Rev. Paul J Cain
Seventh Sunday After Pentecost, 07 July 2013, Proper 9C
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Sheridan, Wyoming
In the Name of Jesus. Amen.
One of my favorite written prayers is appointed for Evening Prayer and Vespers: “O God, from whom come all holy desires, all good counsels, and all just works, give to us, Your servants, that peace which the world cannot give, that our hearts may be set to obey Your commandments and also that we, being defended from the fear of our enemies, may live in peace and quietness; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever” (LSB Collect #410).
Jesus gives us peace that the world cannot give. Jesus gives you peace the world cannot even understand. All the secular world’s talk of “world peace” has less to show for it than a kitchen blender full of processed, liquefied green legumes, or in the words of the bumper sticker, “whirled peas.” Yeah, it’s a bad joke, but it makes more sense than unconditional surrender to terrorists, forgetting the responsibility to protect those God gave us to protect.
About the Cover: The peace that “makes sense” to the world comes from false security in temporal promises. Instead, Christ promises: “My peace I give to you. Not as the world gives” (John 14:27). Christ’s peace relies not on temporal promises easily broken, but on the everlasting truth of our never-changing God. Once we’ve tasted such a peace, let us take it from our homes out to the world.
And that is exactly where Jesus’ disciples are heading.
10 After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them on ahead of him, two by two, into every town and place where he himself was about to go. 2 And he said to them, “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. 3 Go your way; behold, I am sending you out as lambs in the midst of wolves. 4 Carry no moneybag, no knapsack, no sandals, and greet no one on the road. 5 Whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace be to this house!’ 6 And if a son of peace is there, your peace will rest upon him. But if not, it will return to you. 7 And remain in the same house, eating and drinking what they provide, for the laborer deserves his wages. Do not go from house to house. 8 Whenever you enter a town and they receive you, eat what is set before you. 9 Heal the sick in it and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’ 10 But whenever you enter a town and they do not receive you, go into its streets and say, 11 ‘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.’ 12 I tell you, it will be more bearable on that day for Sodom than for that town.
Pray for the Lord to send out proclaimers of peace into His harvest. Be peacemakers in the midst of wolves. Share peace. If people will not receive with the message of true peace, shake it off. Move on and proclaim the peace of Jesus elsewhere to others. These are Jesus’ missionary instructions to the seventy-two.
Obviously, much of these instructions are still good for today. Other portions are focused on this initial mission of announcing Jesus travel tour. They were sent two-by two into every town and place where Jesus was about to go. The Office of the Holy Ministry is not made up of only travelling preachers. We have had our cowboy circuit rider and now we’re used to the more appropriate, settled, servant of the Word who is called to a specific place. This pattern is what St. Paul directed in Titus 1:5, elders, pastors, in every town. If only there were enough to go around!
When the seventy-two missionaries get back, they report to Jesus what they found. Jesus responds:
13 “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. 14 But it will be more bearable in the judgment for Tyre and Sidon than for you. 15 And you, Capernaum, will you be exalted to heaven? You shall be brought down to Hades.
16 “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.”
That is Jesus’ initial response. It seems that the missionaries were excited about another part of their mission. Too excited, perhaps, about the wrong thing?
17 The seventy-two returned with joy, saying, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in your name!” 18 And he said to them, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. 19 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. 20 Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”
Rejoice in the gift of your salvation. Rejoice in those who proclaim salvation in Christ alone. Rejoice with those who receive the gifts of salvation for the first time and rejoice every time with all who regularly receive the Lord’s gifts. Rejoice in the Lord’s peace, peace the world cannot give, peace the world cannot even understand.
The devil, the world, and our own sinful flesh often proclaim “Peace” when there is no peace. This is nothing new. Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel all had to deal with this kind of deception. Saying “Peace” when there is no peace denies that sin is sin and denies that righteousness is right. It declares righteousness to be sin and sin to be righteousness. Infanticide is declared to be post-birth abortion. Euthanasia is euphemized into “mercy.” Same-sex marriage is declared legal. We mourn what we thought our nation was about and pray. And are spurred to action. Things that were abominations are brought out of the shadows where they belong (except for confession and absolution, that is.) Next, they become tolerated. And then clamor for equal status. Expect these former abominations to demand preferential treatment. And expect to be called a bigot, old-fashioned, or worse for being true to God’s Word. Christians have endured worse. Consider the Roman Empire and the birth of Christianity.
In the popular Wyoming District camp and youth group game, Christian Underground, the Apostle is an important player. The object of the game is for the enemies of the Gospel (centurion, non-Christian guards, Jewish spy) to locate and kill the apostle before he is able to baptize and convert all the non-Christians.
Once a player finds the apostle and is baptized, he/she then attempts to bring as many other non-Christians to be converted. In the game, only the apostle can baptize. In the meantime, the enemies of the Gospel bring citizens to the interrogator for questioning, hoping to find out who the apostle is. Only the interrogator and the centurion can kill people (the centurion can kill anyone on the spot, if he so chooses!). The game ends when either the apostle has baptized all the citizens or has been exposed and executed.
Throughout the game, played in the dark with flashlights for swords—did I mention those details before?—players greet one another with the word for peace in their own language. Romans say, “Pax.” Greeks say “Irene,” were we get our name “Irene.” And Jews say, “Shalom.” It’s a fun game. It teaches its players that the peace of Christ defeated even the mighty Roman Empire.
Christians still greet one another in peace, just as Jesus directs in this text. On a home visit, especially after a death or when someone in the household is near death, the Pastor says, “Peace to this house (or place) and all who dwell here.” A Christian funeral and graveside conclude with: “Let us go forth in peace in the Name of the Lord.” And how many countless times have you heard, sung, and said the word “peace” in a Christian liturgy?
Particularly meaningful is the Aaronic Benediction of Numbers 6 at the conclusion of Divine Service: “The Lord bless you and keep you. The Lord make His face to shine upon you and be gracious unto you. The Lord lift up His countenance upon you and give you peace. Amen.
In the Name of Jesus. Amen.