Sunday, July 4, 2010

Sermon for 04 July 2010, Proper 09C

The Rev. Paul J Cain, Jr.

St. Luke 10:1-20

The One Who Hears You Hears Me

Proper 9 (Sixth Sunday after Pentecost), 04 July 2010

Immanuel Lutheran Church, Sheridan, Wyoming

In the Name of Jesus. Amen.

The One Who Hears You Hears Me. This promise of our Lord Jesus is near and dear to Christians. Concordia: The Lutheran Confessions quotes this verse five times (in the Augsburg Confession and the Apology). Here are two: “Ministers act in Christ’s place and do not represent their own persons, according to Luke, ‘The one who hears you hears Me’ (10:16). Ungodly teachers are to be deserted because they no longer act in Christ’s place, but are antichrists. Christ says, ‘Beware of false prophets’ (Matthew 7:15)” (Concordia, Apology VII & VIII, ¶47).

Also we hear: “When the Gospel is heard and the Absolution is heard, the conscience is encouraged and receives comfort. Because God truly brings a person to life through the Word, the Keys truly forgive sins before God. According to Luke 10:16, “The one who hears you hears Me.’ Therefore, the voice of the one absolving must be believed no differently than we would believe a voice from heaven” (Concordia, Apology XII, ¶40).

He Who Hears You Hears Me. This is a comforting promise for Christians. The promise is that a Christian who hears a faithful pastor proclaiming the Biblical Word of Christ hears Christ, not a man. And those who hear Christ hear the Father, He who sent Christ. You hear the wonderful message of forgiveness of sins. That’s why the church is here in the first place. Last week we heard a Gospel lesson about disciples, followers of Christ and His cross, and apostles, ones sent to preach repentance and forgiveness for the sake of Jesus Christ and Him crucified. The Twelve had been sent out before. Now many others are sent.

The number seventy-two recalls the seventy elders of Old Testament Israel plus Moses and Aaron. These others are on a mission of preparation. Like the prophets of old foretelling the coming of the Christ, they proclaim the coming of the Christ.

They are not to depend upon themselves for anything. is not a mission for someone who wants power, great possessions, or to make a name for himself. Those who hear are to provide for these servants of the Word. Through them, the Lord will provide for their daily bread and shelter and everything else to support their bodies and lives. “The kingdom of God has come near to you,” they were to proclaim. The King, Christ, is coming. He is on His way to Jerusalem to be enthroned upon the cross—Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.

Some will believe the message. Others will reject it. When personal devotions are neglected, when a family never speaks of or lives in the faith outside of church, when it is more convenient to sleep in than get up on a Sunday, one is rejecting the Word and the Lord’s gifts. Persistent rejection can lead to the sin against the Holy Spirit. The Spirit delivers forgiveness of sins. When a person rejects the work of the Spirit, that sin is unforgivable because the delivery of forgiveness itself is rejected.

There are consequences to that rejection: But whenever you enter a town and they do not receive you, go into its streets and say, 'Even the dust of your town that clings to our feet we wipe off against you. Nevertheless know this, that the kingdom of God has come near.' I tell you, it will be more bearable on that day for Sodom than for that town. The apostles of the Lord will go elsewhere.

Look at history. The famous seven churches of Revelation were in what we now know as Turkey, a largely Muslim country. The Mediterranean was once a great sea encircled by Christians and Christian Churches. Christians are in the minority in Northern Africa. Europe was a fertile mission field near the end of the Roman Empire and also throughout the Middle Ages and Reformation period. Liberalism, Rationalism, wars, and the enlightenment have decimated those Christian churches. European state churches have led the way into unionism, syncretism, and blatant rejection of what God’s Word says.

America is little different, even on a patriotic day like this. Many who came to this land did so in order to practice Christianity without government interference. A majority of Americans claim belief in God and also Church membership, but rarely attend services. They want to believe one thing on Sunday and switch gears to something else as soon as they reach the church parking lot. The Word they spoke, sang, recited, and confessed is largely ignored in daily life. There’s a disconnect. It often goes something like this: “I don’t believe in blank personally, [whatever the controversial topic is in the culture,] but who am I to say what’s right for someone else.” And even Americans as a society reject the Word.

So what else is happening? The Word has found fertile soil again. South America, Africa, and Asia have growing Christian Churches, even in the face of persecution leading to death! There are now more Christians who bear the name “Lutheran” in Africa than in North America. And Christians in Africa and Asia are sending missionaries here!

Jesus is very blunt about those who reject His servants, and therefore His Word, Himself, and the Father. "Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago, sitting in sackcloth and ashes. But it will be more bearable in the judgment for Tyre and Sidon than for you. And you, Capernaum, will you be exalted to heaven? You shall be brought down to Hades. "The one who hears you hears me, and the one who rejects you rejects me, and the one who rejects me rejects him who sent me."

When you have opportunity to witness to Christ outside these walls, you may be scared, even intimidated. We often worry, “How will they respond? What will they think of me? How will this change our personal relationship?” Those are common questions—common concerns. Our Lord tells us not to take rejection personally. "The one who hears you hears me, and the one who rejects you rejects me, and the one who rejects me rejects him who sent me."

“But how do I invite a friend to church?” I’m glad you asked.  (Lincoln Winter:) One. Think of someone you know that doesn’t go to church. Two. Say, “Hey, would you like to come to church with me on Sunday?” [Really, that’s all there is to it.] But what if they say, “No?” Then say, “O.K. Well, maybe some other time.” Or, “Well, let me know if you ever want to go with me.” Then ask them again some other time. What if they say, “Yes?” Then be sure to tell them what time church starts and where the church is. Offer to pick them up. What if they shout, “Leave me alone, you stupid religious jerk!” and then punch you in the nose?  (Pause) Since this only happens in your imagination, why not imagine them saying “Yes”? Or at least imagine them missing when they swing at you.  Seriously, though, if you know some one who is struggling, talk to them about the hope you have in Jesus Christ. If you aren’t sure what to say, talk to your pastor. (wave) He can help you, and maybe even visit with them himself.

Be persistent, caring, and understanding. Continue to have conversations about spiritual things. Don’t be discouraged if they never respond, or never follow up. Continue to ask. Offer to pick them up for Bible Class or Church. Offer to meet them in the parking lot or at the door. And if you see a visitor here, introduce yourself. Offer to sit with them and walk them through the service. Be a neighbor to them. Not everyone will reject the Word like the places you’ve heard about this morning. There are times for rejoicing. Some will believe.

Chorazin. Bethsaida. Capernaum. The seventy-two returned with joy, saying, "Lord, even the demons are subject to us in your name!" And he said to them, "I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall hurt you. Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven."

Jesus tells them that this whole endeavor is not about them. It’s not about their authority, power, personalities, strengths, weaknesses, successes, or failures. "The one who hears you hears me, and the one who rejects you rejects me, and the one who rejects me rejects him who sent me." Rejoice simply that you are Christians, redeemed by the blood of Jesus, in need of the same Gospel message that we proclaim to the world, forgiven, renewed, and freed.

Think of the privileges you have had in your life to hear the Gospel, the good news about Jesus, that He gives you as a gift, reconciliation with the Father because of His cross. You have the promise of eternal life. You are forgiven. The Spirit delivers the Lord’s gifts to you in the here and now. You have been blessed not only to hear about the Gospel but to have books to use for Bible study and Christian worship. And you have been blessed to own a copy of the Bible yourself! Throughout history, both literacy and book ownership have been rare. It used to cost a scholar a year of work to copy the Bible by hand. Oh, the blessings we take for granted! How many Bibles and other Christian books do you have at home and never use?

"The one who hears you hears me…” Hold on to this promise of Christ. “Christ wishes to assure us, as was necessary, that we should know that the Word delivered by human beings is powerful, and that no other Word should be sought from heaven. ‘The one who hears you hears Me’ cannot be understood of [human] traditions. Christ requires that (they) [pastors & bishops] teach in such a way that He Himself is heard because He says, ‘The one…hears Me.” Therefore, He wishes His own voice, His own word, to be heard, not human traditions” (Concordia, Apology XXVIII, ¶18-19). Let us all be unafraid to speak the words of comfort that have comforted us, the good news about Jesus. Let us trust in His promise, "The one who hears you hears me.” Amen.

In the Name of Jesus. Amen.