Monday, October 19, 2009

The Kingdom of God has come near to you?

Pentecost 20
Luke 10 1-9
Bror Erickson

[10:1] 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. [2] 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. [3] Go your way; behold, I am sending you out as lambs in the midst of wolves. [4] Carry no moneybag, no knapsack, no sandals, and greet no one on the road. [5] Whatever house you enter, first say, 'Peace be to this house!'
[6] And if a son of peace is there, your peace will rest upon him. But if not, it will return to you. [7] 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. [8] Whenever you enter a town and they receive you, eat what is set before you. [9] Heal the sick in it and say to them, 'The kingdom of God has come near to you.' Luke 10:1-9 (ESV)

And [He] sent them on ahead of Him two by two, into every town and place where He Himself was about to go… Heal the sick in it and say to them “The kingdom of God has come near to you.” The kingdom of God has come near to you. Strange wording. The kingdom of God, the gospel, the forgiveness of sins embodied in Jesus Christ, he instructed the disciples to say it “has come NEAR to you.” It hasn’t yet come to them, it has only come near them. And this Jesus instructs the seventy two to say as he sends them on ahead of Him, ahead on the Journey to Jerusalem, where Jesus will die on the Cross.

This whole passage has been a bit of trouble for me. Trying to figure out what it is saying to us today. What it might have to say to you today. That’s because most of this passage is Jesus training pastors and missionaries. So I’m tempted when I read it. I’m tempted to make it about me. I’m tempted to pat you on the back and myself a little. I read about the saying, “peace be to this house,” and how if a son of peace lives there peace will rest on him. And I think about how loving and accepting this congregation has been over the years. The laborer deserving his wages, and I think about your generosity. And it says a lot about a congregation. Not all are so hospitable. And I think it would be quite easy to find fault with me if one wanted, and yet this congregation has developed a spirit of forgiveness that is an absolute joy to be a part of. I read the bit about not going house to house. Jesus telling his disciples to stay in one place. I don’t think you could make that a “stay forever in one place,” or you can’t ever take a call anywhere else. But I read that and the thought keeps coming back. Five years. It may not seem like a long time to you, but Tooele is now in second place for longest stay, and shortly becoming longest stay. For first 8 years of my life, I thought you were supposed to pack up, and leave every couple years. I kind of thought everyone was supposed to. For the first time in my life, I actually renewed my driver’s license. I have friends that graduated with me, who are on their second and third calls, and I’m not sure they have made it anywhere for all their work in getting another call. Sadly I have some friends that never made it a year. Yet, Tooele has become a bit like home for me, and I quite enjoy it here. I love this congregation. I love this community. Some days, the thought actually crosses my mind, that I was made to be a Lutheran Pastor in Tooele Utah, that it’s my purpose in life. But all the warm fuzzies aside, I don’t think this text is about atta boys. I just had to get those thoughts out, and off the table.
It is about pastors and what they are to do. The kingdom of God has come near to you. A cursory look at the term kingdom of God, and its use in the gospels, reveals that it is somewhat a synonym, that is it means about the same thing as salvation, the forgiveness of sins, heaven, and that it is also embodied in Jesus Christ, who is about to come to these villages and houses. Embodied in Jesus Christ, He is the kingdom of God. He is the forgiveness of sins. He is Salvation. These disciples say the kingdom of God has come near to you. You might say they are saying the kingdom of God is near. But it is not yet.
Jesus for one hasn’t entered their villages. Neither has He died on the cross, and shed His blood as a propitiation, atonement for our sins. These are things yet to come that will usher in the kingdom of God, that reigns in the forgiveness of sins. It is on the cross that our sins are paid for. It is from the cross that the forgiveness of sins pours forth over our hearts, creating that spirit of forgiveness here in this congregation that is so nice to be a part of. Oh we have had, and still have our problems, were human, were sinners, we will always have those. Not everything goes as well as it could. In many ways this congregation acts as a Sunday morning congregation. We don’t do much during the week at all, Advent and Lent we somehow pull off. I might be a little guilty of enjoying that myself, though. Though I do think some week night Bible Studies might be a good thing. We made plans for new facilities etc. almost four years ago, and that’s as far as those have gotten. But then again we have a new roof and a new parking lot. And we do grow little by little, evidence of the evangelistic character of this congregation I love. The kingdom of God taking ground heart by heart in Tooele, the kingdom of God flowing from the cross.
No longer does Jesus tell His pastors, His disciples to say the kingdom of God has come near you. Why, because the kingdom of God has come. The kingdom of God, embodied in Jesus Christ has died on the cross, and shed his blood for you so that your sins are forgiven. The kingdom of God is no longer walking around in some neighboring village preparing to die, and be raised back to life. No, the kingdom of God has become your propitiation, your atonement, the sacrifice for your sins. He has died, He was buried. He rose again from the grave, and at this point gave new instructions to his disciples
[45] Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, [46] and said to them, "Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, [47] and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. Luke 24:45-47 (ESV)

No longer the kingdom of God has come near, but in the name of Jesus your sins are forgiven, the kingdom of God is with you, reigning in your hearts through the forgiveness of sins. No longer roaming around the back alleys of Palestine, but ascended to the right hand of the Father, everywhere present, forgiving sins, and making himself known where ever the gospel is heard, and his sacraments are administered, the forgiveness of sins in the very body and blood of the kingdom of God. Even here at First Lutheran Tooele, taking ground one heart at a time, forgiving your sins.
Now the peace of God that surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord Amen.

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