"Under Orders…Made Worthy"
Fifth Sunday after Pentecost
St. Luke 10:1-20
July 8, 2007
(Immanuel Lutheran Church, Buffalo, New York)
IN NOMINE JESU
Six years ago I answered the call God has given me to carry out, and He posed the questions He gave me to answer, that I would carry out the ministry of Word and Sacrament to the best of my ability, by the grace of God. What He has given me to say and do is not my word but God's Word. I am acting under His orders, lest I should boast and lead you down a path that can only lead to eternal destruction. No, I am under orders from God to preach the Word and administer the Sacraments as He has given me to do, that you would have life and have it to the fullest in Christ. It is not my Word; it is the Lord's Word I read, teach, and preach…I am but His messenger. These are not my sacraments to give out willy-nilly; these are the Lord's Sacraments that He has given me to administer in accordance with His Gospel. This is not my church; she is the Lord's Church, the Bride of Christ, which He has given me to oversee, to serve as His undershepherd. As a soldier of the cross, I serve under Christ and am to be at His command. Am I able to do this faithfully at all times? No, and this is a sin I must confess before God every day. I confess that I am not worthy to serve Him. Yet I rejoice because He has made me worthy through the blood of my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
In our text, the Lord declared some 70 men worthy to do His work, to be laborers in His harvest field. Some translations and numerous Greek manuscripts state that the Lord sent out 72 men rather than the 70 mentioned in our text. The point of this text is not how many He sent but what He sent them to do. He sent them to houses to proclaim peace to each house. He sent them to proclaim His peace, the peace that surpasses all understanding, that peace which the world cannot give. He sent them to establish table fellowship with the residents of the house, eating and drinking at table with them. First comes the Word, then the eating and the drinking. Where there was a son of peace, there the peace of the Lord dwelt, and the messenger of the Lord was received. Where the messenger is received, Christ is also received. Where Christ is received, God the Father who sent Him is also received.
But woe to those who reject the messenger, for they reject Christ and, therefore, reject God the Father Almighty. They lack the peace of Christ. The messengers in our text were under orders to depart from those houses that would not receive them. As they depart, the holy presence of the Lord departs. The messengers were to wipe the dust off their feet and declare that the kingdom of God has come near those cities and that the inhabitants will face a harsher judgment than did the city of Sodom.
Proclaiming the Word of God us not always pretty, especially as the Law must be preached. The young pastor St. Timothy was under orders, too, to "preach the Word, in season and out of season," whether it is the popular thing to do or not. But the office of preaching is not some sort of "Lutheranized" American Idol or a poll-driven popularity contest, where we think the preacher should submit to our orders, even if they are totally opposite the orders God has given him. When we act in this manner, we are declaring publicly that the peace of the Lord does not rest on our houses. But this is all part of our sinful nature. We rebel against God's Law because we hate being told we are sinners who need to repent and are deserving of God's wrath. We resist the Gospel, for the way to salvation excludes our ego. We reject the Sacraments for what they are because we have our own ideas about how God should distribute His Means of Grace. We want our say rather than allowing God to speak to us. We want a piece of the action in our salvation rather than the peace of the Actor in the Divine Service—the Lord Christ Himself.
This is nothing new. Pastors across The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod have been driven from their parishes because they acted under God's orders, especially in practicing closed communion and in preaching the pure Gospel. A few years ago a Lutheran pastor in Arkansas was recently driven out of his congregation because a number of his members, including a former pastor, reject the pure Word of God and the right administration of the Sacraments. By the grace of God, the faithful majority have joined this willing soldier of the cross in a new mission congregation. A Lutheran pastor in Indiana within the last year saw his congregation completely reject the Word and Sacrament ministry God called him to carry out. They have rebelled to the point of even boycotting the Lord's Supper, rejecting the true body and blood of Christ, even as it was offered each Lord's Day. They are throwing God's gifts back in His face, rejecting outright the salvation He has come to bring. They care about their bellies and not their souls. Also, as a result of their disobedience to Christ and His called and ordained servant of the Word, this pastor resigned his call there last fall. Many district and synodical leaders have turned blind eyes and deaf ears to Scripture and the Lutheran Confessions in the name of being "ablaze" for the Gospel, a misapplication of the word because being ablaze in Holy Scripture almost always means being on the receiving end of God's wrath. For them, though, it is no longer enough to be about our Lord and His Means of Grace, for these so-called leaders demand that the congregations under their charge, as well as the pastors, forsake God's given means for growth in the Church for the sake of merely growing the Church numerically through man-made means and devilish devices, selling the saints on snake oil—and not any ordinary snake oil, but that of the serpent in the Garden of Eden. And we are intimidated into swallowing what they give us. Our Synod meets in convention beginning this Saturday. Please pray that the Holy Spirit make our delegates immune to the snake oil and return the Synod to her rightful place: about the Lord's font, pulpit, and altar. Kyrie eleison!
But all of this is nothing new. The people of Israel, God's chosen people, killed His prophets, even at the altar of His temple. Why? God placed His prophets under orders, and they obeyed Him. They were obedient even unto death at the hands of evil men. Today the wolves in sheep's clothing refuse to pay their pastors, even though the Lord says in our text, "The laborer is worthy of his wages" (v. 7b). In many instances the pastor's children are tormented and bullied by their classmates, especially if they belong to the same congregation. Pastors and even their wives are threatened with violence at the hands of those who look like sheep but in reality are ravenous wolves and children of the devil. They do not want the peace of Christ; they want to be condemned. As a pastor who recently served with me in North Dakota once said to me before he was driven out, "It's not me they're rejecting; they're rejecting Christ."
In our text the 70 (or 72) returned from the mission the Lord gave them. They reported their great successes, that even the demons submitted to them. The Lord told them that He gave them the authority to do the things they did. They were not to rejoice over these things they did but that their names were written in heaven. You see, they were not worthy do carry out the Lord's work, either; the Lord Himself made them worthy by writing their names in heaven. He made them worthy by calling them into His service. He made them worthy by placing them under His orders. He made them worthy by later dying for them.
This is how the Lord made even me worthy to be a minister of the Word and Sacraments. He called me to serve Him. He has forgiven me my many sins. He has made me worthy by giving His body and shedding His blood that I might live and give this same body and blood of the Lord at His Table as He has given me to do. There is absolutely nothing in me that can make me worthy to be His best man for His bride, the Church. I did not choose Him, but He, the Bridegroom, chose me to be His best man and take care of His precious bride, the mother Church.
The same Lord who makes me worthy to preach His Word and administer His Sacraments also has made you worthy to hear His Word and receive His Sacraments. He made you worthy when He died on the cross, for by His death you are forgiven; by His stripes you are healed. He made Himself unworthy for your sake and died the death you by your unworthiness and your sinfulness have deserved. Rejoice, for Christ has made you worthy. Again I say, rejoice, for your Lord has written your name in heaven. Your name is written in heaven for your Lord has risen from the dead. Had there been no resurrection of Jesus, there would be no heaven for you or for me. But thanks be to God that Jesus Christ has risen and conquered sin, death, and hell so that we would be worthy of eternal life with Him.
Our Lord makes us worthy to receive His Gospel, for He has placed all of us under orders to hear His Word, as He has called me to bring it to you today in reading, preaching, and catechesis. He sealed His orders in the living waters of Holy Baptism, through which Sacrament He has called us by name and written our names in heaven. By our Baptism our Lord makes us worthy to hear His Gospel, to receive the forgiveness of sins. This forgiveness our Lord again offers in His Supper. We are not under orders to receive it, but He does graciously invite us to come and be fed, to be filled with the promise He attaches to this holy meal. Our gracious God makes us worthy to receive this Eucharistic meal, for He gives us the faith to believe the words "given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins." By His grace we believe these words and are made worthy to receive what these words promise—the forgiveness of sins. Having received this precious gift, we give thanks unto the Lord, for He is good, as we bid Him to let us depart in peace, that peace which the world cannot give, the peace that rests on our homes and in our hearts, the peace of the Lord…to be with us always. "And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus" (Phil. 4:7).
In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
SOLI DEO GLORIA
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