Cruce Tectum

Cruce tectum, hidden under the cross, a blog for Epiphany Lutheran Church, Dorr, Michigan

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Location: Moscow, Idaho

Sunday, July 04, 2010

Sixth Sunday after Pentecost

Sixth Sunday after Pentecost (C – Proper 9)
July 4, 2010
Text: Luke 10:1-20

Jesus says: “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). The Father sends the Son who in and with the Spirit sends His messengers. To hear the called and ordained servant of the Word speak that Word is the same as to hear Jesus, the Word made flesh, speak that Word. And to hear Jesus speak that Word is to hear the Father. Likewise, to reject the preacher when he preaches God’s Word, is to reject Jesus, and so to reject the Father. To reject the messenger is to reject the Word he proclaims. This is a very important point. On the basis of this we confess in the Small Catechism: “I believe that when the called ministers of Christ deal with us by His divine command, in particular when they exclude openly unrepentant sinners from the Christian congregation and absolve those who repent of their sin and want to do better, this is just as valid and certain, even in heaven, as if Christ our dear Lord dealt with us Himself.”[1] From this we learn why we have pastors. A pastor, in a very real way, stands “in the stead and by the command of” our Lord Jesus Christ. A pastor is Christ’s man in a particular place, His messenger, given to speak a very specific Word, a Word of life, the Word of Christ that forgives sins.

In addition to the Twelve Apostles, our Lord appointed seventy-two others from His wider circle of disciples. Like the Twelve, the seventy-two were to go before Him with a Word to speak. They were Jesus’ messengers, and they were to speak His Word, as His men. The Word they were to speak was very specific, a life giving Word, the Word of Christ that forgives sins. When they entered a house, they were to say, “Peace be to this house!” (v. 5). It is a Word of forgiveness, the same peace that is imparted to you from the altar when the called and ordained servant of the Word says to you, “The Peace of the Lord be with you always.” This is a Holy Absolution. When the seventy-two entered a town, they were to heal the sick and say, “The kingdom of God has come near to you” (v. 9). It is a Word of forgiveness. The Kingdom comes in the person of Jesus, who is here to forgive sins. When the people receive this Word with joy and in faith, the peace of the Lord rests upon them. Their sins are forgiven. The Kingdom of God comes. Jesus comes among them and dwells with them. But when that Word is rejected, the peace of the Lord does not rest on the people, but returns to the minister called to give it. The seventy-two were told that if they were rejected by a town, they were wipe of the dust of that town that clings to their feet, as a witness against those who rejected the Lord and His peace. But they were to solemnly warn the people: “Nevertheless know this, that the kingdom of God has come near” (v. 11). “Jesus has come, and you rejected Him. Woe to you! It will be better for infamous Sodom than for you!” Whenever the word “woe” is used in Scripture, it indicates death and damnation. To reject a faithful pastor and his ministry is to reject Christ, and so to reject His Father.

How thankful we should be as the people of God that God has not left us without His Word. He sends His servants. Now, this is not a personal admonition where I’m telling you that you need to appreciate me more, or something like that. After all, who am I? A poor miserable sinner. I fail and I disappoint and in general make a mess of things at every turn. Thank God the ministry in this place does not depend upon me as a man, or on my personality, or charisma, or even my talents and abilities. God has clothed me with an office, the preaching office, and He does all the work through His Word. But I, too, as a sinful man, am and should be ever so thankful for the office of the ministry which our Lord has given to His Church. By this office, I, too, am forgiven all my sins, especially when I attend pastors’ meetings where we enjoy the Divine Service together, and when I visit my father-confessor and hear from him, standing in the stead and by the command of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all my sins are forgiven. And I’ll tell you that one of the best things about vacation is that I get to sit in the pew for two weeks and simply receive the gifts from Christ by means of the hand of a brother pastor. But even here, today, though I’m clothed in this office and Christ is using me as His instrument (a great privilege, by the way!), I’m receiving, with you, my brothers and sisters, the gifts of Christ in His Word and Sacrament. So that we may obtain saving faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, He instituted the ministry of teaching the Gospel and administering the Sacraments. Through the Word and Sacraments, the Holy Spirit is given, who works faith when and where He pleases in those who hear the Gospel (AC V). And we are included in that number. Thanks be to God!

But the devil would not allow any ministry. He would thwart every minister of Christ. The Christian pastor is sent out, as were the seventy-two, as a lamb in the midst of wolves. Satan is always on the prowl, like a roaring lion, seeking to devour the pastor and seeking to devour the Christians to whom the pastor ministers. The unbelieving world cannot tolerate the pastor or the Christian, and always seeks to entice the Christian away from the faith, to reject the Word. And of course, to reject the minister and the Word he speaks, is to reject Christ Himself. And we are immersed in our own sinful flesh, which is all too willing to reject the minister and the Word and Christ. We have to be on our guard. We must pray God for His Spirit, for true faith, and for strength, because the peace of the Lord, His Holy Absolution, departs from the one who rejects the Word. But know this, the Kingdom of God has come near. This is a great comfort to those who are in Christ, but terrifying to those who reject Him.

So we need this ministry. We need the Word and the Sacrament continually so that we be sustained in this faith. For by the Word and the Sacrament we receive all the benefits of our Lord Christ’s suffering and death and resurrection. We receive the forgiveness of sins, eternal life, and salvation. We receive the Spirit, who creates and strengthens faith in Christ. We should therefore, as the Lord says, pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send laborers into the harvest field, to send pastors who will minister to us and to our children and to our children’s children, who will tend the sheep and seek the lost, speak the Word of the Lord faithfully, and rightly administer the sacraments. This is why our seminary scholarships and our prayers for those studying for the ministry are so important. Think of the men you have supported in preparation for this office just since I’ve been here: Rodney, Daniel, Sean, Alex, Eli, all men who are, or God-willing, will be, laborers for the harvest, Christ’s men in the field. That we support these men demonstrates our thankfulness to God for the ministry of the Gospel, and our fervent prayer that He would continue to provide us with faithful pastors. After all, the people of God are called to support their ministers physically and spiritually, regarding them as the Lord’s gift, as Paul says, “One who is taught the word must share all good things with the one who teaches” (Gal. 6:6), and our Lord Jesus says, “the laborer deserves his wages” (Luke 10:7). Yet understand, you don’t pay the pastor for services rendered. You pay the pastor and support his family, so that he can render service, ministry, faithfully speaking the Word of the Lord.

And as the ministry goes forward, Satan continues to fall like lightening. Serpents and scorpions, the devil and his demons, and all the power of the enemy are stomped underfoot. This is not by the power of the minister, or of the Church, but by the power of the Word, which is the power of Christ. For when the minister speaks, Christ speaks. And when Christ speaks, it is the very Word of the Father. All the power of Almighty God is in the Word, and Satan is cast out. Yet we do not rejoice that the spirits are subject to us, but that our names are written in heaven, in the Book of Life. Our names are written in Jesus’ blood. We know this because of the ministry of the Word.

So, dear brothers and sisters, though I will be gone from you for two weeks, I will meet you at the altar each Lord’s Day. There the same Lord Christ will feed us with His body and His blood. He will speak the same Word of life to us. Receive the pastors who come to you in my absence as you would receive Christ Himself. Hear them, for in hearing them, you hear Jesus, and the One who sent Jesus, our Father in heaven. Share all good things with them. And rejoice, as they proclaim the Gospel to you. Rejoice, for your names are written in heaven. In the Name of the Father, and of the Son (+), and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

[1] Luther’s Small Catechism (St. Louis: Concordia, 1986).

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