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A Sermon for Those sent to Serve

“The Spirit of the Lord is Upon Me…so Why?”

Luke 4:14-30

 

In Jesus Name

As you give your lives as a living sacrifice to God, as you are equipped by the Holy Spirit’s gifting in your lives, never forget that for you as well is the grace, mercy and peace of God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ!

 

The Burden of the Call
We So want to see the evidence – to know it has been fulfilled!

It always amazes me, how the man made schedule of readings God is able to use.  The Sunday I am preaching to those apostello’d  – those sent not just by the LCMS but by God to share His message – the gospel reading is about Jesus taking up the burden of His being apostello’d – of His being sent.

Not that you and I have the same burden as Jesus did – or even that of the original 12 plus Paul – but we do share in that burden – you are as surely sent here as God sent them.  Whether you are GEO’s or doing life… err lifetime missionaries or accompanying spouse – or the children – you are all here because God has brought you here.

We look at Jesus taking up His burden as the primary, the first apostello. As He reads the prophecy that points out this very thing in Isaiah – hear these words, not just descriptive of His call – but of your call – because you are united to Him.

18      “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me

to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, 19      to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”


The year of the Lord’s favor – the year, when God descreed every debt cancelled, that every bill was paid in full – that everything is restored to its rightful place- including us.  The year of jubilee.

I know when I left the University I worked at – to enter “full-time” ministry, I thought of all those things happenin – all the people that would come to know Jesus, all the wonderful – even miraculous things that would occur – and how God’s people would praise Him… as they saw His love.

But then the questions arise

     Who are you – anyway?

     We even may think they are out to crucify you

          If they are – so what?

That was 15 years ago – nearly 20 if you count my time as a “part-time” minister.  Gonna be a little honest – I think more of my time has been like Jesus’ first service and sermon.  So excited to share God’s call to everyone to enjoy the freedom of Christ.. and I quickly fade as people start questioning me – and while they haven’t picked up stones yet……

It seems like that sometimes – not enough eyes that are blind to the gospel open them – or those who hear that they are free from the bondage of sin, stay in the familiar cells that they have become comfortable to – afraid of venturing out into the reality of God’s love.  Some have questioned me – not the – “aren’t you Joseph’s son”, but the same question, who are you to tell me I am a sinner in need of God’s grace?

I have to admit – I look at myself far more often than the message I am entrusted to bear.  I don’t always hear it for myself first, and so I find myself condemned in the eyes of those I am called to bring it to, those who it is so evident that they need it.

I end up feeling crushed – I end up wanting to go home – to find a little cabin in the mountains of new Hampshire, on a nice quiet lake with a awesome internet connected, and finish out my life canoeing, playing piano and guitar and World of Warcraft.

IT is then, that the law has afflicted me… and I need to be comforted by the very message I bring.  Having talked to a number of folk since I landed in Asia ten days ago, I am not the only one.

We have to know the news we bring… just not know – but know. We have to hear it from Him!

 

As good LC-MS Lutherans – we may have heard the phrase once or twice about proper Law and Gospel tension –  Afflict those comfortable in their sin, comfort those afflicted by their sin.

I get the feeling that most of you are as in need of that comfort as I am.  Ou wonder why wasn’t there 100 baptisms or even ten, or just one, to witness recently.  You want to blame someone, lest you have to blame yourselves. Our “Leaders” are really easy targets.  If only they would… then I could see the kinds of results I thought I would.

We who serve in the temple – so need to stop and remember that we are the temple – that God’s spirit is with us here – wherever here is.  The love we want people to know – we need to meditate on it, dwell in it, rest and be strengthened by it.

When we want to go on our way – to escape the crowd as Jesus did we need to realize He went on His way for us, and indeed through us!  As He walked through that crowd, the way He went, the way He chose to go on, was to that cross to did for us, that we could die with Him in baptism, that we could rise with Him.

That is why I am so greatful to end my stay this way – serving you – calling you to remember what I have failed to remember so many times.  That while we share Christ’s calling, we aren’t Christ.  The work doesn’t depend on us, or those holding us back.  No one can separate us from His love, for we are His called one, His loved ones.

When I proclaimed your sins forgiven, and when you proclaimed mine forgiven, did you hear that?  That you are cleansed of all your sin and all unrighteousness?

When we pray together the Lord’s prayer – do you hear yourself correctly addressing God as your Father?  Do you hear what Jesus has taught you to ask for, to pray for, knowing it is the Father’s will to give you all these things?

When you hear the words “for you” during the words of institution, do you get that it is for you… you?

Know this – you have been called and sent into… called and apostell’d to this place.  But you haven’t been sent alone, you have been sent with Him – not just His message – but with Him.

For you are His, as the song said – bought with the precious blood of Christ.

So as you serve – as you are tempted with loneliness, know that is never true… but you are in Christ… with Christ…

 

And he is keeping, guarding your hearts and minds in the glorious peace of God, the peace that goes beyond understanding, the peace that is the Father’s.

The peace that is yours.

AMEN?

The Not-so-Grim Reapers

The “Not-so-Grim” Reapers…

Luke 10:1-9

 In Jesus Name

 

May You find your lives reflecting God’s glory into the darkness, as you are sent out with the Father’s grace, mercy and peace, proclaiming God is really in control.What we Jesus tell you, that you couldn’t take?

Looking at the picture on the bulletin cover, of the two men reaping a harvest, and the simple lives of the Amish, a thought began to develop.

If Jesus was sending us out today, as we heard Him send the 12 out a few weeks ago, as He sent the 72 out in today’s gospel, what would He tell us we couldn’t take with us?

No cash, no credit cards, no ATM cards, probably not even scrip cards for gasoline or restaurants! He might even send us out walking, telling us for this journey we don’t need our cars!

He even might ban our electronics, no computer, no tablet computer, no {gulp} smart phones…

He’d instruct us to stay on task, not to get bogged down in texting each other about what we see and experience, no stopping at Starbucks to enjoy a Venti latte froze espresso cappuccino with pumpkin flavoring, while chatting with friends  No suitcase full of clothes and spare shoes – just you and your partner, hitting the pavement,

Move along now…..

If He sent us out with the Message, but forbade us to bring anything besides what we were wearing.. how would we react?

Why should our Load be Lightened?

It is quite easy to get the wrong impression as to why Jesus would separate the disciples from that which our minds think would benefit to their ministry.  We usually see this as a matter of sacrifice and obedience.  Are the seventy-two willing to suffer for Jesus, are they willing to demonstrate their faith by doing without?  I’ve read commentaries where this is hailed as a mark of the disciples devotion, as standard for those who would serve God.  Indeed, there is a sense of pride that can become involved, as people compare what they are willing to give up, what they were willing to endure.  Some even went as far as seeking pain, suffering, and embracing poverty, in order to prove they were holy…

We do not need such suffering to prove our holiness, any more than the young man last week had to sell everything he had, to gain eternal life, to be in fellowship with God.   We, like the young man, find ourselves in God’s presence, now!

But those things Jesus directed them to leave behind, if the reason isn’t to prove their faithfulness, why would He ask them to leave them behind….

unless they would get in the way of the harvest?

unless the disciples would depend on what they had, more than depending on who was with them.

God doesn’t ask us to give up what we need, as much as He would see us freed from what holds us back, as He would free us from what compels our dependence upon His providence.

If we are always looking to our credit cards statements;

if we are considering why our lunch bag is empty;

if we are wondering how far we can get on the nearly empty gas tank;

if we are distracted from our work by less important text messages;

then does the reaping, the harvesting get done?  Or do we focus on our grim situation, and become “grim” non-reapers?”

It is not really about the items we leave behind, it is the anxiety that they can cause, the stress of caring for what we have, or the concern caused by focusing on what we lack…that takes simple things and turns them into idols, into what we count on, more than we count on God

Yet – in Jesus commanding us to leave it behind, in recognizing that the work of the Harvest is His as our Lord, He is taking responsibility to make sure we have all we need.

Just as when He brought us to faith, and granted us repentance, we need to learn to depend on His care, on His Lordship.  It is as much about depending on Him, as it is about obeying Him.

Why do we have to depend on others?

The seventy two found the same challenge, when it came to where they would stay.

Many here would rather serve in the kitchen, then be the one hosted.  Part of it is how we are brought up, how we are trained – especially in the church.  The laws of hospitality, whether rigid in Jesus day, or the more rigid ones around today, are explicit.  We take the idea of being servants, and relegate it to the physical world, to preparing food and doing that which we think we must do, to appease our guests, to entertain them, and in doing so, sometimes we think we’ve done well…

So did Martha, and it was because Mary wasn’t holy enough, that Martha went to Jesus to complain!

While the 72 were sent to serve, they were just as much to depend.  There was to be a relationship here – where they were to feed these people spiritually, even as they were being fed.  They were to bring God’s blessings to these people, who would respond by blessing them.

It is not unlike our relationship with God – who brings us incredible blessings through the work of Christ, then gladly receives our worship and praise and yes – our sacrifices in response.  Each brings something to the relationship – not one party taking advantage of the other, but each being a blessing to each other!

It’s like the command to eat what is put in front of you – what if the host, the one to whom you are bring the word of life, give you a portion that is significantly larger, is noticeable better?  Can we receive blessings, even if people sacrifice greatly to give them to us?

It is about dependence, about being thankful; whether we are offered steak, or hot dogs, or just a piece of bread, whether it is a glass of the finest champagne, or a cup of water.  For if God led us to bring them the gospel and the hope of knowing Jesus, could He not lead them as well?  It is a difficult lesson, is it not?  It requires wisdom, and humility, for I think it takes more humility to be served, than it does to serve.

There is of course, another advantage to this – if we have no money, no food, no ability to sustain ourselves on the journey, neither can we simply run away when the journey gets too tough.  It’s hard to run, when you have no way to get away, no sustenance of your own?  There may be a time to leave – but surely that comes to both the one sent, and the one they were sent to, and the providence becomes something they work out together…as they abide together in Christ Jesus.

Provide therapy and ministry and tell them……

After helping the seventy two get focused on being sent, and ensuring that they brought nothing that would cause them stress and anxiety, but instead encourage their dependence on the Lord Jesus’s ability to provide for them, Jesus tells them what they are to do, as they bring God’s peace to households, and to people.

Heal the sick in it and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’

While that phrase is often translated, “heal the sick”, it by no means is referring just to physical illness.  The verb “heal” is from the word we get “therapy” from, and the word for ill is used not only for sick, but for any trauma that causes one to be weak, helpless, unstable, unable to stand on one’s own.

The disciples were to minister to whoever was broken, to serve whoever needed God’s love, and more importantly, God’s peace.  It was about assuring them that God was in charge, that He still reigns, that He does care and is present in their lives. It was about sharing with them the lesson that they were learning more and more on this missionary journey.

That to have faith, to trust in Jesus, is about depending upon Him.

To depend upon Him for fixing that which is broken,

To depend on Him, even as we pray as Jesus taught, for what we need daily…

To depend on Him to forgive our sins, and the sins of those who sin against us.

To depend on God to give us a way to escape temptation and to protect us from evil.

For that is what it means that the Lord of the Harvest has gathered us in His harvest, even as He sends us out to gather others.

For even as the 12 sent out include the clergy today, the pastors and leaders of the church, so the 72 represents all of us, the family of God, sent to serve, to gather, to reap, not grimacing, but rejoicing, for even if we go with nothing in the world’s eyes… we know what the Lord of the Harvest provides… what He tells us to bring people…
Our reaping, our work in the harvest field is never grim, no matter what we lack in the world’s view.  Rather, it is rich, for we dwell in and gather others into a peace that is beyond comprehension…

His peace.

AMEN?

 

The Heart of an apostolic disciple

Discussion/devotional thought of the day:

“After twenty centuries, we have to proclaim with complete conviction that the spirit of Christ has  not lost its redemptive force, which alone can satisfy the desires of the human heart.  Begin by feeding the truth into your own heart, which will be perpetually restless, as Saint Augustine wrote, for as long as you don’t place it entirely in God.”  (escriva)

My thoughts:

Over the years, in different denominations, I have that the proclaiming fo the gospel – the sharing of Christ’s mercy and love, is the responsibility of the pastor/priest/church planter/missionary.  It is they who are supposed to have the zeal, the wisdom and the knowledge that will lead the billions of people on this planet to Christ, and their preaching will be used apostolically by the Holy Spirit to cut open hearts, to cleanse the sin and repressed anger (as others sin) to bring to life and faith those who would know the promises found in Christ.
Pragmatically I have struggled with this – as some of the greatest apostolic hearts I have seen in young children – for they simply love God, trust in what is promised and tell people about that.  I’ve seen it in retirement homes, as eyes barely able to see the pages of scripture and voices confined to wheelchairs share their faith with those around them.  I’ve seen it in the jails, where a man in his seventies – who had heard a sermon that reminded him of God’s love – asked permission of the chaplain to share what he heard – for he was under the impression that he wasn’t allowed to, he wasn’t good enough, that God couldn’t use one like him.  Given permission to share the grace he knew – but struggled to accept – he filled the chapel the next night….
Anyone who walks with Christ, who trusts in Him in this life and for the next – has a treasure that grows as it is given out – it is the richest of treasures – for it gives that which we need.
We confess that the church is one, its holy, it is catholic (in other words it is more than us, or our congregation, or our brotherhood/denomination) and it is apostolic – but that doesn’t just mean it is founded on the teachings of the apostles,  It also means that we are part of the apostolate – all of us, those sent by God to be salt and light in a world that needs something to save and preserve it, to reflect His light into the darkest, slimiest, most putrid of places – lives those who sin… – and then rejoice as they are cleansed….we all pastors/priests/laypeople…. children, the elderly, the intelligent, the average, the simple – we all are sent into this world…

Lord – help us this morning – to realize who You are sending us, and give us the wisdom to reflect Your love and mercy to them… that they may be sure that they are welcome in your presence…. AMEN.

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