“Spread the News: The War is Over” by Pastor Steve Sommerer

Second Sunday after Pentecost June 14, 2020

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            Grace and peace to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  Amen.

            The sermon text is from St. Matthew the 9th chapter: (Matt.9:35-10:8)

            When Jesus saw the crowds, He had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.  Then He said to His disciples:  “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few.  Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into His harvest field.”  So far the text.

            During the War of 1812, an ill-prepared and poorly equipped fledgling United States re-fought the British for their right to exist as a free republic.  The last battle of that war in January of 1815 in New Orleans was a resounding American victory that launched Andrew Jackson to prominence as a future President of the United States.  The only sour note was its timing.  Weeks before the Battle of New Orleans, the Treaty of Ghent had ended the war.  But nobody knew.  In those days news of the ceasefire crossed the Atlantic by boat, and many were killed and wounded fighting for nothing.   

            Rapid, clear and accurate communication is essential in wartime.  Our modern military has the finest communications capabilities known to man.  Huge sums are spent so that when called upon our men and women can communicate and spread messages that may save lives and win wars.

            As Jesus goes from town to town preaching the Gospel in synagogues and streets, we see His merciful and loving heart.  These are the people for whom He would die, and yet they are “like sheep without a shepherd.” Their problem isn’t that they didn’t have shepherds, rather their shepherds weren’t true shepherds.  In the verse just before our text, the Pharisees ridiculed Jesus and accused Him of doing His miracles by Satan’s power. Those false shepherds turned the people away from Christ “the Good Shepherd, who came to seek and to save the lost.”

            Our text says Jesus preached the Gospel of the Kingdom. John the Forerunner of Jesus preached, “The Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.”  With those very words, Jesus began His Ministry.  And now Jesus sent out His 12 with the same word on their lips, “The Kingdom of heaven is at hand.”  Over and over, the message never changes, the Gospel of God’s Kingdom. The watchword  for our age is change.  The Church must change or lose her young, must adapt, must look and sound like the surrounding culture, or it won’t survive.  By the tyranny of the new, we’re lured into surrendering the treasures of the past rather than bringing old truths to bear for a new generation.  But is it worth it to march in step with a culture out of step with God? 

Christian apologist Os Guiness warned a church obsessed with change.  In our rapidly-changing world, he said, “The church that marries herself to the culture will always be a widow.”  Better to invite an ever-changing culture to find her rest in a God who never changes, “the same yesterday, today and forever.” With tools and truths, tried and true, we can only offer a living and faithful word, hoping some will step off the cultural treadmill and find her rest in the Gospel of God’s Kingdom. 

            This is the message that alone can calm our churning nation.  No political movement of grievances and guilt offers the promise of unity, but not unity of political goals, rather unity as sinners humbled before God’s throne. 

Jesus sent His 12 to proclaim this changeless truth.  In Jesus the war is over.  The treaty that brings eternal peace was inscribed with His blood.  In Jesus “there is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female – and we could add black or white – through Spirit-given faith “you are all one in Christ Jesus.” 

Jesus sent the 12 – and also you – because He wants the message heard.  The war is over.  In Christ, you have been reconciled to God by His blood.  The devil’s kingdom has been overthrown by the heaven-sent Prince of Peace.  This is God’s treaty we are given to proclaim to the world.  Many in every place lack Bible-believing pastors with the guts to speak as the prophets of old, “Thus saith the Lord.”  Within our own families and neighborhoods, we each know family or friends, who have wandered from the Shepherd’s fold.

            That’s why as a congregation we support Pastor Meeker and Deaconess Lorna.  It’s why we send money to district and synod to preach the Gospel of God’s Kingdom in places you and I will never go.  It’s why we partner to train pastors and teachers at our colleges and seminaries. It’s why the Ladies Aid collects their mites to support the work of Christ’s mission, and why our wonderful teachers dedicate time for our children in our Preschool and Sunday school and Vacation Bible School.  These aren’t just the nice services one expects a church to do for good PR.  We’re sounding the trumpet, “Jesus lives, the victory’s won.” 

The harvest is plentiful.”  There should be an urgency on our part, especially with our family and people we care about.  Our mission dollars should never be a pittance of what’s left.  They are our solemn privilege to share in the mission of Christ “to bring Christ to the nations and the nations to the Church.”[1]  Jesus said, “The Son of Man will come at a day or hour you do not expect Him.”  During these days before Christ returns, dedicate yourselves to God’s service with your money, your time, and your talents. 

Our text says:  “Ask the Lord of the harvest to send workers into His harvest field.”  Notice two things in those words.  Christ wants you to pray for pastors, teachers and missionaries, to go out “harvesting” souls for salvation by preaching the Gospel.  In the warfare of this world, your prayers are powerful weapons directed against the Devil’s defeated kingdom.  Pray for young men to train to be pastors, men and women to train to teach, for young moms and dads to be godly leaders in their homes.  “Pray without ceasing,” Paul wrote.  Outside of the Lord’s Prayer, this is the only petition Jesus specifically directs His Church to pray.  “Ask the Lord to send out workers into His harvest.”  God’s Church is a praying Church, she lives from bended knee. 

Pray that God’s Word be spoken faithfully and fearlessly, that it not be buried or forgotten crusading for political kingdoms and movements.  Faithfully speak the Good News of forgiveness in Jesus’ Name, and sound God’s call to repentance.  And having spoken God’s Word don’t worry that you can’t change someone else, it isn’t a pastor or a parent’s brilliance that converts to faith.  God promises that His “Word which proceeds from His mouth will not return void, but will accomplish the purpose for which He sent it.”  His Word will bear its fruit on God’s timetable.

Did you notice whose harvest field is it?  It belongs to God.  God doesn’t call you to produce the results.  In 1 Corinthians Paul writes, “I planted the seed [of God’s Word].  Apollos watered, but God made it grow.”  Our mission for Christ is really Christ’s mission through us.  You and I have no power, but God’s Word is “sharper than any double-edged sword.”  “Though heaven and earth pass away, His Word will never pass away.”  Jesus promised, “The gates of Hell will never prevail against God’s Church.”  Romans 1 says, “The Gospel of Christ is the power of God unto salvation for all who believe.”

I want to draw your attention to a wonderful little word in our text, the Greek word splanknizomai.  Jesus “had compassion on the crowds.”  That word speaks of God’s love, and it literally means a “gut-wrenching longing.”  That’s the word used in Luke 15 when the son goes away and wastes his dad’s inheritance, but the dad sees him from afar, and overwhelmed by this “gut-wrenching” love runs to the son and hugs him. 

That’s the love your Triune God has for you.  Jesus looks out at the people and His love for them and for you and me is a gut-twisting longing.  Christ didn’t go to the cross, because He thought the resurrection was a neat trick. He went, because we were lost and “God demonstrated His love for us in this that while we were still sinners Christ died for us.”  Jesus lived a perfect life for you and died for your sins and mine, so that His forgiving love would win for us heaven’s perfect peace. Christ’s love isn’t empty emotion, but the ultimate sacrifice.  He chose to die to reconcile you to your Father in heaven through Spirit-given faith. He chose to die so you wouldn’t have to, and the whole world could live, not under the threat of eternal death, but the promise of death’s defeat and forgiveness for all our faults.

God’s mission through you and me is as old as the Chosen People He gathered at Mt. Sinai in our Old Testament lesson.  For them and for you, this is so: “You are My treasured possession among all peoples.  All the earth is mine, and you shall be for me a Kingdom of priests and a holy nation.” Amen.

And now may the peace of God which surpasses human understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.  Amen.      


 


[1] Lutheran Hour Ministries theme.