Over the years I have written several "book" or "booklets" and many, many, many newsletter and bulletin articles. Because the book market seeks writings to meet specific needs at specific times, my material has never been accepted. I have a tendency to write what is on my mind and so I am left with self publishing. So, with the encouragement from my wife and others, I am beginning this blog in order to put my "ramblings" "out there"! I hope you enjoy!
Please note that while my intentions are to use good grammar, because of the way in which some of the material presented here is presented (orally) the grammar and syntax might not always be the best English. Also note that good theology is not always presented in the best English so there may be times when the proper grammar rules are purposely broken.
Sunday, July 7, 2013
Rejoice That Your Names Are Written in Heaven - July 7, 2013 - Seventh Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 9) - Text: Luke 10:1-20
Many of us like the hymn “Hark! the Voice of Jesus Crying”? I believe that hymn is a favorite hymn of a lot of people. The question I want to ask you this morning is, “When you sing that hymn, do you really mean what you sing?” “Hark! the voice of Jesus crying, ‘Who will go and work today? Fields are white and harvests waiting, Who will bear the sheaves away?’ Loud and long the Master calls you; Rich reward He offers free; Who will answer, gladly saying, ‘Here am I, send him, send her.’” Well, actually the song goes, “send me, send me,” but I believe a lot of people mean, “send him, send her.” Last week we were apprised of the cost of discipleship, that is that true Christian discipleship means giving up our own lives in this world. This morning with the help of the Holy Spirit we will hear Jesus’ instructions to us in discipleship, first to pray, then to actually go out into the harvest fields.
Our text begins with the commissioning. we read verses one through three (v. 1-3), “1After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them on ahead of him, two by two, into every town and place where he himself was about to go. 2And he said to them, “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. 3Go your way; behold, I am sending you out as lambs in the midst of wolves.’”
Did you notice that the first thing that Jesus tells the disciples and us today is to pray for workers. You would think that to pray for workers would be an automatic thing, but it is not. I could put you on the spot and ask for a show of hands, but I will not do that, rather I ask you just to think to yourself, when was the last time you prayed for workers. When was the last time you prayed to the Lord to ask Him to move in the hearts of the men in our congregations to move them to attend the Seminary to become pastors? When was the last time you prayed to the Lord and asked that He would stir in the hearts of men and women to give up their jobs and careers to work in the mission field? When was the last time you prayed to the Lord to move your own sons or daughters to commit themselves to church work or to a career in church work? When was the last time you prayed for your own pastor?
The second thing Jesus says is “Go your way; behold, I am sending you . . . ” Jesus is not speaking to just the twelve apostles. He is also speaking to the seventy-two others He had appointed. Likewise, today, Jesus does not just say “go” to Pastors, He says “go” to all of us. We are all witnesses of Jesus, by what we think, and say, as well as by what we do. Here I might ask you, what do your thoughts, words and actions confess about what you believe? What do they confess about your faith in Jesus?
In verses four through sixteen (v. 4-16) Jesus outlines the conditions of the commission. We read, “4Carry no moneybag, no knapsack, no sandals, and greet no one on the road. 5Whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace be to this house!’ 6And if a son of peace is there, your peace will rest upon him. But if not, it will return to you. 7And remain in the same house, eating and drinking what they provide, for the laborer deserves his wages. Do not go from house to house. 8Whenever you enter a town and they receive you, eat what is set before you. 9Heal the sick in it and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’ 10But whenever you enter a town and they do not receive you, go into its streets and say, 11‘Even the dust of your town that clings to our feet we wipe off against you. Nevertheless know this, that the kingdom of God has come near.’ 12I tell you, it will be more bearable on that day for Sodom than for that town. 16“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.”
First, He says, Do not take anything with you, rather you are to rely on the Lord to take care of all your needs, including food and a place to sleep! That sounds simple enough, but it is harder than it sounds. How often do we really rely on the Lord, or are we like most people, like most good Americans, who have grown up with the American way of life and the American idea that a person has to make it on their own. We have to pull ourselves up by our bootstraps. We have learned from early on in our lives not to depend on anyone except ourselves. Yet, here in our text, Jesus to tell us to depend on Him. If we are really honest with ourselves we must confess that it is a most difficult thing.
Second, Jesus says to bless the house where you stay. These words are not difficult to understand, but how often do we find ourselves silently praying the Lord’s blessing on the home of someone we are visiting? I would suggest that more often than not, this thought and this type of thinking never crosses our minds. How wonderful our visit might be and how blessed we and our family and friends might be if we were to adopt such a routine, that is that before we enter anyone’s house or place of residence that we pray for the Lord’s blessings on them. And this is not something that would have to be elaborately done, we may simply pray a silent prayer in our heart and mind as we approach and knock on the door.
Third, and here Jesus is speaking specifically to those who are missionaries or are witnessing away from home, Jesus says to stay in one house. This command is to keep the missionary from going around town looking for the best deal. Again, this may not sound like it refers to us, but how often do we pick and choose our friends by what they have to offer to us, rather than by what we may have to offer to them?
Fourth, Jesus says to work the Lord’s work in that town. I think it is so interesting that we would rather put money in the offering basket for foreign missions, rather than realize that we have our own mission field right in our own backyard (as the saying goes). Please do not misunderstand me, I believe foreign missions are very important and should be very well supported. What I am saying is, too many times, too many people think that if they put their money in the offering basket for some vague foreign mission, one they hope they will never see, that this means they have done their duty and do not need to think about their own mission field in their own neighborhood. And all the while, how many people in our own neighborhood have never heard the Good News of Jesus and are lost.
Fifth, Jesus says, if you are not welcomed, shake the dust off your feet. If you ever find yourself being ostracized for your Christian faith, wipe the dust off your feet. Do not have any part in people who want no part in the Lord.
And sixth, Jesus says, that the listening is to the Lord, not to you personally. If what you say is rejected, do not take it personally. Many people have rejected the Word of the Lord and the Word of the Lord you bring will not be the first time it has been rejected. Always remember, it is the Lord who is working through His Word. You have not failed, the other person has merely rejected the Lord’s Word.
Moving on to the last section of our text, verses seventeen to twenty (v. 17-20), I like to call this the debriefing section. We read, “17The seventy-two returned with joy, saying, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in your name!” 18And he said to them, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. 19Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall hurt you. 20Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.’”
The disciples were so excited because they had power over Satan and all creation. I do not know why they were surprised, they had been with Jesus for a while and certainly had seen the miracles He had performed, but now, here they were doing the same miracles. What joy and excitement they must have felt.
But Jesus says, do not rejoice in the power that you have, rather rejoice in the fact that your names are written in the book of heaven. What is important is not the fact that you can do miracles, rather what is important is the fact the you have a part in heaven. Notice it is our salvation, earned by Jesus and His death on the cross, that comes first. It is our salvation, given to us, by grace, through faith, which motivates our response of faith to Jesus’ sending us out. We love, we witness, because He first loved us. And we have Jesus’ authority and promise, as well as the Holy Spirit working in us, so that we are disciples, so that we do live lives of faith and witness in our various vocations.
So, in good Lutheran fashion we ask, “What does this mean?” First and foremost, as we have run through our list of six “commands” of Jesus, we must confess that we fail miserably. We are not the people He asks us to be. With that confession, and hearing His words of forgiveness, we are encouraged, because He still sends us out with His authority and promise to be with us. The words of Jesus confirm the fact that the Holy Spirit works through the means of grace, the Word and Sacrament to bring us and all people to faith. Our faith is a gift from the Holy Spirit. At our Baptism the Lord, using the hands of the Pastor, washed us. He recreated us. He claimed us as His children. He put His name on us. He put faith into our hearts. As we continue to make regular and diligent use of the Means of Grace, He continues to strengthen and keep us in our faith. Faith is a gift from God.
From our text we are reminded that the Holy Spirit works through the external means of grace to move us to pray for workers. We do not naturally think about and remember to pray for others, especially for workers, for missionaries, for teachers, for pastors, for our district and synodical leaders. Praise the Lord that the Holy Spirit works this good work in and through us, so that we do remember and we do pray for those who work in the many and various areas of His Holy Ministry and the support systems for His Ministry.
From our text we are reminded that the Holy Spirit works through the means of grace to move us to go out and tell others. Our natural tendency is to tell other people about our new home, our new car, our new this or that, but, unfortunately, it is not natural for us to tell others about our faith. The Holy Spirit works in and through us so that we do tell others about our faith through our thoughts, words and actions.
From our text we are reminded that the Holy Spirit works through the means of grace to move us to rejoice that our names are written in the book of heaven. More important than the fact that the Holy Spirit works all good works in and through us is the fact that our names are written in the book of heaven. For us Christians, heaven is a present reality. Our short lives on this earth are really, a preparation for our time in heaven. We might say that Sunday Divine Service is choir practice for heaven. Praise the Lord that the Holy Spirit works in and though us so that we might rejoice that our names are written in the book of heaven.
When Christ comes and asks, “Who will go and work today?” With the help of the Holy Spirit, we boldly respond in faith and answer, “Here am I, send me, send me!” To Him be the glory, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.