Sermon for July 4, 2010

Luke 10:1-20 (6th Sunday after Pentecost—Series C)

Lutheran Church of Our Redeemer, Enfield CT

July 4, 2010

 In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

 Our text is the Gospel Lesson recorded in Luke 10:

 After 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. And 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.  Go your way; behold, I am sending you out as lambs in the midst of wolves. Carry no moneybag, no knapsack, no sandals, and greet no one on the road. Whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace be to this house!’ And if a son of peace is there, your peace will rest upon him. But if not, it will return to you. And remain in the same house, eating and drinking what they provide, for the laborer deserves his wages. Do not go from house to house. Whenever you enter a town and they receive you, eat what is set before you.  Heal the sick in it and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’ But whenever you enter a town and they do not receive you, go into its streets and say, ‘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.’ I tell you, it will be more bearable on that day for Sodom than for that town.

There is a sign on the right side of the church driveway as you leave the parking lot.  With a show of hands, how many of you know what that sign says?  It says “You are now entering the mission field.”  Do you treat that sign as a nice piece of decoration or one final inspirational thought before you head home?  Or do you take that sign seriously, taking to heart the fact of those words that you really are entering the mission field when you leave this place? 

Perhaps it’s difficult to think of the roads we drive every day, the neighborhoods in which we live and play, and the workplaces we go to as being the mission field for the Church.  Maybe you only think of the mission field as being in one of the 42 countries in which we have resident missionaries.  Maybe the mission field you think of is in Africa, like Kenya, or Europe, Asia, Latin and South America.  Certainly there are mission fields all over the world.  Every continent should be considered a field for the work of the Church’s mission to seek and to save the lost in Christ Jesus.  But for those of us who are not involved in foreign mission work, our mission field is right here in our backyard, and our front yard, too. 

Because Gospel preaching was greatly needed and the time was short, Jesus sent out a group of seventy-two missionaries.  They were to preach the Gospel of peace to the people in the regions of Berea and Judea where Jesus Himself was about to go.  The Lord referred to these places as great harvest fields.  He urged His disciples to pray diligently for the Father to send out more laborers into the world’s mission fields. 

Send—Pray—Send.  That’s the way of Christ to get the Gospel preaching of forgiveness and peace to where it is needed.  Send—Pray—Send.  That’s the way of Christ to get the Gospel message of salvation and life quickly into the mission fields.  “The Lord appointed . . . and sent them on ahead of Him.”  “Pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.”  Send—Pray—Send, you and me!—into the mission fields of the world, especially our town, our community, our neighborhoods right here, right now. 

What can we expect in these fields where the harvest is plentiful?  How does Jesus describe them?  In Matthew 9 we read, “When [Jesus] saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” (Matthew 9:36)  There is a need for the compassion and comfort of Jesus Christ in the mission field.  There are shepherdless sheep out there who are wandering lost, harassed by sin, death, and the devil.  They are helpless to find the bread of life and the living water of salvation.  They are without hope, without forgiveness, without everlasting life.  There are people with whom we daily have contact who are in great need of the peace and comfort of the Gospel.  They long to be released from their guilt.  They ache to be loved by the God who is love, mercy, and compassion, the God who sent His only Son to be their Savior.  You are now entering the mission field to have compassion on the lost sheep and to tell them about the Good Shepherd, Jesus Christ. 

What else can we expect in these fields where the harvest is plentiful?  We will find those hostile to us because of the Gospel message we share.  Jesus says in our text, “Go your way; behold, I am sending you out as lambs in the midst of wolves.”  Like the 72, you and I must be prepared by the Word of God for the rejection of the preaching of the Kingdom of God.  Our Christian witness will often be met with opposition and even persecution.  We will have to deal with the assaults of Satan as he seeks to hinder the harvest of souls for Christ. 

That right there may be enough for us to read the sign, “You are now entering the mission field,” and say, “Forget that!  Too dangerous.”  “Why should I put up with the ridicule, rejection, even anger?  Why would I want to suffer the consequences of announcing the presence of God’s Kingdom in Jesus Christ, knowing full well the world’s hatred and hostility to Christ?  Why should I stick my neck out there for other people who apparently just don’t care about the Lord?” 

Because Jesus stuck his neck out there for you and me.  He put up with the ridicule, rejection, anger, hatred, and hostility of all sinners, including us.  Much as we hate to admit it, we have also responded indifferently to God’s Word.  We have rejected God’s will for our lives.  We have done this and said that, thought things and desired things, knowing full well that it is wrong and against God’s Word.  We have, at times, chosen to live as if God is not the Lord of our lives.  There have been moments in each one of our lives where we have looked more like the lost sheep, harassed and helpless, than as lambs of God.  We have wandered from the truth of God’s Word.  We have ignored God’s ways and done things our way, believing we actually know better than the Lord.  Yet, how enriching it is to know that Jesus reached out with compassion through the Gospel to us!  How heartening it is to know that Jesus continues to reach out to us with His forgiveness and grace. 

Our Lord became the sacrificial victim for us on the cross and won our forgiveness with His death.  He rose again from the dead on the third day conquering death for us.  That’s the Gospel, the Good News of our salvation!  We are forgiven for all our sins of thought, word, desire, and action.  We are rescued from the power of death and the accusations of the devil.  In Holy Baptism, we receive this Gospel Word of forgiveness and life in and with the water.  In the Lord’s Supper, we receive this Gospel of forgiveness, life, and salvation in Christ’s true body and blood in, with, and under the bread and wine.  In the preached and read Word of God, we again receive the Gospel of forgiveness and peace.  Through the Gospel ministry Christ has established, Jesus continues to reach out to us in love and compassion with His forgiveness and His victory over Satan, sin, and death. 

Because we are in Christ Jesus and He is in us through the power of His Holy Spirit, we are able to enter the mission fields in a cross-like ministry of preaching the Good News.  Like our Lord, we become sacrificial victims of the Gospel that calls for a reversal of the world’s values.  In the name of Jesus, with faith in Jesus, in the power of Jesus, we take up the cross and go forth into the harvest because of the need for the Gospel to be heard and received in our neighborhoods.  We go forth in full knowledge of the world’s hatred, but in our proclamation we show that we are not ashamed of Jesus and His Word. 

Send—Pray—Send.  The Gospel is the power of God unto salvation for all who will believe.  You and I are sent by Christ, by virtue of our baptism, to be His emissaries and ambassadors.  Through our Gospel proclamation we bring the very living presence of Christ to redeem a lost and dying world through the forgiveness of sins won for the world by His death on the cross.  Bringing Christ to the world ensures that His kingdom will triumph!  Even though Satan may assault us, we do not need to be afraid.  Jesus’ death and resurrection guarantees that Satan will not harm us.  “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven.”  In other words, “This world’s prince may still scowl fierce as he will.  He can harm us none; he’s judged, the deed is done.  One little world can fell him.”  One little Gospel Word sends Satan running.  One little Gospel Word, by the power of the Holy Spirit, saves people from sin, death, and everlasting condemnation.  One little Gospel Word creates faith and new life in a lost sheep.  One little Gospel Word—the Word of Jesus’ death and resurrection—is what He sends you out to share. 

And then He asks you to pray.  He asks you to pray to your heavenly Father that He would use that Gospel Word of Christ to raise up a new generation of Christian believers so that Christ can send them out into the world with the same all-saving Good News.  “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.”  Realize that first of all this means that you are the answers to the prayers of God’s people in generations past.  They were sent out into the harvest and they prayed for a new generation of laborers in the Kingdom’s fields.  You are those laborers for Christ.  Now you are being sent with the precious message of forgiveness and eternal life through faith in Jesus.  Now you are asked to pray earnestly, to pray intently, to pray solemnly that the Lord would continue, through the power of the Gospel in Word and Sacrament, through the working of the Holy Spirit, to send another generation of Christians out into the harvest fields.  Send—Pray—Send. 

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 calleth: Rich reward He offers thee.

Who will answer, gladly saying, “Here am I, send me, send me.” 

By the power of the Holy Spirit, answer Him this day, and go forth in His power, love, forgiveness, and peace because when you leave here, you are entering the Lord’s mission field.  Amen.