Monday, July 26, 2010


Please note that sermons for July have now been updated.

Sermon manuscripts are posted on the blog.

Audio files are posted on our site at MySpace.

Sermon for 25 July 2010, Proper 12C

The Rev. Paul J Cain, Jr.

Genesis 18:20-32

Who’s Laughing Now?

Proper 12 (Ninth Sunday after Pentecost) 25 July 2010

Immanuel Lutheran Church, Sheridan, Wyoming

In the Name of Jesus. Amen.

[Dr. Nagel writes:] “Three men dropped in on Abraham, and he and Sarah got busy to get something good on the table for them. Somehow, Abraham knew who they were. We are told Abraham was God’s friend. Abraham dealt with one of these men as with God. He is the one who in the Old Testament is called the Angel of the Lord. God made use of a human form, and when God thus deals with a man, we know it to be God the Son.” [Sermons, 294]

The first thing a Christian does upon encountering the Biblical text is to let it speak for itself, or rather, to let the Lord speak for Himself. These are His Words recorded by His servants in His way. We dare not read our preconceived notions into the text, but let the text inform us. Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.

For example, let’s listen in again on the Lord, Abraham, and Sarah. The LORD said to Abraham, "Why did Sarah laugh and say, 'Shall I indeed bear a child, now that I am old?' Is anything too hard for the LORD? At the appointed time I will return to you about this time next year, and Sarah shall have a son." But Sarah denied it, saying, "I did not laugh," for she was afraid. He said, "No, but you did laugh."

The Lord did what He does; He faces each of us up to our sins. Sarah denied doing it, but still was told that she did laugh. The Lord did what He does; He faces each of us up to our sins. We are confronted with them. That is what caring Christians do for one another, if they really love them. That is what faithful pastors are called to do in cases of public sin—sin that everybody usually knows about, even if committed privately. The church and her pastor cannot remain on the sidelines. A soul is at stake. The unrepentant are to be confronted with their sin in the hope that they would repent and be forgiven. That’s true love.

Sarah denied her sin here. You know the rest of the story from the birth of Isaac to the meaning of his name, “He laughs.” By then Sarah had repented. She had faith in the Lord’s future promises, for the one to her had been fulfilled. Isaac isn’t until chapter 21. There’s more yet to come—our appointed text. There is more sin that needs confronting. The Lord is on the scene to do it. Remember the three men?

The LORD has hard lesson for Abraham—a warning—a counterexample. Then, more Gospel for Abraham and his family to come, his descendants we know of as Isaac, Jacob/Israel, Joseph, and so on, all the way through to David, Solomon, and ultimately, Jesus. Those who live in this promise to father Abraham would do well by doing righteousness and justice. Those are law commands in the service of God’s Gospel promises. But, as we know from Exodus, Judges, Samuel, and Kings, they often did what was right in their own eyes. But that’s a sin to discuss another day. Let’s listen again to the Lord.

Then the LORD said, "Because the outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is great and their sin is very grave, I will go down to see whether they have done altogether according to the outcry that has come to me. And if not, I will know."

The sin here was not the lack of hospitality, as some liberals claim. The sin was men acting on their feelings of lust for other males. As one of them says in chapter nineteen, “Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us so that we may know them.” He wasn’t just talking about friendly conversation.

The Lord will punish unrepentant sin. Abraham is bold in prayer as an intercessor, a go-between, a mediator between God and man. He’s giving us a preview of Jesus in what He does here. And the Lord shows mercy. No destruction of the two cities if there are fifty righteous. And Abraham is bold to intercede again. You see, he knows what the town is like. Lot, his nephew lives there. And Abraham had to rescue him before back in chapter fourteen.

This is bold, confident, faith-filled prayer. Abraham knew both the sinfulness of Sodom and Gomorrah as well as the judgment and mercy of the Lord. The Lord has gone His way. That leaves two men, identified later in chapter nineteen as angels under the protection Lot’s roof in Sodom.

Suppose ten are found there. No, there weren’t even ten. Let’s count. Abraham, Lot, and Lot’s two daughters. Lot’s wife initially fled with them, but she looked back after being told not to and became a pillar of the community—a pillar of salt. She doesn’t quite count. The “men” who were protected under Lot’s roof were really two angels. They don’t count. Neither do Lot’s sons-in-law. They thought he was joking when he warned them about the coming fire and brimstone. Five. Five righteous. One who wouldn’t listen. Really, there were only four.

So, what are we to make of Genesis 18 and the later destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah? That’s the wrong question to ask. We should rather ask, “What does the Lord’s Word here make of us?” That’s better. We should be ashamed of sin and repent. We should fear judgment. We should be forgiven, renewed, and led by the Lord, and delight in His will and ways. We should strive to amend our sinful lives as forgiven, baptized Christians.

The Lord is just and holy, so He must punish sin. There’s no avoiding it for Him or us. He doesn’t delight in it. The Lutheran theologians call the law God’s alien work—that’s alien as opposed to natural, as in when we speak the Gospel and delivery of His gifts as His natural work, the one He delights in.

A further note on fire and brimstone. Preachers in the early days of America were known for thundering pulpit pounding and Bible-thumping sermons called “fire and brimstone” preaching. As Lutherans know, the preaching of the law is a necessary preparation for the Gospel. But a sermon only of fire and brimstone is only law, and therefore isn’t a complete Christian sermon. The law is an incomplete summary of the whole of the counsel of God. Therefore, preaching that only preaches the law is to be avoided and condemned as unchristian. The Gospel shall predominate, our Missouri Synod fathers well understood.

The destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah is a warning to us. I’d rather not see our towns destroyed in a similar manner. We should also beware practicing, condoning, or allowing such sins as the Lord condemned at Sodom. We should also not hold one sin above all others as more heinous. All sin condemns. A habitual gossip is no better off spiritually than one who habitually sins against the sixth commandment. For the sake of those who do not believe, or are unrepentant, we should recognize the sin in our own lives first, repent, and be forgiven. Then we can humbly share law and hopefully Gospel.

Judgment Day will make today’s text look like small potatoes. Who’s laughing now? No one. We are warned here to repent now, to be faithful now, to regularly receive the Gifts, to watch and pray, for no one knows the day of Jesus’ return as Judge. Those without Jesus should fear that day. Those who hold on to society-tolerated and encouraged sins need to be nervous. Those who claim to be Christian but never do anything a Christian does should be more than concerned. The unrepentant and unbelieving should tremble in fear.

But what about you, the baptized, repentant person? I have good news for you. Fear not. Stop being afraid. Focus your eyes upon Jesus. The Lord has put His name on you in Holy Baptism. He cannot abandon His name. He has put His Spirit in you. You are a temple of the Holy Spirit. He has prepared a place for you. He cannot go back on a promise. And He places His very Body and Blood into the mouths of His baptized, those who are taught and can examine themselves. That is the medicine of immortality and antidote to death. You, dear Christian, have nothing to fear and every reason in Christ to have hope, not a mere wish of good things, but a sure and certain hope. You are forgiven. Depart in Peace. Amen.

In the Name of Jesus. Amen.

Sermon for 18 July 2010, Proper 11C

The Rev. Paul J Cain, Jr.

Genesis 18:1-14


Proper 11C (Eighth Sunday after Pentecost), 18 July 2010

Immanuel Lutheran Church, Sheridan, Wyoming

In the Name of Jesus. Amen.

The old axiom "Laughter is the best medicine" holds true when it comes to protecting your heart, according to a study conducted by the University of Maryland in Baltimore. Dr. Michael Miller, who conducted the study, says laughter releases chemicals into the bloodstream that relax the blood vessels. In addition, hearty laughter reduces blood pressure and heart rate.

Citation: Reuters News Service and CBS radio news (11-15-00); submitted by Greg Asimakoupoulos

You don’t need a Doctor to tell you that laughter can be good for you. You don’t need me to tell you that laughter can also be hurtful. Laughter, when it adorns ridicule, hurts when that verbal abuse is directed toward us or someone we love. “Laughing with” is a good thing. “Laughing at” is quite another. What about the one making fun of others? What of the one who is doing the “laughing at?” What of the person who says by their injurious laughter, “You think that you can do what? Ha!”

This morning, as we begin our two-week journey through Genesis 18, listen for who gets the last laugh.

And the LORD appeared to him [Abraham] by the oaks of Mamre, as he sat at the door of his tent in the heat of the day. He lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, three men were standing in front of him.

This is not an ordinary day. The Lord does not appear in bodily form to His servants very often. When He does, the Lord has something very special in mind. Dr. Nagel writes: “Three men dropped in on Abraham, and he and Sarah got busy to get something good on the table for them. Somehow, Abraham knew who they were. We are told Abraham was God’s friend. Abraham dealt with one of these men as with God. He is the one who in the Old Testament is called the Angel of the Lord. God made use of a human form, and when God thus deals with a man, we know it to be God the Son.” [Sermons, 294]

The Old Testament tells about the Word Becoming Flesh. “Jesus isn’t an angel; He is God and man,” “having permanently taken on our human nature and become one of us by being born of Mary.”

When he [Abraham] saw them, he ran from the tent door to meet them and bowed himself to the earth and said, "O Lord, if I have found favor in your sight, do not pass by your servant. Let a little water be brought, and wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree, while I bring a morsel of bread, that you may refresh yourselves, and after that you may pass on— since you have come to your servant."

So they said, "Do as you have said."

And Abraham went quickly into the tent to Sarah and said, "Quick! Three seahs of fine flour! Knead it, and make cakes."

And Abraham ran to the herd and took a calf, tender and good, and gave it to a young man, who prepared it quickly. Then he took curds and milk and the calf that he had prepared, and set it before them. And he stood by them under the tree while they ate.

They said to him, "Where is Sarah your wife?"

And he said, "She is in the tent."

The LORD said, "I will surely return to you about this time next year, and Sarah your wife shall have a son."

It’s quite a promise. The blessing to Abraham has been waiting as a promise since chapter twelve: “And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed."

If the Lord was to make of Abram, “exalted father,” into a great nation, Abraham, “father of many nations,” he would have to have some offspring. Between Genesis 12 and 18 Abraham has been in Egypt, spent time with Lot before Lot moved to a town called Sodom—more about that next week, rescued Lot a first time, and was given a covenant with the Lord.

And then there was Hagar. Hagar was Sarah’s Egyptian maidservant. Sarah made up her mind that the Lord couldn’t possibly deliver an heir through her, she would further things along by giving Hagar to her husband as a second wife. Did she really think that would solve the problem? Ishmael was a son of Abraham’s, but he wasn’t the miraculous heir promised to Abraham and Sarah.

Chapter 17 brings about the Lord’s covenant of circumcision and new names. Abram is now Abraham. Sarai is to be called Sarah. And the Lord explicitly promised Abraham a son through Sarah. And Abraham laughed then, mocking the Lord’s promise. Guess who’s laughing now, in chapter 18?

The LORD said, "I will surely return to you about this time next year, and Sarah your wife shall have a son."

And Sarah was listening at the tent door behind him. Now Abraham and Sarah were old, advanced in years. The way of women had ceased to be with Sarah. So Sarah laughed to herself, saying, "After I am worn out, and my lord is old, shall I have pleasure?"

Sarah laughed, in near ridicule of the Lord Himself. Abraham did it too, back in 17:17. He doubted that a man of a hundred could beget and that a woman of ninety could conceive. Abraham fell facedown and laughed. Could medical science pull it off even with Viagra and hormone replacements? We’d probably show our doubts by laughter, too.

The LORD said to Abraham, "Why did Sarah laugh and say, 'Shall I indeed bear a child, now that I am old?' Is anything too hard for the LORD? At the appointed time I will return to you about this time next year, and Sarah shall have a son."

There’s no laughing this time. Life intervenes. Abraham will have to rescue Lot yet again next week. Stay tuned—same time, same station. The promised son would be born on time, as promised, in chapter 21: The LORD visited Sarah as he had said, and the LORD did to Sarah as he had promised. And Sarah conceived and bore Abraham a son in his old age at the time of which God had spoken to him. Abraham called the name of his son who was born to him, whom Sarah bore him, Isaac. And Abraham circumcised his son Isaac when he was eight days old, as God had commanded him. Abraham was a hundred years old when his son Isaac was born to him.

Why the name Isaac? I’m glad you asked. Let’s ask Sarah, herself. And Sarah said, "God has made laughter for me; everyone who hears will laugh over me." And she said, "Who would have said to Abraham that Sarah would nurse children? Yet I have borne him a son in his old age."

Isaac means laughter, literally, “He laughs.” An appropriate name for such a son. Sarah puts this name nicely into context. She speaks of joyous laughter, not mocking laughter. She speaks out of happiness at the Lord’s gift. Her disbelief has been smashed. The promise to Abraham has not only been fulfilled, it has been filled to bursting. This is the son promised, through whom the Lord would bless all the peoples of the earth. The God of Abraham and Isaac used these servants, these patriarchs, as His instruments and as the human forebears of our Lord Jesus, the ultimate fulfillment of this promise

“And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed." And we have been blessed. Father Abraham had many sons and many sons had father Abraham, the old song says. I am one of them and so are you.

So who got the last laugh? Abraham and Sarah both had their share of faithless laughter and the laughter of faith, rejoicing in God’s gift of a son named after laughter. The Lord got the last laugh here. As He said Himself, “Is anything too hard for the LORD? At the appointed time I will return to you about this time next year, and Sarah shall have a son."

No, nothing is too hard for the Lord. He who created heaven and earth with mere words could certainly aid these special senior citizens with procreation. And He could bring a virgin to conceive and bear a son named Jesus, named for His purpose, to save His people from their sins. Resurrection from the dead? Not impossible at all. Even this was not too hard for the Lord. Remember that the next time you don’t feel like laughing.

No matter how bad you think you have it, your small problems are not too big for the Lord. His forgiveness covers even your sins. His truth trumps all human fictions. His miracles defy scientific explanation. He is faithful. He fulfills His promises to overflowing, bursting even our most wild expectations. And the Lord laughs in joy, delighting to give His gifts to you. By faith, we rejoice in that heavenly laughter, with Him, He whose laughter is the best medicine. Amen.

In the Name of Jesus. Amen.

Sermon for 11 July 2010, Proper 10C

The Rev. Paul J Cain, Jr.

St. Luke 10: 25-37/Psalm 25

Your Neighbor

Proper 10 (Seventh Sunday after Pentecost)

11 July 2010

Immanuel Lutheran Church, Sheridan, Wyoming

For a lay reader

You’ll have to bear with me. I don’t remember all of the details due to the beating. Things are disjointed, fuzzy, but I do have some clarity now. I was a lone Jewish man walking down the seventeen mile stretch of Roman road from Jerusalem to Jericho. It’s a dangerous way—always has been. I fell among robbers, and they fell upon me, beat me, laid blows upon me—they pummeled me. And that wasn’t enough—they stripped me, too, and went away leaving me half dead.

I was barely conscious at best, partially aware, usually out, subconsciously remembering, praying a psalm, you’d call it Psalm 25. Next to death. Unable to speak, signal, move. Stripped. No one could tell I was Jewish. Usually you could tell by the way I talked or what I wore—not today. I was barely alive, couldn’t speak, and was naked. The robbers did their job well. They came, they did, they went.

To you, O LORD, I lift up my soul. 2O my God, in you I trust; let me not be put to shame; let not my enemies exult over me. 3Indeed, none who wait for you shall be put to shame; they shall be ashamed who are wantonly treacherous.

When I was next aware of my surroundings, by chance a priest was going down on that road, and when he saw me, he passed by on the other side.

He was riding, not walking, like most priests, of the upper class. Only the poor walk. He must have saw me from a distance, and veered away. Who knew what he was thinking, just having finished his two weeks of temple service. Priests don’t go anywhere near dead bodies. Four cubits—that’s six feet for you—is too close. Being too close would defile the priest. If he were to be defiled, he could not collect, distribute, or eat the tithes, his share of the offerings, and his family and servants would suffer the consequences.

At four cubits, 6 feet away—he couldn’t tell if I were dead or alive. He couldn’t even tell if I was a Jew or a gentile. Dead Jew or filthy gentile—it was all the same to the oral tradition. Defilement for sure either way. He was trying to keep holy according to the Pharisee’s law, but missed the point of caring for others. Legalism thwarted the Spirit. He came, he did (nothing), he went.

4Make me to know your ways, O LORD; teach me your paths. 5Lead me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all the day long. 6Remember your mercy, O LORD, and your steadfast love, for they have been from of old. 7Remember not the sins of my youth or my transgressions; according to your steadfast love remember me, for the sake of your goodness, O LORD!

In disappointment, I faded out again, silently praying my psalm, praying for help—from anybody. Likewise a Levite also, when he came to the place and saw me, passed by on the other side.

He came closer than the priest. Must have thought about it and decided against helping. Besides, he knew that the priest had already gone by. The same laws applied to the Levite that applied to the priest, but he only had to be ritually clean around the ritual activities. There was nothing really preventing him from checking me out—even if I were dead or a gentile. If he would have stopped to help, that action would have been a criticism of the priest’s interpretation of the law! Legalism strikes again! He was not a professional theologian like the priest. Who was he to criticize the priest?

Practical reasons might have made his mind up as well. How much could he help, not riding, but walking as I was? What resources did he really have on him to take care of me? He came, he did (basically nothing), he went.

8Good and upright is the LORD; therefore he instructs sinners in the way. 9He leads the humble in what is right, and teaches the humble his way. 10All the paths of the LORD are steadfast love and faithfulness, for those who keep his covenant and his testimonies. 11For your name's sake, O LORD, pardon my guilt, for it is great. 12 Who is the man who fears the LORD? Him will he instruct in the way that he should choose. 13His soul shall abide in well-being, and his offspring shall inherit the land. 14The friendship of the LORD is for those who fear him, and he makes known to them his covenant. 15My eyes are ever toward the LORD, for he will pluck my feet out of the net.

Somebody else had to be coming. Someone had to pluck my feet out of this net of suffering. I was expecting a layman to come along next. Wouldn’t you? A priest, a Levite, and a layman walk into a Synagogue… well, that’s a story for another day. Someone else came. It was not an Israelite.

But a Samaritan, who was on a journey, came upon me; and when he saw me, he felt compassion, and came to me and bandaged up my wounds, pouring oil and wine on them; and he put me on his own beast, and brought me to an inn and took care of me.

The robbers beat me. The priest just went along the road. The Levite at least came to a place closer to me. Only a Samaritan, of all people, came to me.

Samaritans and Jews weren’t friends. “Enemies” is a better term. How we hated them! They had gone after false idols, intermarried with non-Jews and made sacrifices other places than the only true Temple. They were considered dogs. In fact, this Samaritan put himself at risk by helping me out. If I had died, my family could have attacked him in revenge for the attack upon me. I know, it doesn’t make any sense. It doesn’t to me, now.

How can I explain the relationship between Jews and Samaritans? Well, think of your worst nightmare. The person who rescued me was the last person I thought would. For a WW2 vet it might be as if a Nazi storm trooper stooped down to help. Or, at the height of the Cold War, a Soviet KGB agent. Today, with your nation’s involvement in what you call the Middle East, imagine a terrorist helping you in your hour of need. Anyway, a Samaritan helping a Jew—it was unthinkable, impossible—just not done!

The Samaritan knew a lot more about what was going on that I did—that’s for sure. I never did learn which direction he was traveling. He could have been distantly following the priest and the Levite, or he would have passed both of them. He would have figured out that neither did anything much to help me. The road was still dangerous, even for him.

The oil he used softened and cleaned my wounds. The wine disinfected them. He not only carried me away from the scene with a beast of burden, but used his own mount, not a lowly pack animal, as my ambulance. This is sacrificial action. Oil and wine like that used in the Jewish temple. And such generous sacrifice! The Samaritan gave me his seat of honor on his mount.

On the next day, he took out two denarii. The denarius was equivalent to a day's wages and gave them to the innkeeper and said, Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, when I return I will repay you.'

The robbers beat and robbed me. The Samaritan paid for me. The robbers left me dying. The Samaritan left me taken care of. The robbers abandoned me to the vultures. The Samaritan promised to return.

He came, He did, and did, and did, and did, and went, but promised to return.

16Turn to me and be gracious to me, for I am lonely and afflicted. 17 The troubles of my heart are enlarged; bring me out of my distresses. 18Consider my affliction and my trouble, and forgive all my sins. 19Consider how many are my foes, and with what violent hatred they hate me. 20Oh, guard my soul, and deliver me! Let me not be put to shame, for I take refuge in you. 21May integrity and uprightness preserve me, for I wait for you.

I waited for the Lord, and He rescued me. Jesus often met people in need of rescue. Consider the case of a young lawyer, an expert in the law of Moses.

On one occasion, an expert in the Mosaic Law stood up showing respect for Jesus. He even called Him Rabbi, Teacher, showing that he considered Jesus at least an equal. His deceitful heart wished to put Him to the test, saying, (Luke 10:25–37) “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” 26He said to him, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” 27And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” 28And he said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.”

29But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

22Redeem Israel, O God, out of all his troubles. This young man is in trouble. He is up to his neck stuck in the law. Can you find it in your heart to redeem, to rescue, even him?

Jesus answered this new question with my story and a question of his own. 36Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?” 37He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” And Jesus said to him, “You go, and do likewise.”

Again, the expert in the law just wanted it all laid out for him. Give me a list, Jesus. Tell me who is my neighbor. Be sure to tell me who isn’t my neighbor, too. I don’t want to waste my time on the unworthy.

This lawyer, this student of the law was asking the wrong questions. We all know you can’t get proper answers if your questions are flawed. The question is not, “Who is my neighbor?” But rather, “To whom must you become a neighbor?” He is pressed to understand that he must become a neighbor to anyone in need. To fulfill the law, he must reach out in costly compassion to all people, even to his enemies. The standard set forth by the law of love remains, even though he, or you or I can never fully achieve it. You and I cannot justify ourselves or earn eternal life.

You may never hurt someone like me by violence. Instead, think about who we may have already hurt or may yet hurt due to neglect, like the priest and Levite did. You have the message that can bring the dead to life. The message of Good News that Jesus brought and that Jesus accomplished can give life to your neighbors. That’s not just the people who live next to you, though that isn’t a bad place to start. This is a message for all who are in need. Who doesn’t have need for life, healing, forgiveness, grace, a new fresh start?

The last place I expected to look for help was a Samaritan, an outsider who was to be rejected. No Jew had ever heard of a Good Samaritan. The last place one would look for salvation is a man dead on the cross. No Jew would ordinarily think of this as a good thing. But this is no ordinary man. This is the Son of God. He chose not to save Himself so that He could save others. By his wounds we are healed.

As human beings, you were just like I was, barely conscious, dreaming, deluded, wounded, basically dead—only spiritually. Salvation came to you, you who were spiritually fatally wounded, in the form of a costly demonstration of unexpected love. Jesus, the rejected outsider, has bound up your wounds and has healed you by his wounds. He has given you costly gifts, a washing of regeneration in Baptism and the medicine of immortality and antidote to death of His precious Body and Blood. He came. He did and did and did and did and did. He died, rose, and went, i.e. ascended into Heaven. And He promises to return.

You, too, have been healed by the Good Samaritan, your Neighbor, Jesus. Go and do likewise. Go and take the healing medicine of the Good News to your neighbors, to anyone who is in need of what Jesus has already given you. Amen.

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.