Sermon for Pentecost 7, Proper 9C, preached by the Rev. Daniel Ulrich on Sunday, July 3, 2016.
It’s our nature to rejoice over the things we’ve done, to boast about our accomplishments. We look at our achievements and we take joy and pride in them. Starting at a very young age we become excited with our abilities. Children run to their parents and say, “Look what I can do!” or “Come see what I just did!” This attitude continues into adulthood. We want people to know about our accomplishments. But all of our accomplishments, no matter how great they are, they don’t last. What God has done, however, what He has done for us, that’s what lasts, and that’s what we rejoice and boast in.
We rejoice in the fact that Jesus sends out laborers. He said, “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” (Lk 10:2). This harvest is the Lord’s, and He is the One who brings it in through the work of His laborers. You and I are part of this harvest. We’re the ones who’ve faithfully received God’s grace and mercy, and we rejoice because the Lord has gathered us into His Church. And as we rejoice, we pray that the Lord will continue to send out laborers, just as He always has.
In Old Testament times, God sent prophets, like Isaiah. In the New Testament Jesus sent out the Twelve and the 72. God used all of these men to spread the Gospel, to proclaim His kingdom.
Today, 2,000 years later, our Lord still sends out His laborers, with the very same message and task that He sent His prophets, the Twelve, and the 72 with. Every year men graduate from our seminaries and are sent out to the people of God’s Church. Some are sent to established congregations; others are sent out into the mission field. But all are sent with the same work, to bring in God’s harvest through preaching and teaching.
All pastors are to preach the Gospel, the good news of Christ’s cross and His resurrection. They’re to heal people broken and plagued with sin and death. They’re to forgive sins as called and ordained servants of Christ and by His authority. They’re to bring people to life through the waters of Baptism and they’re to feed this life through the food of Jesus’ very body and blood.
As part of God’s harvest, we rejoice in this and in these men. We boast in what the Lord has done. We thank God every day for sending laborers, for the pastors that He raises up and gives to us. Working through these men He has miraculously and graciously brought us into His kingdom, and we rejoice in this kingdom.
When Jesus sent out the 72, He gave them specific words to say. He told them to heal the sick and say, “The kingdom of God has come near to you” (Lk 10:9). Often we think of a kingdom as a specific place and location. For example the United Kingdom is a specific country in Europe. It has boundaries and borders. When we think about the kingdom of God, we can also think in these terms. We imagine heaven with boundaries and borders: the kingdom of God is up above, with earth and hell below. But the kingdom of God isn’t a place with boundaries and borders. The kingdom of God is a reign. It’s wherever He rules. The kingdom of God is in Jesus, and therefore, the kingdom of God is wherever Jesus is, wherever our Savior is preached and proclaimed.
When the 72 went out announcing Jesus’ arrival, they were bringing with them the kingdom of God. Jesus has come in and replaced the kingdom, the reign and rule of Satan, sin, and death. That’s what the healing miracles showed. That’s what the exorcising of demons showed. Jesus has come into this world to defeat Satan, to overcome all sickness and death. With His sacrificial death on the cross He has paid for your sin. He has forgiven it and freed you from its penalty. With His resurrection He has destroyed death and won for you everlasting life. When Jesus sent out the Twelve and the 72, He was preaching people into His kingdom, and through His pastors, He does this for you. Through His Word and Sacraments, God has taken you out of the devil’s kingdom and brought you into His.
You’re living under the reign of our Lord right now. This is a present reality, even though we don’t see this kingdom in full. The kingdom of God is a now and not-yet for us. It’s a now because Christ’s reign began on the cross and continues forever. At that moment in time Christ our Savior defeated your enemies of sin, death, and the devil. And living under His reign you currently possess all the blessings He gives: forgiveness, grace, mercy, and even everlasting life. This kingdom is a not-yet however, because we don’t always see its glories. We see tragedies happening every day, like terrorist attacks inflicting pain and paralyzing people with fear. We see sickness and death; cancers taking the lives of loved ones, both young and old. We endure temptations of the devil and the world. Our sin still plagues us and our suffering still continues. But all of these can’t and won’t overcome you. Our Lord has already overcome them all and promised you everlasting life in Him.
You’re a citizen of God’s kingdom, and nothing can take that away from you. As we celebrate the day our country declared her independence, we take pride in being citizens of the United States. We’re proud of our country, we rejoice and boast in it, in all she has accomplished and in the freedoms she gives. It’s a blessing to be a citizen of the USA, but our rejoicing and boasting shouldn’t be in this country, in its boundaries and borders. Our rejoicing and boasting should be in our Lord, in what He has done for us.
When the 72 returned from their mission, they were filled with joy because even the demons were subject to them in Christ’s name (Lk 10:17). The Lord had given these mean authority over Satan’s minions, but they weren’t to boast in this. Instead, Jesus said, “Rejoice that your names are written in heaven” (Lk 10:20). These men were to rejoice in blessing of everlasting life they were given. They were to rejoice in the fact that God had written their names in the book of life. And so are we.
We rejoice that our Lord has written our names in the book of life. God has written your individual name in this book with the ink of Christ’s sacrificed blood, and this is permanent. It can never be erased. Nothing can revoke your citizenship in His kingdom. This is what we rejoice in, this is what we boast in.
As Paul says, “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice” (Php 4:4). Rejoice today, and every day, in what the Lord has done. Rejoice and be thankful that He has sent out laborers, His pastors to proclaim His peace and kingdom. Rejoice and have faith, knowing that you live in God’s kingdom, that you’ve been give eternal life. Rejoice and boast in Christ alone, for He is your Savior and given you salvation. In Jesus’ name...Amen.