Tuesday, June 20, 2017

A mission, a plan, a warning and a promise. . .

Sermon for Pentecost 2A preached on Sunday, June 18, 2017

    In the Gospel today we heard Jesus give a mission, a plan, a warning, and a promise.  The mission:  Go to the lost sheep and proclaim to them the Kingdom of God.  The plan:  Travel light and trust the generosity of God’s people.  Heal the sick.  Raise the dead.  Cleanse the leper.  Cast out the demon with the name of His name.  The warning:  You are sheep among wolves – the government and society is against you.  But the promise is clear: Do not be anxious for the Spirit is with you and will give you the words to say.  None of this is time limited; it remains for us.
    This mission, plan, warning and promise are given to every pastor.  37 years ago when they called out my name with the place Cairo, NY this became my calling.  2 years ago when they called out Pastor Ulrich’s name, this became his calling as well.  Every pastor has this calling.  We don’t get to define our mission or make our own plan.  We don’t get to lay out the battle or pick who is our enemy or who are our allies.  And we dare not.  For the Lord has not put us in charge.  It is His mission and plan. He but He has equipped us with a promise that will not fail us.
    Go to the lost sheep of God and proclaim the Kingdom to them.  God’s Word and Sacraments are the means by which God manifests His Kingdom.  These are the means of grace.
The kingdom comes not by the will and desire of anyone but by the will of God and the means of grace.  No pastor is on his own. We serve the Lord and do only the Lord’s bidding.
    With that comes the plan.  Travel light.  In other words, do not get caught up in the world and its things, in the pursuit of an earthly kingdom.  Do not judge by earthly indicators of success but be faithful and God will do what He has pledged and promised.  Trust in the people’s generosity.  You don’t know how hard it is for a pastor to depend upon the Lord and the people of God.  But every pastor has only the Lord and the generosity of God’s people.  Jesus says that is enough.  Every day every pastor struggles to believe that.
    Instead of worrying about these other things, the Lord has sent the pastor forth to heal those sick with sin through the absolution, to raise those dead in trespasses and sin through forgiveness, to cleanse the unclean in the waters of baptism, to cast out evil with the Word of the Lord, and to feed the people of God upon the flesh and blood of Jesus in the Holy Communion.
    Every pastor has also a warning.  You are sheep among wolves, be wise as serpents but innocent as doves.  Don’t depend upon a friendly culture or benign government to be your friend or ally.  You cannot delegate the work of the Kingdom to others to whom it has not been given.  Yet with this warning comes a promise.  Lo, I am with you always.  I will not leave you orphans or comfortless. 
    Every pastor is weak and vulnerable.  Only Christ is his strength and power.  The ministry is not about success but about faithfulness.  Every pastor knows this and struggles with this every day.  In His strength, we are strong and in Him we are made perfect.  Everything depends upon Christ.
    But is it not also true for you as God's people?  Has Jesus not given you a mission and vocation?  Is not your home your Israel and the domain what you serve the Lord?  Do you not also live by faith alone despite what your eyes see around you?  Are you not called to speak and live out this faith within your home, neighborhood, and workplace?  His Word is not only in your heart but on your lips.
    And on this day when we honor those who have shown us a Father’s love, it would be easy for us to list all the things our dads have not done for us.  Hidden underneath all of this and too often missed, are the unglamourous and ordinary things that dads do and we don’t even notice.  Dads are best judged not by the exceptional things they might do but by their faithfulness in the simple things of their calling – providing for their families, protecting their household, teaching the faith in the home, taking them to church, and by being willing to sacrifice his dreams for the dreams of his family.  And if a dad will do that, he will have fulfilled his mission as a father.  All a dad has to do is be faithful and it will be enough.

    Yet the world is filled with wolves.  We wrestle daily with our fears, don’t we?  Yet we are not alone.  Christ is with you.  His Spirit is upon you.  His Word lives in your ears.  His flesh and blood are on your lips.  His Spirit is upon you.  His name has become your name.  His grace is sufficient for you as it is for me.  It is enough for His mission, to fulfill His plan, to keep you in the face of your enemies, and to deliver you to your eternal home.  And everyday you fight to believe this is enough.
    Every pastor needs to hear this.  Everyone of you needs to hear this.  This is why we come here week after week.  It may seem crazy to us, even chaotic, but the Lord owns the mission we are part of; it is His kingdom.  He will deliver us to the future He has prepared for us.  All we have to do is be faithful.  Amen

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