The Seventh Sunday after Pentecost – Series C – Luke 10:1-20
In the name of Jesus, Amen.
As Jesus has set his face to go to Jerusalem, so now, St. Luke’s Gospel moves forward with two themes ever in mind, and two themes that are not only true for Jesus and his disciples on their way to Jerusalem, but two themes that remain at the forefront of the Church throughout all times and all places.
The first of these themes, and the one that is the most obvious, is the centrality of Christ’s cross, crucifixion, death and resurrection for you.
For without this reality you and I are not Christians, without it we would have no hope, no peace, and there would be no salvation for us.
The centrality of Christ crucified, is and ever remains to be the face, the banner and the song of the church from Pentecost to the end of time.
There is no other redemption, no other solution for the forgiveness of our real, actual, and life-threatening sins.
Indeed, where therapy might help you to live with your sins, and where time may help you to forget your sins, and where even the right kind of people may help you to justify, rationalize, believe that your sins are not wrong, but good…
…still the only real answer to issue of your sin is the forgiveness of Christ crucified.
In that, your sins have actually, truly been taken from you and buried into the Lamb of God, Himself.
In that, your redemption is finished, and for you.
And yet, now in chapters 9 and 10, a second theme now comes into view.
Just as life and redemption is found in no other place but the passion of Christ,
So also, that mercy and forgiveness comes to us in no other way, and by no other means, than the Word that He has commanded His Church and Her pastors to preach, and the Sacraments that He has tied His own name and His own authority to.
The Journey of Jesus is about the centrality of the cross, all the while, making it abundantly clear to you, that the way that this cross gets to you is by no other means than His own Word and Sacrament.
In the beginning of Luke chapter 9, Jesus sends out the 12 apostles, and by this He distinguishes and separates the apostolic office as being different in function and authority from any other office in the church.
Whether you know all the details of the apostolic office or not, you, dear Christian, do know the end result.
And that is that these 12 apostles have been sent in the name and the authority of Christ himself to witness and testify not only to His resurrection, but to the whole doctrine of Christ and His Word.
It is this authoritative word, these apostolic scriptures, this entire New Testament, and this Word of faith that you have believed, it is where you have been given Christ, and how your name has come to be written in the Book of Life.
You are in Christ, and you have received Christ through this Word and by this office.
In the same way, now in Luke chapter 10, Christ sends out the 72 in addition to the 12 apostles, and by this He now ordains, creates and sustains what we call the office of the Holy Ministry, the vocation of the pastor.
As the 12 apostles and later St. Paul will eventually be martyred and die, so the office of apostle, will die with them. But the office of the Holy Ministry will not die out, just as Christ Himself has created and sustained it, so He wills for the office of the Ministry to remain until the end of time.
For as He promises, this is how his cross and crucifixion makes its way to you.
It is no man-made tradition, nor was it created for the sake of good-order, or so that somebody would be put in charge, or so that one person could take up the blame for everything.
You cannot be a Christian to yourself, you cannot be your own Church, you do not commune alone, you cannot baptize yourself, and you do not forgive your own sins.
You are called into the body, through Christ, and by His gifts…nothing else will do.
The sending of the 72, the ordination of the office of the Holy Ministry is actually given, created and sustained all for your sake.
It is given that Christ crucified might be brought all the way into your ears, washed over your heads, and placed into your mouths.
It is given so that the kingdom of God might come near to you, so that the song of the Church might ever be fixed as the mercy and the grace given to you.
You are in Christ, and you both receive this Christ through His own Word, His own Sacraments, and even His own sinful men sent by His Name given to you for the sake of the cross.
In Luke chapter 9, Jesus teaches his disciples about the true purpose of His kingdom and forgiveness which comes through the office of the ministry.
And He does this right after the disciples begin to argue about who is the greatest, who has the highest honor and the most authority.
And so Jesus takes a child, places him in the midst of the disciples and says to them, “Whoever receives this child in my name receives me, and whoever receives me receives him who sent me.” (Luke 9:48)
Now, often this object lesson is interpreted as being a teaching on humility. In other words, that you and I need to adopt the humility of a child in order to receive Jesus and His kingdom.
And yet, experience and reality tends to fly in the face of this interpretation.
For you don’t have to be a seasoned veteran in parenting, nor do you have to have any experience with children other than your own childhood to know this simple truth: that children are not in any way, humble.
No, the lesson is not about humility, it’s about weakness, it’s about the child as being nothing impressive and as having no bit of a commanding presence.
And yet, this child, this weak, feeble, and unimpressive person is sent bearing a name full of strength, power, authority and dominion.
In the end, it’s really not about the child at all, but about the Word and the Name that comes through them.
For with that Name, as Jesus declares, comes the gift of Christ himself, and the Father who sent Him.
Sometimes that unimpressive and weak thing comes by means of a pastor, sometimes it’s a few drops of water poured on the forehead of a child, and sometimes it’s the unassuming presence of bread and wine given into your mouths.
But as these weak vessels and vehicles carry to the Word of Christ, so they bring everything that Christ promises, and nothing less than that.
The receiving of this Word and these Sacraments is not the reception of a pastor’s personality, charisma, inspirational words of wisdom, or witty jokes, it’s the no nonsense, Gospel on full-blast delivering of Christ and His person to you.
No other gift will do. No other forgiveness will actually deal with your sin. No other mercy will put you at peace, and no other body and blood will bring to you the very resurrection of the dead and the life everlasting.
Nothing else is more important than this, including the offices and persons who deliver these gifts.
For as the 72 return from their mission, they come back excited and overwhelmed by the power that Christ has given them to proclaim.
The demons have retreated, the diseases have been lifted, and the people have received the kingdom.
And yet, Jesus responds to their excitement with these words, “Do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”
The truth of the matter is this: that the place of true honor, glory and blessing is found not in the one who delivers these gifts, but in the one who receives, and it is found in the one who receives by submission in faith.
Dear Christian, rejoice that through Christ crucified, through work that you did not do, through faith that you did not give yourself, and through the Word which you did not preach to yourself, your name has been written, not with your own hand, but through the body and blood of Christ, into the Book of Life.
Dear Christian, believe and see that the place of true honor and glory is not the pulpit but the pew and the ears that receive all of Christ and all for you.
Turn your eyes to this altar, and behold that the seats of blessing are not to be found in the one standing behind the table, but the knees that take their place at the communion rail.
As you hear the words, “Take and eat, take and drink”, whether you know it or not, you submit to them, for that is what faith does.
These words, and this body and blood is not given so that you would debate or negotiate their intention, it is not so that you sign a contract and agree to the terms, they are given for your amen, the submission of faith.
For that submission is nothing more and nothing less than this: to receive in faith the good and perfect things that Christ comes to give.
It is to expect from the Lord every good and perfect gift, indeed, his own person.
This may not be how our fallen eyes usually see things. We despise the language of submission, we reject the idea that receiving is better and more glorious than producing and giving. We want to be seen, and to be heard.
But even though our fallen flesh tends to reject this truth, it does not change the way things are, the way Christ has promised, declared and ordained his gifts to be given.
You are the baptized, and you have been given every good gift, even now, Christ comes to serve you, to give you his peace, to bring you to Himself.
Submission is not a bad word, perhaps it is distasteful in the eyes of men, but not in the ways of God.
For Christ himself is not above submission, for you, and for the greatest good that you will ever receive, he has submitted his own will to the will of the Father, all so that you might receive his life, his work, his honor and glory.
Rejoice, for through his nail pierced hands, his torn open side, his body and blood, water and word, through His church, His pastors and His journey all the way to you, He has already written your names in heaven.
It is finished, so take and eat, and receive His Word, you will not be disappointed, the Kingdom of God comes near to you, indeed Christ Himself.
In the name of Jesus, Amen.