Sunday, June 18, 2017

Laborers for the Kingdom

Matthew 9:35-10:8
35 And Jesus went throughout all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction. 36 When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. 37 Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; 38 therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”
10:1 And he called to him his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every disease and every affliction. 2 The names of the twelve apostles are these: first, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother; James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother; 3 Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; [1] 4 Simon the Cananaean, and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him. 5 These twelve Jesus sent out, instructing them, “Go nowhere among the Gentiles and enter no town of the Samaritans, 6 but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. 7 And proclaim as you go, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ 8 Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, [2] cast out demons. You received without paying; give without pay. (Matthew 9:35-10:8 (ESV)
“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.”
It’s at this time of year, when the school year is finished. The leases on the apartments in Ft. Wayne and St. Louise are up for renewal that the Lord sends laborers into his harvest. He does it at other times and in other places too. But I imagine that the reason this text comes up here today is that in our church body, in our Synod this is one of the more common times for the harvest to receive new laborers. It will be good to remember them in our prayers as we pray “thy kingdom come.” His kingdom that “comes when he gives us his Holy Spirit, so that by His grace we believe his holy word and live godly lives here in time and there in eternity.” It is this kingdom that Jesus Christ refers his apostles to, telling them to go to the Lost Sheep of Israel and proclaim that “the Kingdom of heaven is at hand.” It is through this proclamation that the Lord gathers his sheep into the fold. The people who are now like sheep without shepherds, that is they are lost, without hope, without peace, harassed and helpless.
Perhaps we even feel that way from time to time. Today there are many who believe they can live just fine without the gospel, without the forgiveness of sins, without God. There are many more who don’t even know that this is what they long for. It’s often easy for us Christians to be critical of the culture we live in, to look around in horror at what society looks at as normal, to cringe at the things they laugh at. I’m always left with this thought; “false belief, despair, and other great shame and vice,” “lead us not into temptation.” These are the things encompassed by temptation, false belief, despair, and other great shame and vice. And it is this temptation we are spared when from the Father and the Son the Holy Spirit proceeds, enters our lives, causes us to believe his holy word, his gospel the forgiveness of sins, peace with God and good will toward men, that we are led to repentance a true repentance that is faith in God who has led us into his kingdom of forgiveness and love, and out of our spiritual Egypts, out of our slavery to sin death and the devil. A slavery that kept us ignorant of our Creator, our Savior, our Sanctifier, ignorant of the love of our Father which far surpasses that of any earthly father who knows how to avoid buying scorpions and serpents for their children. A slavery that kept us bound in false belief that led to despair and then caused us to perform so many shameful acts like circus monkeys for the evil trio of sin, death and the devil in their three-ring show. This is what we see in so many sectors of society today. These are the temptations that plague our own children. And even when we have the gospel, even when we know the love of the Father for us children, even when we believe in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ for our sins, we have a hard time avoiding the temptations and traps of the devil, to avoid taking center stage for his amusement. We know the law, so does everyone around us. They know right from wrong. Listen to them. Most of the time it is with the law that they accuse Christians relentlessly with the accusation that we are hypocrites, and not without reason. I’ll leave the disputed things out, like why there aren’t more Christian environmentalists as Louis C.K. chastises us for. I mean he’d be right about what our actions should be if in fact, the claims of the green movement were entirely true. But then he doesn’t quite seem to get the nature of sin.
See that is the problem for most of us. We tend to think of sin as something we can overcome. Sure we might be able to avoid this or that particular sin. We can avoid being rapists, murderers, we can perhaps avoid reviling our parents, at least on Mother’s day and Father’s day, or can we? “The good that I would that I do not, the evil I would not that I do.” The apostle Paul wrote that. He was aware of his own hypocrisy. And when we think of sins of society that we cringe at? Do we even contemplate the fourth commandment? Honor your Father and your Mother? Does that even make sense in a society whose gospel, whose path to contentment for your soul and everything you wrestle with is little more than “blame your parents.”
Jesus has another way. He didn’t blame. He obeyed. He obeyed his Father even to death on the cross. He chose to love God even more than Mary and Joseph.  He followed the will of our Heavenly Father, from whom he was begotten before all worlds. But it was there on the cross that he won forgiveness for the world. And it was there on the cross that he showed what this forgiveness was like when it came to parents. He forgave his mother and entrusted her care to one of his Apostles. He didn’t shun her for thinking he was crazy early in his career, for showing up with a delegation of brothers to take him home. He forgave her. Even as he forgives you, that you might be able to do the same with your parents, and with your children. They are human like you, sinners in need of forgiveness. They don’t do everything right, and they have a hard time forgiving one another too. But these are all tricks of the devil by which he harasses helpless sheep who have no shepherd. We have a shepherd, the good shepherd who laid down his life for the sheep and even now cares for them by sending in laborers for the harvest that they might know forgiveness, peace and the love of their heavenly Father.
Now the peace of God that surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.our Lord. Amen. 

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