Tenth Sunday after Pentecost
Tenth Sunday after
Pentecost (C—Proper 12)
July 28, 2013
Text: Luke 11:1-13
pray? I mean, God already knows what we
need. God already knows what He’s going
to do. He already knows what is best. So why pray?
Well, part of the answer is as simple as this: Because He says so. He commands it. It’s your Christian duty to
pray. You have not been given to know
all the whys and wherefores of prayer.
You are simply commanded to do it.
Christians pray, and if you never pray, that’s a sin. Repent, and then do it. You also pray because God tenderly invites
you to do so. Ask, seek, knock, as Jesus
bids you (Luke 11:9). And, of course,
there is the promise that God hears your prayer, and will answer: “For everyone who asks receives, and the one
who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened” (v. 10;
ESV). “(C)all upon me in the day of trouble,” God invites, “I will deliver you,” He promises (Ps.
50:15). And so, you do, trusting that He
is both able and willing to help and to save you. The proof is Christ crucified for your
sins. If God did not spare His own Son,
but gave Him up for you and for all, how will He not also along with Him
graciously give you all things (Rom. 8:32)?
Christ is God’s yes to your prayers, and the guarantee of His good will
toward you. So you come before the
throne of God through and in Christ, covered by His blood, with confidence in
the God of mercy who calls Himself “our Father,” your Father, the Father of all
who are in Christ Jesus.
is the model for us to follow in prayer.
Often in the Gospels our Lord goes off to a desolate place to pray, to
commune with His heavenly Father, and He does this for His strengthening and to
pour His heart out to His God. Prayer is
communication with God. And it is a two-way
conversation that begins with God’s speaking to us in His Word. Then, on the basis of that Word, we respond
with our petitions, intercessions, thanksgivings, and praise. In some sense, prayer is simply talking to
God. Why pray? Well, why do you talk to your spouse? Why do you talk to your parents, your family
members, your friends? Because that is
what you do in relationship to others.
You communicate with them. You
listen to them. You respond to
them. So with God. And so it is that we find Jesus at the
beginning of our reading from the Holy Gospel praying in a certain place, and
His disciples come to Him with a request.
They ask on behalf of all of us disciples: “Lord, teach us to pray” (Luke 11:1). And indeed, the Lord Jesus must teach us to
pray if we are to pray in a way that is God pleasing. This doesn’t come naturally to us, fallen in
sin as we are. But the Lord opens our
lips, that our mouths may declare His praise (Ps. 51:15). He gives us His Spirit, who prays for us and
with us and in us, and brings our petitions before the throne of God with
groans too deep for words (Rom. 8:26).
here in our text, the Lord Jesus graciously gives us the very words to
pray. Here we have the Lord’s Prayer,
which is recorded in two places in Holy Scripture. The expanded version with which we are more
familiar is recorded in Matthew Chapter 6 (vv. 9-13). Here in Luke our Lord gives us a slightly
shorter version. And don’t let that
bother you. Our Lord taught this prayer
on more than one occasion, not always using the exact same words. It is important for us to have a common
version of the Lord’s Prayer that we all know by heart so that we can always
pray it together, but of course we pray other prayers that are God-pleasing,
and all of them in one way or another express the same petitions that we find
here in the prayer our Lord teaches us.
The Lord’s Prayer is the most perfect prayer on earth because it comes
from the lips of Jesus, and He places it upon our lips and in our hearts. The Lord’s Prayer is the most complete prayer
on earth, encompassing every possible need of body and soul. So when you don’t know what to pray, pray the
Lord’s Prayer, and you will have prayed for everything you could ever
need. I’m not suggesting you don’t pray
other prayers too. You can make your own
prayers. Especially pray the
psalms. Pray the hymns and collects of
the Church and the Catechism prayers.
But definitely pray this one.
Luther suggested you pray it in the morning when you arise, before and
after every meal, and in the evening before you go to bed. This is not a law, but the point is simply
that you pray it often, because you need it, and because it pours out your
heart and soul to God in a way that no other prayer can. And, of course, it is the very Word of God,
so that even as it brings your petitions before the Father, it also feeds you
as a means of grace. Here we call upon
God as “Our Father,” recognizing that He has redeemed us in Christ to be His
own children (that’s the reality of our Baptism: God’s own Child as we
sing). We are His true children, and so
we come before Him as any child comes before his earthly father, making our
requests in faith that God will do what is best for us. And we pray for and with all the other
children of God in the holy Church, thus we say “Our Father,” not “My
notice all the things we ask of Him in this prayer. We ask that His Name, which is already holy
in itself, be hallowed (kept holy) among us also (Luke 11:2), both in terms of what
we say about God (our doctrine) and how we live our life, which also reflects
upon our Father. We ask that His Kingdom
come (v. 2). We know it will, even
without our prayer, but we pray that it would come among us, that God would
give us and all others His Holy Spirit, “so that by His grace we believe His
holy Word and lead godly lives here in time and there in eternity” (Luther’s Small Catechism [St. Louis:
Concordia, 1986]). In Matthew’s version,
we also pray that God’s will be done (Matt. 6:10), that God would break and
hinder every evil plan and purpose of our three main enemies: the devil, the
world, and our own sinful flesh. We ask
that God would give us each day our daily bread (Luke 11:3), which, of course,
He graciously does for us and for all people even without our prayer. But we pray that He would lead us to
recognize this, look to Him for every good gift, and give thanks to Him. Here we pray for all the needs of the body,
and the list is endless: “food, drink, clothing, shoes, house, home, land,
animals, money, goods, a devout husband or wife, devout children, devout
workers, devout and faithful rulers, good government, good weather, peace,
health, self-control, good reputation, good friends, faithful neighbors, and
the like” (Small Catechism). If you’ve prayed that petition, you’ve prayed
for everything you need for this body and life.
Of course, we pray also that God would forgive our trespasses, our sins
(v. 4), because we don’t deserve any of it, any of the things for which we
pray, but we know that He gives them to us by sheer grace in Christ Jesus. And we, having been thus forgiven, will
surely forgive everyone who sins against us.
So also, we pray for God’s assistance against temptation (v. 4), that He
would “guard and keep us so that the devil, the world, and our sinful nature
may not deceive us or mislead us into false belief, despair, and other great
shame and vice. Although we are attacked
by these things, we pray that we may finally overcome them and win the victory”
(Small Catechism). Finally, in Matthew’s Gospel, our Lord
teaches us to pray for deliverance from the evil one, the devil (Matt. 6:13),
and of course from all the evil he would bring upon us. In this petition we pray for divine rescue
from all that would bring us spiritual and bodily harm, and that in the end we
would have a blessed death, which is to say, that we would die in the faith of
Jesus Christ and so go to be with Him in heaven. To all of this the Church adds her doxology:
“For Thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever and ever,” and
her hearty “Amen,” which means “yes, yes, it shall be so” (Small Catechism).
it is so, because our Lord promises. Oh,
it is true, God does not give us exactly what we pray for as we have prayed
it. Imagine if He did that. We would be in a world of hurt. But He always answers, and He always
responds. He always delivers exactly
what we need, when we need it, in the way we need it, for our good, even if it
be a cross. We ask and we receive. We seek and we find. We knock and the door is opened. Because God opens the rich storehouse of His
treasures and pours out upon us grace upon grace. He gives us His Spirit. He gives us Christ. And in Christ, we have all things.
do our prayers actually change anything?
Abraham seemed to think so in our Old Testament lesson (Gen.
18:17-33). And though the city was not
spared, for there were not even ten righteous people in it, Lot and his family
were saved. St. James, the brother of
our Lord, writes: “The prayer of a
righteous person has great power as it is working” (James 5:16). He learned that from the Lord Jesus Himself. It is true, God already knows what we need,
what He is going to do, and what is best.
But in His infinite wisdom, which so far surpasses our own that it
appears to us to be foolishness, He has given us to participate in His activity
by our prayers and intercessions for ourselves and for one another, for the
Church and for the whole world. That is
our role as the royal priesthood chosen by God to proclaim the excellencies of
Him who called us out of darkness into His marvelous light (1 Peter 2:9). Why pray?
Because it is your privilege as God’s redeemed children, because it is
His gift to you, because it is powerful because God says it is, and you believe
the promise. And when you pray, you pray
as one covered by the blood of Jesus Christ.
You come before the throne of grace covered by Christ, clothed in His
righteousness by virtue of your Baptism.
God will not refuse you. “For
when any good Christian prays, ‘Dear Father, Thy will be done,’ God in heaven
answers, ‘Yes, dear child, it will most certainly be done despite the devil and
the whole world’” (Luther’s Large
Catechism [St. Louis: Concordia, 1978] p. 83). In the Name of the Father, and of the Son
(+), and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Ninth Sunday after Pentecost
Ninth Sunday after
Pentecost (C—Proper 11)
July 21, 2013
Text: Luke 10:38-42
things are necessary in this earthly life, things that are good and
God-pleasing. But these things become
evil when they keep us from Jesus and hinder us from hearing and learning God’s
Word. For example, jobs are necessary,
good, and God-pleasing. If people didn’t
have jobs, the world wouldn’t work.
There would be no one to provide necessary goods and services for
others. No one would have any money,
food, clothing, or shelter. You couldn’t
provide for yourself and for your family.
We’ve had a great lack of jobs in our country in recent years, and it’s
hurt us. I think we can all agree that
jobs are a good thing. St. Paul agrees,
when he writes by inspiration of the Holy Spirit, “If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat” (1 Thess. 3:10;
ESV). A job is a gift from God, a means
of His provision for you and for your neighbor.
But “Man shall not live by bread
alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matt.
4:4). When your job keeps you from
sitting at Jesus’ feet and hearing His preaching, that otherwise good gift of
God has become a tool of the devil. In
fact, it has become an idol for you, because you have feared, loved, or trusted
it more than you fear, love, and trust in the one true God, Father, Son, and
Holy Spirit. It works this way with
other things as well. Relationships
among people, family, friends, community, are good gifts of God. They are necessary and God-pleasing. God said from the very beginning that “It is not good that the man should be alone”
(Gen. 2:18). God created us to be in
relationship. But when those relationships hinder us from hearing Jesus Christ
and receiving His gifts, what is otherwise good has become evil. It even works this way with work in the
Church. For example, as a pastor, there
are so many times I’m so concerned to get a sermon on paper that I fail to
listen to the Lord Jesus and what He has to say to me in a particular
text. God forgive me. I’ve forgotten the one thing needful. It happens among Church members, too. There are so many things that need to get
done here at Church. They are necessary,
good, God-pleasing things. Sometimes,
though, we get so busy doing those things that we forget to stop and sit down
at Jesus’ feet and listen as He speaks directly and intimately to us in His
Word. Or our mind is on other things
that need to be done at home, or once again, at work, or whatever it happens to
be. And we forget that the reason for
this assembly, the reason we come to Church in the first place, the reason this
place called Epiphany Lutheran Church exists, is to hear Jesus and His Word, by
which He forgives all our sins, and gives us eternal life.
is distracted with much serving (Luke 10:40).
Jesus is her honored guest. This
calls for a feast. She has invited all
her friends. And in this, of course, she
is a model to us. We ought to invite all
our friends to the Feast where Jesus is present, here, in the Divine
Service. But she is anxious and troubled
about many things (v. 41). There is all
the food preparation, the table to set, the house to be tidied, the guests to
be attended, and all the things that go along with hosting a meal, being
hospitable. Martha is a good
worker. She has experience in this. But by all rights, she should also have
help. Where is Mary, her sister? Why, she’s just sitting there, making Martha
do all the work. It isn’t right. It isn’t fair. And Jesus, don’t you care? Tell her to help me (v. 40). Now, Martha has a point, don’t you
think? There is serving to be done, and
someone has to do it. Many hands make
for light work. It is necessary, good,
and God-pleasing when Christians help and serve. But there is something infinitely more
important, and Martha has forgotten. One
thing is necessary (v. 42). Mary has
chosen the good portion, the one thing needful, and it will never be taken away
from her. Mary is sitting at the feet of
the Lord Jesus, hearing His Word, being forgiven her sins, receiving the
eternal life that only the Lord Jesus can give.
that Martha was doing was good. But in
hindering her from sitting at Jesus’ feet and hearing His Word, it became
evil. It is good for Mary to help her
sister Martha in serving the guests. But
not in place of hearing Jesus’ Word.
Mary gets the order right. Hear
God’s Word and receive the gifts of the Lord Jesus. Then go serve on the basis of that Word and
in the new life given by God through that Word.
You can serve and do all sorts of necessary things apart from God’s
Word, but they will never be good and God-pleasing. In fact, they will be evil, sinful in God’s
sight, and damaging to your soul. On the
other hand, gladly hear preaching and God’s Word, and on the basis of that
Word, go and do those same necessary things, and now they are good and
God-pleasing, bathed in the blood of Christ, truly good works that glorify God
by serving our neighbor. What makes the
difference is faith in Christ, which is given by His Word. That which is done in faith pleases God, not
because of the work, but because of the faith.
Jesus gives all the benefits of His suffering, death, and resurrection
by His Word. Faith receives those
benefits and makes them its own by clinging to the Lord Jesus. And that faith, then, is always active in
love and service.
have been prone to mess up the order of all this from the beginning and
throughout the Church’s history. As a
matter of fact, the Reformation was all about this very thing. The problem that gave rise to the Reformation
was the mistaken belief that the most important thing, the one thing needful,
was not to hear Jesus and believe His Word, but to do good works, and in this
way the Christian is saved. Not so! It’s not your action that saves you. It’s not your good works that save you. God saves you. Jesus Christ saves you. He does it all. He fulfills the Law for you. He dies for your forgiveness. He is raised for your justification. And so the one thing needful is to receive
all of that from Him. And He gives it,
freely and generously, in His Word and Sacraments. So the one thing needful is to sit at His
feet and hear Him. Then go serve. That will naturally follow. But your salvation is not based on your
serving. Rather, your serving is based
on your salvation, which your Lord Jesus Christ gives you totally apart from
your serving and before your serving, by His
serving Himself all the way to the death of the cross for you and for all
what things in your life hinder you from sitting at the feet of Jesus Christ
and hearing His Word? Family? Friends?
Your job? Fun in the sun? Your pillow?
Even serving your neighbor in their time of need? Even working here at the Church? Repent.
These are all necessary, good, and God-pleasing things. We should do them, and we should rejoice in
them. But when they hinder us from
sitting at Jesus’ feet and hearing Him, they are evil. You have to understand that when Jesus and
His Word serve as the basis of your life, everything else falls into its proper
place. “(S)eek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness,” which is to
say, hear and believe Jesus in His Word, “and
all these things will be added to you” (Matt. 6:33). When Jesus and His Word are just some
subordinate part of your life, nothing is in its proper place. Repent.
And hear the Word of the Lord.
All your sins are forgiven, covered by the blood of Jesus Christ. Your mistaken priorities, your thinking that
there are things more important than being here in God’s House and hearing
Jesus, your resentment against your neighbor for not helping you the way you
think they should, your resentment against Jesus for seeming not to care when
nothing could be further from the truth, all of that is taken by the Savior,
Jesus Christ, and nailed to the cross in His flesh, where it dies with
Him. Your debt to God is paid in
full. You are free. And you have eternal life. For Christ is risen. And He is here. He is here to speak His Word to you, His
justifying, life-giving Word. Sit at His
feet and revel in His gracious speech, by which He imparts to you His gifts. And there’s something else. You don’t give a Feast for Jesus. He gives a Feast for you. Here He sets the Table with the richest of
foods, the true treasure, His body and blood given and shed for you, under
bread and wine, for your forgiveness and life.
So don’t miss it. Not for any reason.
For this is all gift, freely given, for you, the one thing needful, the
good portion, that shall never be taken away from you.
are many things necessary, good, and God-pleasing in this life. But only one thing is needful for the rest to
fall into place. That is Jesus Christ. Hearing His Word, you have Him as your
Lord. Having Him as your Lord, all
things are yours, which is to say, you have everything you need. In the Name of the Father, and of the Son
(+), and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Eighth Sunday after Pentecost
Eighth Sunday after
Pentecost (C—Proper 10)
July 14, 2013
Text: Luke 10:25-37
to the righteous and holy Law of God, you and I should be like the Good
Samaritan in the parable our Lord here tells us. That is to say, we should give our very selves
and all that we have for the sake of our neighbor in need. And understand, that is precisely what the
Samaritan does. Remember the utter
hatred between Jews and Samaritans at the time of Jesus. This is a good Jew lying there, having been
beaten by robbers almost to the point of death.
The priest and the Levite, fellow Jews, religious authorities no less,
consider him so far gone that it isn’t worth stopping and becoming unclean to
help him. He’s as good as dead
anyway. But along comes this hated
Samaritan, and what does he do? He has
mercy. He has compassion. He stops to help. This is where we get our custom of calling
someone who stops on the road to help a fellow traveler a “Good
Samaritan.” Now, the Samaritan doesn’t
know if the robbers are still in the area.
He risks life and limb for his mortal enemy, this Jew lying on the
road. Other Samaritans would probably
say, “Good, let him die.” And the Jews
would say the same thing about a Samaritan under similar circumstances. But not this Samaritan. He goes to the man, stripped, beaten, and
half-dead, and he binds up his wounds.
He pours on oil and wine to sterilize and medicate. He puts him on his own animal and takes him
into town, to an inn, and nurses him for the night. This, too, is a great risk for the
Samaritan. That’s like an Indian in the
Old West bringing a half-scalped cowboy into town on the back of his horse. Dangerous business. In the morning, the Samaritan goes to great
expense in giving the innkeeper two denarii (two days’ wages for the average
laborer) to take care of the injured man, promising that he will repay any
additional expenses when he returns. Can
you imagine this? All this effort, all
this expense, all this sacrifice? Yet
this is what you are supposed to do as a Christian, as a child of God. You are to risk life and limb for your
neighbor. You are to provide personal
care for your neighbor in his time of need, sparing no expense for his
good. You are to give all your possessions,
your very self for his sake. You are to
die for him, if that is what is required.
And not just for the neighbor you like.
Not even for the neighbor for whom your feelings are neutral. You are to do this for the neighbor who hates you, for your mortal enemy. Can you do
it? Have you done it? That’s what God’s Law demands of you. That is what it means to love God with all
your heart, soul, strength, and mind.
You love God by loving your neighbor.
To do as the Good Samaritan does in our text is to love your neighbor as
yourself. Have you? Because this is what you must do if you are
to inherit eternal life by doing. You must be perfect, as your heavenly Father
is perfect (Matt. 5:48).
you aren’t. You have not loved your
neighbor as yourself. You have not given
all that you are and have for your mortal enemy. You’ve driven past flat tires and accidents
and looked the other way, hoping someone else will be the Good Samaritan. Or even if you have stopped, you’ve passed by
others in need. You’ve known people who
are hungry, and you’ve failed to feed them.
You’ve known people who are sick, and you’ve failed to visit them. If inheriting eternal life depends on you
doing as the Good Samaritan does, you’re doomed.
here’s the good news: Jesus is your Good
Samaritan. He does what you cannot
and will not do, and He does it for you.
Too often this text is preached in sermons and taught in Sunday School
as if you, the hearer, the reader,
are the Good Samaritan. That makes this
text all Law, and you know where that gets you?
It damns you. Yes, you should do
these things, but you don’t, so you’re sunk.
But thank God, you’re not the Good Samaritan. In fact, if you only had eyes to see, you
would realize that you are the man, stripped and beaten and half dead, lying in
the ditch. And you’re a mortal enemy of
the Good Samaritan, Jesus Christ. That’s
what you confess when you say that you’re born spiritually blind, dead, and an
enemy of God. You don’t want His
help. But He helps you anyway. He helps you where even the model citizens,
even the religious elite, cannot and will not.
He goes to you where you are, lying in a pool of blood, the dust of the
earth clinging to your wounds. He binds
you up with His Absolution, forgiving all your sins. He pours out upon you the oil of His Spirit
and the wine of His blood. It is the
medicine of eternal life. He takes you
to the inn of the Holy Christian Church and tends to you at great expense, His
very life. And He commends you to an
innkeeper, your pastor, and in this way He Himself continues to care for you,
with the promise of His immanent return.
by the way, He does fall into the hands of robbers. He is stripped and beaten and crucified all
the way dead for your salvation, for the forgiveness of your sins, for your
eternal healing. He’s killed because He
stops to help you, because the Son of God took on flesh of the Virgin Mary and
became one with you, taking your sin and death into Himself and nailing it in
His flesh to the cross. He was and is
utterly hated by Jew and Gentile alike, by the whole world that does not know
Him. And He dies for them. He dies for you. It does happen among men, even among
unbelievers, that someone risks his life for another, even dies for another, because
he considers that person somehow worth the ultimate sacrifice. We think here of our military or our police
officers, those who protect us because they love their country and their
people. But here is the divine mystery
of God’s mercy in Jesus Christ: “God
shows his love for us in that while we
were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8; ESV; emphasis added). Christ dies for worthless, ungrateful,
hateful sinners. Christ dies for you.
And in this way, He redeems you for Himself. You are baptized into Him. All of His righteousness, His good works, His
being the Good Samaritan for you and for others, all of that is given to you as
a gift in Baptism, credited to your account.
God looks at you as if you had done all that. Christ fulfilled the Law for you. And then He died on the cross for your
failure to keep God’s Law, your failure to love God with all your heart, soul,
strength, and mind, and your neighbor as yourself. He died in your place, taking your punishment
upon Himself, to pay your debt, to suffer God’s justice, that you might be
justified. And He is risen from the
dead, God’s Absolution of the whole world, the forgiveness of your sins, that
you might have eternal life. And,
indeed, you have new life now, already, in your Baptism into Christ, a life
that is hidden with Christ in God, ready to be revealed on the Last Day, but
fully yours now, so that you do love God, and you do love your neighbor, and
you can give yourself in service to your neighbor in his time of need.
Jesus says to the lawyer and to you at the conclusion of His parable: “You go, and do likewise” (Luke
10:37). Go and show mercy. Go and tend your neighbor’s wounds. Visit the sick. Feed the hungry. Give money to your neighbor in need. Take him on as your own beloved burden, as
St. Paul writes, “Bear one another’s
burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ” (Gal. 6:2). Confess Christ to your neighbor. Bring him into the inn of the Holy Christian
Church. And die for your neighbor. Sacrifice yourself. Not because your neighbor is good, but
because Christ is good, and has sacrificed Himself for you. You see, you do this now not in order to
merit the inheritance of eternal life.
Christ has taken care of all of that by His death and resurrection. You do this because you already have eternal
life in Christ. Free of the demands and
threats of the Law, you are free to love and sacrifice and be a little Christ
to your neighbor. Do so joyfully, knowing
that with the gift of Christ, no sacrifice will deplete you. You will never be spent. You will never run out. The more you give, the more you will receive,
because Christ is a never failing fountain of good, who continually fills you
is your Good Samaritan, and He’s rescued you from sin and death, from the devil
and from hell. God “has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light,”
as St. Paul writes in our Epistle (Col. 1:12).
This is all by grace, all through Christ our Savior. “He
has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom
of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins”
(vv. 13-14). And so, now, we are called
to be full members of God’s Kingdom, heirs of His life, which means we are
called to love God by loving our neighbor.
Such is the joyous and free privilege of those Baptized into
Christ. In the Name of the Father, and of
the Son (+), and of the Holy Spirit.
Seventh Sunday after Pentecost
Seventh Sunday after
Pentecost (C—Proper 9)
July 7, 2013
Text: Luke 10:1-20
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).
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).
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
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.