Wednesday, July 7, 2010

"In Like a Wolf, Out Like A Lamb"

6th Sunday after Pentecost, 2010

Luke 10:1-20

In the Name of Jesus + Amen.

The harvest is plentiful but the laborers are few. Therefore pray to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest. This sounds a bit ironic. Weren't there some 30 young men at our seminaries who did not receive calls? It sounds more like the harvest is plentiful and the laborers are more plentiful - sounds like a problem of supply and demand. But that's not the case. Our Lord will place these men in congregations. Our Lord will send out His Word to do everything He has promised. Christ is always the bridegroom of His Church and He always provides exactly what she needs - it may not be what we design or plan or conceive - the Church will always have what she needs - His Word, His Sacraments, His Crucified and Risen presence.
The same was true for the 72 (or 70) Jesus sent out on Luke 10. This is the way of things in Christ's Church. As the Father sends the Son, the Son sends others. His sending of the 72 is one of the hallmarks of the Office of the Ministry. A hallmark you hear every Sunday - as a called and ordained servant of the Word I announce the grace of God unto all of you and in the stead and by the command of my Lord Jesus Christ I forgive you all your sins...He who hears you, hears me. You have Jesus' word on it.
And so the 72 are sent ahead of Jesus: Behold I am sending you out as lambs in the midst of wolves. Yes, that's right, wolves. In other words, I am sending you out to be devoured. Carry no wallet, bag or shoes. I am sending you out as dinner and food for the hungry, ravenous wolves. The Office of the Ministry is often the Office of Wolf-Feeding. For surely a servant is not above his master - and neither are the 72.

You see, it's not their Office they bear. It's not my Office; It's not Pastor Harmelink's Office. It's the Office of the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. Yes, 72 men were sent out, but Jesus did not send out 72 individual lambs, for He is the singular Lamb that all 72 - and all Pastors of the Church - bear. Therefore it is God's voice absolving you of your sin. God's hand baptizing you at the font. God's hands and feet distributing the Lord's Supper. This is why the Church should always see her pastors as shepherds and pastors should always see themselves as servants - mess up the Biblical way of things and you've got a real snafu. For he who hears them, hears Jesus; he who receives them receives Jesus - and the opposite is true too - he who rejects them, rejects Jesus.

This is why the most dangerous place to be in the Church is often in the pulpit. Isaiah was sawn in two; Elijah was hunkered down in the wilderness and all but one of the apostle's died a martyr's death; the reason the church is built on the blood of the martyrs is because the blood of Christ redeems them - redeems you.

The message Jesus sends the 72 out to declare is not popular, some receive and many more reject. They were not sent out to preach purpose driven, pop-psychology sermons on all the Biblical principles you need to have a better 401k, a better sex life, a better BMI rating, or whatever. The Christian Gospel and Life are not about prosperity and success - at least not the way our old Adam counts it. And there wasn't even an Internet ticker to see how many lives were touched by the 72, no program, no guarantee, just a promise.
I am with you to the very end of the age...The Church plants the seed, the Church waters with a bold confession and daring mercy and God gives the growth where and when it pleases the Holy Spirit.
A promise and a proclamation:
Peace be to this house. The Kingdom of God is near. They were sent to heal the sick. and this healing and preaching of peace - what is it but feeding the hungry with good things, placing life itself within the mouths of sin starved people? What is meant by preaching other than feeding wolves the Lamb, whose very flesh and blood alone can satisfy?

In the same way the Kingdom of God comes near to us. His Word diagnoses, reveals and exposes our desperate need for His Kingdom, His healing and peace. We are more like wolves in sheep's clothing than innocent lambs. Just ask the person's reputation you devoured with your gossiping tongue. Just ask the family member you chewed out simply because things weren't going your way. Just ask anyone who has seen you bear your fangs until you got what you wanted the way you wanted it when you wanted.
Repent for the Kingdom of God is near. Repent - for the sheep's clothing you wear is really the emperors robe of your old Adam.
But fear not. There is peace when the Lamb of God comes to sit down with wolves. For though your sins were as scarlet, they are white as snow; though they were red like crimson, you shall become white as wool - better yet, Jesus' little lamb, ever glad at heart.
There is peace with God the very moment His absolution is spoken into your ears. There is peace with God as water and Word are splashed on your forehead marking you in His Name. There is peace with God as you eat His flesh and drink His blood for the forgiveness of your sins. This is how He turns wolves into sheep and sinners into saints. All this He does for you, so that you might receive all the good He is and has for you. Peace. Shalom. Wholeness. Forgiveness by the Lamb of God who was sent to the cross to bear your sin and be your Savior. He who hears you hears me. You have Jesus' Word on it.
So, if you were one of the 72...would you sign up?! Be honest...probably not. No way, send him, not me! But even Moses stuttered. Thankfully, Jesus was sending out the 72, not you. You are not the 72. Yes, He does send you out, but He doesn't call you to leave house and home, to travel without wallet or an extra pair of shoes or to live off the hospitality of others. You have your own calling - your vocation as father, mother, son, daughter, citizen, member of this parish, member of a board or committee, neighbor, worker, friend and on and on and on. These too entail risks and dangers and sometimes we don't feel like being there either.
But for you, the baptized, everything begins and returns to the altar. This is where everything is Given, for you. This is where God puts His amazing died-and-risen-for you love. You don't really come to Church to love God - oh, you may think you do - but not really. He's the one doing everything for you here. No, you love God by loving your neighbor. And where Jesus sends you He also promises to bless you - not prosper you, not make you an overnight success - but to be a baptized blessing unto others.
In your daily vocations, you are God's masks. And so you are called to the sacred tasks of wiping baby bottoms, driving kids to sport's practice, paying the bills, sitting behind a desk punching numbers for "the man," teaching ankle-biters and window-lickers and so on. This is your daily divinity. Wherever God has placed you, that's your vocation, your station in life - and you have dozens of them. Vocation is God's mask, His appointed means for providing people with what they need in daily life.
Therefore the policeman on a drug bust is doing God's work; the truck driver staying up long hours to deliver groceries so we could eat breakfast this morning is doing God's work; the soldier laying in a fox hole in the farthest corners of God's green earth is doing God's work. The government - rulers, legislators and magistrates - are God's ministers and deacons in the kingdom of the left.
God works through these means, especially through you, to serve the neighbor in need, to give a reason for the hope that is within you, to speak the peace of the Kingdom of God.
Today and always, the peace of His House is with you. His Kingdom is near and His healing Word and medicine of immortality are yours:
For the Sower sows His reckless love, scatters abroad the goodly seed, Intent alone that all may have the wholesome loaves that all men need.
Preach you the Word and plant it home and never faint; The harvest Lord who gave the sower seed to sow will watch and tend His planted Word (LSB 586:3, 6).
In the Name of Jesus + Amen.

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