whole and holy, good and glorious, incorruptible and imperishable.  Satan has been struck down.  One little word can fell him, and that word is Jesus.  Your enemies—sin, death, and the devil—cannot harm you.  You are the Lord’s.  Your name is written in heaven; and therefore, you are safe.
     Jesus gives you authority over the enemy.  Your enemies cannot harm you.  Oh, it is true that you may endure hardship, loss, pain, or even death (though that seems unlikely in our nation) for your confession and faith.  Others have.  That does not mean you are supposed to be eager to suffer.  But no matter what you endure, as painful and frustrating as it may be, your enemy cannot do any real harm to you.  The Lord sees and knows.  He will not believe anyone’s lies about you, not even Satan’s.  No matter what is taken from you, God does not withdraw his promises and mercy.  Even if they should kill you, they cannot nullify the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come.  You bear the name of Jesus Christ.  And so, you have authority over the enemy.  Your name is written in heaven, and no one can erase that.  You confess Jesus Christ as your Savior, and nothing can change who he is—your Redeemer and your righteousness.  So, no one can change who you are—a child of God.
     Jesus gives you authority over the enemy.  Satan has been trampled.  Your sins are forgiven.  Death is null and void.  It is your joy to confess this and to witness to others.  It is also your joy to pray that the Lord would send forth more and more ministers to proclaim good news to a depraved, desperate, and dying world.  The harvest is, indeed, plentiful.  The world’s need is, indeed, great.  But God’s mercy is greater.  He who is your Savior longs for the world to know him as their Savior, too.  It begins with your town and extends to the world.  Therefore, pray for God’s kingdom to advance.  Confess the faith.  Support the workers who go on your behalf.  And rejoice that your name is known by God and is written in heaven.

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

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