Cruce Tectum

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

Location: Moscow, Idaho

Sunday, July 07, 2013

Seventh Sunday after Pentecost

Seventh Sunday after Pentecost (C—Proper 9)
July 7, 2013
Text: Luke 10:1-20

            This morning our Lord bids us to “pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest” (Luke 10:2; ESV).  For “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few.”  He is telling us that the time of harvest is near, which is to say, Judgment Day is coming soon, the Last Day, the Day of Resurrection.  And so the proclamation of repentance and the forgiveness of sins in Christ must go forth from the Church to the ends of the earth, now, in this time of grace, while the time is ripe, before the end.  It should not be lost on us that by happy coincidence we have with us on the same day as this text our deaconess student Caitlin Worden who is embarking on mission work in Lima Peru (and I urge you to stay for her presentation during Bible Study), and that we will have with us this week at our VBS Nicole Barthel who is doing mission work in Vietnam.  I pray that we will be generous with our money for both, for certainly as we pray for the Lord’s work we ought to aid and facilitate it with our God-given earthly possessions.  But here in our text, our Lord specifically bids us pray that the Church be provided with pastors.  It is a prayer for the preaching of Jesus Christ and His Word.  The Church lives by the preaching.  She lives by every Word that proceeds from the mouth of God.  The Spirit goes out with the preaching, by the Word bringing sinners to faith in Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins and eternal life.  And so this is a preaching text.  Jesus sends out seventy-two disciples in addition to the Twelve Apostles.  These men will be the first Christian pastors, and they are in training here under Jesus, the Chief Pastor of the Christian Church.  They are to go two by two into every town to prepare the way for Jesus.  And they are to heal the sick and preach the good news: “The kingdom of God has come near to you” (v. 9).  This is actually a vicarage of sorts for them.  They are to go out and preach and do the work of the Lord, after which they are to return to Him for the remainder of their seminary training.  As they go, they are to preach Law and Gospel.  They are to bless those who receive them, but to shake the very dust off their sandals as a testimony against those who do not receive them.  The people of God are to provide for their earthly needs by their generosity, in thanksgiving to God.  And these preachers are to rejoice, not in their success in ministry (demons being subject to them in Jesus’ Name), but rather this, that their names are written in heaven (v. 20).
            We learn a lot about the pastoral office from this text.  And we also learn a lot about the responsibilities of the congregation from this text.  A pastor is to preach the Word in season and out of season,to reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching” (2 Tim. 4:2).  He is not sent to entertain or to inspire.  His call is not to scratch the itching ears and tickle the fancies of his hearers.   He is to faithfully proclaim God’s Word to all people, no matter the consequences.  Some will hear.  Others will reject.  And those who reject the Word will likewise reject the preacher.  So be it.  Our Lord told us to expect persecution.  The pastor is to live life under the cross, preaching the Savior who is crucified and risen, and suffering the crucifixion of his own flesh, that God may exalt him at the proper time.  Now, these seventy-two were given extraordinary gifts of healing which pastors today, in general, are not given.  Nevertheless, we see here that a pastor is to go to the sick with the good news that the Kingdom of God, Jesus Christ the Savior, has come near, with the eternal healing of the forgiveness of sins.  The pastor is to pray with the sick, certainly for physical healing according to God’s will, and if not, for the grace to accept this affliction from the Father for that person’s good, looking forward to the perfect healing of the resurrection.  By the Name of Jesus, the pastor is to cast out the wicked spirits that afflict people.  This happens, again, by the proclamation of forgiveness in Christ.  And the pastor is to live by faith, trusting in God’s provision through His people’s generosity, “eating and drinking what they provide, for the laborer deserves his wages” (Luke 10:7). 
            And here we see also the responsibility of the congregation toward their pastor.  To put it bluntly, yes, you are to give generously to the offering for the work of the Lord, and to provide for me and my family (in other words, my paycheck).  St. Paul refers to what Jesus here says when he writes, “In the same way, the Lord commanded that those who proclaim the gospel should get their living by the gospel” (1 Cor. 9:14).  Let the one who is taught the word share all good things with the one who teaches. Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap” (Gal. 6:6-7).  Some of you may know that I’m simply quoting the passages Luther includes in the Small Catechism Table of Duties: What the Hearers Owe Their Pastors.  And let me take this opportunity to thank you for your faithfulness in this regard.  It makes a pastor a little nervous to preach about this, but this, too, is the Word of Jesus Christ.  The greater responsibility of the congregation, however, over and above providing for the pastor, is to hear the preaching.  Not simply to let it go in one ear and out the other, but to hear it in such a way as to take it to heart, to ponder it, to be taken possession of by it, to keep it, to obey it, to be molded and shaped by it, and most of all, to believe it.  So the writer to the Hebrews entreats us, “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you” (Heb. 13:17).  He doesn’t mean that you should just do what I say because I say it.  He’s echoing what Jesus says to the seventy-two in our text: “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).  He’s pleading with you to hear and obey the Word of God.  And when you do, it brings great joy to your pastor.  Remember, I have to give an account for you before the Lord.  Nothing gives me greater joy than to see you here, hearing the Word, receiving the Body and Blood of the Lord Jesus, and living by those gifts in your daily vocations.  That’s the joy the writer to the Hebrews is talking about.  On the other hand, nothing grieves me more than when our brothers and sisters absent themselves from the gifts of Christ, fall away from the Church, and ultimately reject the Lord Jesus.  To say that this is of no advantage to any of us is an understatement.  It is catastrophic. 
            What is the answer to it?  More preaching.  More of God’s Word.  The answer is Jesus!  Jesus comes by the Word.  Jesus comes by His preaching.  And He comes to you today by these means, forgiving your sins and giving you His Spirit and eternal life.  So we pray in these gray and latter days before the final end time harvest that God would send out laborers into his harvest field.  We pray not only for Church workers and missionaries like Caitlin and Nicole, but also for men to take up the Yoke of the Office of the Holy Ministry, men like our seminarian Alex Lange and the others we’ve supported in their seminary studies through the years.  We do this because those who pray for the laborers also support the laborers.  That’s how God provides for them.  And that’s how God provides pastors to His Church.  That’s how God provides for the preaching of Jesus Christ to the nations of the earth.  That’s how the Lord of the harvest sends out laborers.  And their message should be always and everywhere the same: “The kingdom of God has come near to you.”  Jesus has come.  He has died for your sins.  He is risen from the dead.  In Him you have eternal life.  Repent and believe the Gospel.  The pastor is to say what Jesus says.  Nothing more and nothing less.  And by this preaching, beloved, you have life.  Rejoice!  Your name and mine are written in heaven.  In the Name of the Father, and of the Son (+), and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.  


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