Sunday, October 18, 2009

Festival of St. Luke the Evangelist

And after these things the Lord appointed 72 others and sent them on a mission in twos before His face into every city and place where He Himself was about to go. And He said to them, "On the one hand, the harvest is great, but on the other hand the workers, few; Beg, then, the Lord of the harvest that He throw out workers into His harvest. Be going! Look, I am sending you on a mission as lambs in the midst of wolves. Do not carry a money bag, nor pouch nor sandals; and greet no one along the road. Into what ever house you enter, first say, `Peace to this house'. And if ever is there a son of peace, your peace will rest upon him; but if not, upon you it will come back. And in that house remain eating and drinking the things from them; for worthy is the worker of his pay. Do not be changing from house to house. And into what ever city you come and they receive you, eat the things placed before you, and keep healing the sick in it and say to them, `The kingdom of God has come near upon you.'"

Today is the festival of St. Luke. He was not an apostle. He wasn't a pastor either. He wasn't even a church-worker. Luke was a physician by trade, and an amateur historian by hobby. But God called upon this man to record the history of church workers, starting with Jesus and his disciples in the Gospel that bears his name, and the apostles and deacons of the church in the Book of Acts.

On the one hand, there is a harvest. It is a great harvest of souls which Jesus describes as the grain which is left behind during the threshing process, as the chaff is blown away to be burned. You are blessed to be part of this great harvest of God. Your soul and spirit will be harvested heavenward. The harvesters of this great harvest will be the angels who will take those saved souls to heaven one day.

But what of the workers in the meantime? In Jesus day, along with the 12 disciples were 72 others sent on a special mission to proclaim the coming kingdom of God! With this message, they planted seeds, watered and fertilized the young sprouts, tended to and pruned the mature plants up to harvest day. For you, this has been your Pastors and those who have assisted them in the church's ministry.

Now, you might think that you don't need much help to thrive in God's vineyard. You like to consider yourself self-sufficient, able to maintain your faith pretty much on your own. But think again. What if you were never taught the faith in its truth & purity when you were young? What if no pastor was there in tough times when you needed comfort from God's word? How long would you survive?

But God has provided you workers, tossing them out into His harvest so you would grow, blossom and bear Him fruit. He provided a pastor who baptized you to wash you clean from all your sins. Your pastor continues to forgive you in that same name in which you were baptized, because baptism is a gift that keeps on giving. God reminds you constantly, through your Pastor, that you are a baptized child of God, that you may be washed at the cross in your daily bath of baptism for your forgiveness.

Perhaps you have not valued the work God does through His workers. If you only see your pastor for an hour on Sunday, you might think that's all he works. Such a mindset keeps pastors humble to be sure, with little to put in their money bags, if they carried them. You might think that in the big scheme of things, the work of the church-worker isn't very important, compared to other professions.

But the work God does through the Pastor is invaluable. Doctors like St. Luke give a small measure of peace when they do their jobs. But through the ministry of your Pastor, true, lasting peace is given to you. The Pastor feeds you with the very body and blood of Jesus for your forgiveness. That means everlasting peace between you and your heavenly Father. That's why the pastor elevates the body/bread and cup/blood saying or singing, "The peace of the Lord be with you" and you say "Amen."

Maybe you think that the job of God's workers is an easy one. Everybody likes a Pastor, you assume. With God on his side, what enemies would a church-worker have? They work for the King of heaven, after all...But it isn't easy. God's workers are sent as sheep among wolves, with the devil, the godless world, and the sinful flesh of people as his constant enemies. Many refuse his message of peace.

But to you who have heard the message of God's peace in Christ Jesus, a message of great hope is also given. Just as the 72 were called to proclaim that the kingdom of God was coming in the visits of Christ Jesus to these towns of Perea, so too is your Pastor privileged to preach to you that God's kingdom comes to you today. For Jesus visits you, here and now with this message for you, saying, "I died for you on the cross so that you may now live forever with me in the kingdom of heaven." Amen.

Hymns today from LSB:
#830 Spread the Reign of God the Lord
#810 O God of God, O Light of Light
#518 By All Your Saints in Warfare (insert stanza 26)

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