+ In nomine Patris et Filii et Spiritus Sancti + Amen.
Text: Luke 10:3
Theme: Into the Fray
Dear friends in Christ Jesus,
True joy is a gift. It cannot be purchased, manufactured, or even taught; at least not in this life. There is no blueprint, no program; no protocol. The wealthy are often more discontented than the poor. The comedian is often more unhappy than his audience. The politician is often more pessimistic than her electorate. The doctor is sometimes even more unhealthy than his patient. Joy can only be gifted and received for the gift that it is.
Christian joy has a direct and inverse relationship with sin. Sin stimulates our sinful natures but winds up leaving us hollow and empty. The forgiveness of sins acquires for us true joy. But it is not obtained without struggle. Repentance is the gift of cutting ties with our self-interests (our idols) and trusting in the one true God. Of course it’s not logical or natural for the unbelieving world to see it this way. So the Christian enlisted in the venture of the gospel is necessarily sent out into the fray. In the contest we receive battle scars. You know what yours are. But Christ says, “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven.”1
Today Jesus sends out the 72 on their mission saying, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few.” 2 What is the harvest potential today? Many need to hear the gospel but how receptive will they be? The era of Christianity being a dominant influence in our culture is quickly fading. We can no longer assume even a common basis of morality. Cultural tenets about sexuality and marriage, the sanctity of life, the care of the earth and even the existence of humanity are being profoundly impacted by philosophies that compete with or directly oppose Judeo-Christian truth. This is nothing new but it is an increasingly radical departure from the recent past. The 72 were sent out like lambs among wolves. Should we expect anything different?
When God’s word is proclaimed the Holy Spirit convicts people in their sin and unbelief. His truth will cause confrontation and even offence. Christ makes it clear that if the 72 were not welcomed they were to serve warning, “Even the dust of your town that sticks to our feet we wipe off against you.”3 He gave the same advice to the apostles. One commentator explains it this way, “The dust from any place that does not receive their preaching is profane, to be shaken off, lest it stain God’s people and be brought into God’s house as they enter the presence of the ‘new temple.’”4 Exactly such action had to be taken in Acts 135. It was a preview of Jesus’ strong words later, “The one who denies Me before men will be denied before the angels of God.”6
Until the law of God does its work there is no appetite for the gospel. Those who are not sinners don’t need a Saviour. The mission of the church is not to refine the masses so that the effects of unbelief are more palatable and civilized. Unbelief is finally a denial of the consequences of sin. God’s intent is to crucify the sinful nature with all its attendant ways and grant new life in Christ. This is not a one-off action but the continual work of the law and the gospel in the lives of believers. Your sin is no more, but no less condemning than it was the day you were baptized.
We must learn to be measured in our judgments and sensitive in our approach. St. Paul says, “If someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted.7 The goal of spiritual care is always to restore and nurture. Remember what the Lord says, “There is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”8
Joy always accompanies the true reception of the gospel but the challenges of investing in those opportunities can be significant. A missionary in Africa was once asked if he really liked what he was doing. His response seemed shocking. "Do I like this work?" he said. "No. My wife and I do not like dirt. We have reasonable refined sensibilities. We do not like crawling into vile huts through goat refuse...But is a man to do nothing for Christ he does not like? God pity him, if not. Liking or disliking has nothing to do with it. We have orders to 'Go,' and we go. Love constrains us." His response may be a little crass, but it brings across an important point. Life isn’t all about personal happiness. Christianity involves a commitment to a greater cause. It requires that we get down into the trenches. It entails getting entangled in the muck and mire of people’s lives. It means constantly assessing whether or not we are just living by our own benchmark or whether we are living in Christ.
What exactly this entails is different for each individual and each congregation. It may incur financial cost. It may involve emotional turmoil. It may require the sacrifice of our preferred priorities. It may involve surrender of our short-term goals and long-term dreams. It may end in a complete transformation of who we are and what we thought we were all about. Though uncertain of what it may cost there is no doubt what it promises. It always rests on the promise of the Word. It always holds to the hidden mystery of our baptismal inheritance. It always awaits the advent of the Saviour. It always yearns to be clothed with life immortal. It continually takes leave of the past and advances into the future.
Are we only looking for fleeting happiness when God offers us enduring joy? Paul said today, “May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me and, and I to the world.”9 Christ died and rose again that we might have abundant life.
Here is joy- in the baptismal water that grafts one into a family where they will never be forgotten.
“Take they our life, Goods, fame, child, and wife;
though these all be gone, yet have our foes not won;
the kingdom ours remaineth.”10
Here is joy- in the absolution declared in the name of the triune God. The iniquities that haunt you and the failures that accuse you- they are wiped away, forgiven. You have a clean slate, here and now. Here is joy- in this morsel of bread and sip of wine that conveys to you the immortal body and blood of the crucified and risen Lord. All the riches in the world are not worth as much as these sacred delicacies. Drenched with the Spirit they convey to you the power and presence of the unremitting mercy of God.
Dear friends, believers now march into strong headwinds. But that means the opportunities are plentiful. You are Christ’s hands and feet to someone. All find their place under Christ the head. So, “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”11 Amen.
+ In nomine Jesu +
Seventh Sunday After Pentecost
7 July 2013
Reverend Darrin L. Kohrt
1 Matthew 5:11-12
2 Luke 10:2
3 Luke 10:11
4 Arthur Just, Concordia Commentary
5 See Acts 13:51
6 Luke 12:9
7 Galatians 6:1
8 Luke 15:10
9 Galatians 6:14
10 LW, 195
11 Hebrews 12:2