Saturday, July 28, 2007

C, Pent 9 Proper 12 - Luke 11:1-13 & Hosea 1:2-10 "Our Father"

Nothing much has changed for the people of God since Hosea was commanded to take Gomer as his adulteress wife.

In the Old Testament reading we hear: When the Lord began to speak through Hosea, the Lord said to him, “Go, take to yourself an adulterous wife and children of unfaithfulness, because the land is guilty of the vilest adultery in departing from the Lord.” (Hosea 1:2)

The people of Israel were the people of God. God was their husband and Israel was his bride. She was chosen through Abraham to be a great nation and a blessing to all humanity, yet she constantly turned away from God, prostituting herself to other god’s; flirting with death by defiling herself before God, her holy husband.

Nothing much has changed. We are God’s people; the church is Christ’s holy bride. Yet we continually find ourselves running after other gods, jumping into bed with the very things that will kill us. Ironically though, sometimes we think that our actions are acceptable to our holy husband — as if our lewd conduct makes us more desirable to him.

However, while we were in bed with sin, death, and the devil, Christ came for us. And still as we are lured back under the sheets by our sinful natures, the world, and the devil, Christ still comes and pulls back the covers revealing the reality of our natures. But even still, he offers forgiveness and his hand in holy eternal matrimony.

One of the lewd gods we find ourselves in bed with today as a church and as individuals is still the same old temptation; it just has a new disguise. Psychology is the new bed mate, but once the clothes are taken away, it’s just the same old deception where God is pushed out and our felt needs become the driving force of our faithlessness.

Ironically though, these days we lead this lover out of bed and into our churches thinking that this self-satisfying service is somehow pleasing to God. We end up calling this faithlessness our act of faith and worship. We’re deceived into thinking that this is what being a Christian is all about, but really it’s idolatry. God is pushed out, and our focus becomes what we’re doing for God. But only if we’d open our eyes we’d see that it’s not God we’re worshipping, but really it’s a deceptive worship of self leading to death.

So as we’re tempted to focus on ourselves, and sing the many shallow songs about what we’re goin’ to do for God, which only justify our focus on ourselves. And all the while, as we’re forgetting who we really are as sinners, and as we’re ignoring why Christ crucified should be central to our worship and God’s service to us, Jesus still comes to us. He still comes to take his holy bride by the hand and lead us back to him and back to his way of life. And his way not only gives us peace in this life, but it also gives us eternal life.

Like Hosea, he knows your reality. He knows that the church, like Gomer, struggles with sin and unfaithfulness. Yet he calls us to leave our desire to please ourselves. He calls us away from the craving to justify our sin of personal fulfilment or the pursuit of happiness. These things water down the reality of our sinful nature so much, we actually end up living in denial of who we really are. And even worse, things become so confused, that the holy things God puts in place get treated by us as if they’re evil. So powerful is the perverseness of our faithless prostitution.

As a guess I would have it that most of us if asked, if the world is getting better or worse, would freely admit that yes things are getting worse. The world is getting more and more corrupt, life is getting harder, and our society is being burdened and won over by more and more consumeristic and psychological junk. So then why should the church turn to follow the world and its ways to feed its faith and fill its pews?

Why are we tempted to look at marketing strategies and human centred psychology over against the faith-building food of God, in a Christ-centred Calvary-centred gospel? Is it not important with what we’re fed? And yet we think the ways of the world, and our felt needs, are more relevant; we’re led to believe the junk of the world has greater nutritional value than God’s way.

Yet Jesus still comes to his church. Jesus calls us to repentance and guarantees forgiveness to all through his death and resurrection. Jesus calls us to see the psychobabble reality of our age, and the powerless false worship of the “what I am going to do” self-worship. He calls us to return to the power he has won through the cross, given freely to us as true faith by the Holy Spirit in his word.

And so we have access to God the Father because God the Son still comes. Jesus takes the church as his holy bride calling us to himself. He calls us to repent of our self-centred ways of idolatry and live in the forgiveness won in his way at the cross. As the church’s husband, Christ has made the ultimate sacrifice for us at the cross, and it’s through his innocent sufferings and death that we’re saved from our faithless deeds which lead to death.

God named the reality of who we are, but also his gracious will for us, when Jesus gave us his prayer — the Lord’s Prayer. It a common deception in the church today that one must pray from the heart, or else the Holy Spirit is not in us. Once again the grace of God is hijacked by man-centred psychology, turning prayer into what we’re going to do for God — our work and our power! However Christian prayer is the Spirit led response of God’s children; the power of God that moves us according to his will, changing us, by acknowledging our weakness and trusting in his almighty power.

We can learn a lot about ourselves and God from the Lord’s Prayer, the prayer Jesus gives us as a gift, which is so often overlooked in favour of shallow empowerment prayers prayed to coerce God into justifying our will. In fact, when we pray the Lord’s Prayer, we join in with Jesus, who is before our Father in heaven. It is Christ with us, in us, praying the prayer, by the power of the Holy Spirit.

That’s why we have the right to boldly say to God, “Our Father”. Because in Christ that’s exactly who he is. But when we discard God’s way in favour of our own way to God through self-worship, through our own works, we have no right to stand before God, nor name him as our Father.

The prayer that Jesus gives us, states facts — God’s name is holy, in fact his being is completely holy. How amazing it is that through Jesus we have access to his Holy Father, we can boldly come before him, knowing we won’t receive the wrath we’re due because of our lewd and unholy conduct with the many other gods we’re tempted to worship!

The next fact stated is one of God’s almighty power. The Father’s kingdom will come and his will, will be done. It is done despite our sinful deeds — even our best or greatest deeds which are still even tainted by sin. As Luther says in the Small Catechism, we pray that his kingdom will come also to us, and his will, will be done also in us. And these come to us when we believe he who gave us this prayer, gives us access to the kingdom through his blood spilt on the cross and through the bestowal of the Holy Spirit in his word.

Then we pray for daily bread. If God would go to such trouble sending his Son to die for us, to save us and make the church the bride of Christ, wouldn’t he then also sustain us in this life until he comes to take us into his kingdom forever? Yes!

Not only does he feed us with physical food for our physical and spiritual bodies, but in praying this very prayer we can trust that the fullness of the Godhead dwells in us. God fills us with the food of faith in his word, leading us away from ourselves towards him, his will, and his kingdom.

The next three things might come as a bit of a surprise being in the Lord’s Prayer. This is Jesus’ prayer, and yet here he focuses us on forgiveness for our sin, the possible reality of temptation, and deliverance from evil. What is Jesus saying about us? He names the reality of you and me, that we, the church, are Gomer — unfaithful, adulteresses, prostituting ourselves to other gods. But this is Jesus’ prayer — here he took ownership of our idolatrous ways as if they were his ways and took them to the cross.

Therefore, having done this, for me, for you, for us wretched bunch of sinners known as the church — the kingdom, the power, and the glory are surely his alone, right now and forever. Because of Jesus we stand as one in him, called out of ourselves into the community of the church and boldly say “OUR Father”, for Jesus’ sake, yes! Let it be so! Amen!

Thursday, July 19, 2007

C, Pent 8 Proper 11 - Luke 10:38-42 & Amos 8:2b-3 "Ripe or Rotten Fruit?"

When God looks at you, does he see ripe or rotten fruit? It’s a scary question; because it invites me to look intently at who I really am. This question is a question we should only ask of ourselves. No one except you and God knows what condition your flesh is in, under your outer skin.

Amos, a shepherd of flocks and a farmer of figs, was shown by God, a basket of ripe fruit. And on seeing it, the Lord said to Amos, “The time is ripe for my people Israel; I will spare them no longer. In that day, the songs in the temple will turn to wailing. Many bodies — flung everywhere! Silence! (Amos 8:2b-3)

It seems as if the sweet fruit God had sought in his people Israel, had soured in his sight, and he was about to toss out the fruit that should have been sweet and ripe, but rather had fermented and rotted before his very eye.

When God looks at you does he see ripe or rotten fruit? Are you the same as the Israelites, rotten with doubt, worry, greed, and pride? If God were to peel back your outer layers to reveal what’s inside, what would he find? Pure sweet motives pleasing to God or rotten flesh being devoured by the fruit fly of sin and selfishness?

It’s a disappointment when one watches fruit grow on the tree for months and months, waiting in expectation for sweet juicy fruit, only to find after the waiting and the watering and the fertilising that the fruit has been fouled by fly.

God too had watched and waited for his people Israel to bear the sweet fruit, he might harvest for himself. He had led them out of Egypt, placed them in the land of Canaan, gave them a kingdom with kings, and yet they continually turned sour against God.

The kings of Israel turned away from God, and the people too became rotten in their sin, as they turned from God to worship the Canaan fertility gods. And in turning from God they lost their source of sweetness and soured — turning on each other, oppressing the weak, dishonestly cheating each other, and loathing the time they spent in the Lord’s presence on the Sabbath. They would have much preferred to be out doing the self-centred things which increased their wealth and worth.

So they became sour and rotten, against each other, in the presence of God. God had nurtured the people, watered them with his word. Through prophets and priest, he had placed in their presence, he tended them and fertilised them. And now God was about to discard them — cast them out and silence them with his silence. “The days are coming,” declares the Sovereign Lord, “when I will send a famine through the land—not a famine of food or a thirst for water, but a famine of hearing the words of the Lord. (Amos 8:11)

When God looks at you, does he see ripe or rotten fruit? Are your actions cutting off the sweet source of God’s word, so that the disease of sin makes your heart sour and suffer?

38 As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. 39 She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. 40 But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!” 41 “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, 42 but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:38-42)

Martha was sour that Mary wasn’t helping her. In fact Martha had become rotten with worry; she was extremely upset! Martha has become distracted and troubled by all the preparations that needed to be made. She thought it was bitterly unfair that Mary was not helping her with the preparations, saying to Jesus, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!” But Jesus unmoved by Martha’s concern points to the reality hidden within and says, “…only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.

Right here at this point we have to discern what was rotten with Martha. Many of us wrongly assume that Martha must sit at Jesus’ feet too; wrongly imposing law on Martha that she must do as Mary was doing. But this thinking turns the gospel into a law. It also justifies Mary by what she was doing, which also wrongly takes the focus from whom it’s rightly deserved.

In fact, the preparations Martha was making were as honourable as Mary’s sitting at Jesus’ feet. The preparations were essential. What Martha was meant to be doing, in preparing what was needed to be done, was the work Jesus required her to do. Just like Martha, we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. (Ephesians 2:10) So in doing the necessary preparations for Jesus to be at her home, Martha was, in fact, doing the right thing, as was Mary.

However, we hear Martha was distracted by the preparations. She needed not be! These actions if done without the distractions would have brought glory to Jesus in just the same way as was Mary’s devotion at Jesus’ feet. But filled with sinful motives, known to Jesus, Martha seeks Jesus’ help to impose her rotten will on her sister. The fruit of Martha’s works, prepared in advance for her to do in God’s service became sour and rotten in his sight, when she allowed herself to be distracted and upset by her worries and pride.

So when God looks at you, does he see ripe or rotten fruit? Are your actions cutting off the sweet source of God’s word, so that the disease of sin makes your heart sour and suffer? There are two answers to these questions!

When God looks at us he does see rotten fruit? If he didn’t, he wouldn’t have sent Jesus Christ to die on the cross, he wouldn’t have sent the Holy Spirit to show us our rottenness and return us to the vine — where we’re continually grafted into Jesus Christ and his precious lifeblood spilt there for you and me.

So when God looks at you he sees ripe fruit too! Because when God looks at you, he sees Jesus Christ. We then are free from the law to be his people and bring glory to him in what he has prepared in advance for us to do. No longer do we have to be distracted by the preparations, of what you and I should or shouldn’t be doing. But focused on Jesus, we can rest on his preparations, made at the cross, and trust that in him we will do what pleases God.

And the most pleasing thing any of us do is this: Allow ourselves to be led to repentance and forgiveness for our rotten ways, bringing glory to Christ who was cut down in death at the cross. He was silenced outside the city, so we might boldly serve God in the many and various ways he desires, in all peace, joy, and holiness, until he comes to eternally harvest us as his ripe repentant fruitful and faithful people. Amen.

Dear sweet Lord Jesus, give us the will not to burden others with our own rotten motives and desires, but grant us the grace to encourage each other to look to you and glorify you who reins with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God now and forever, Amen.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

C, Pent 7 Proper 10 - Luke 10:25-37 "The Good Samaritan"

The Parable of the Good Samaritan is one of the most misinterpreted pieces of scripture in the bible. When taken out of its proper context, one hears the command from Jesus to go and do likewise, as the Good Samaritan has done, lumbering us, the listeners, with a burdensome near impossible task to act upon.

Jesus is right in saying, if one must do the right thing; one must do the same or even better than the Good Samaritan. If you want to earn eternal life by helping your neighbour, you must do the job selflessly and perfectly to be accepted by our Father who demands nothing short of holy perfection.

It’s no wonder many of us are crushed by such expectations placed on us by texts like this, when they’re taken out of their Gospel-centred context. In fact, fear and frightfulness is epidemic in the church today as a result of us, God’s people, missing the Christ-centred Gospel context, when the Gospel is taken and turned back into a law that we must complete for our assurance of salvation.

Also under this same burden are some of us who feel we have to pretend being “Good Samaritans”. Perhaps you have worked so hard to cover yourself with robes of righteousness, feeling you have to appear as if you’ve got it all together. But as quickly as we dress ourselves, these robes of riches turn to rags — filthy and unacceptable to ourselves, let alone God.

The problem we face when confronted by texts such as the Good Samaritan parable, is an identity crisis. Who are we in the text? We assume we must be the Samaritan doing the work! But if that is the case, where then is God in the Good Samaritan parable? If you or I are meant to be the Samaritan, doing the perfectly good thing, then God must be the one watching over us in judgement ready to condemn us for any motive we have that is less than holy and perfect.

Just ponder the scorn you feel for the criminals, who beat the man going down from Jerusalem to Jericho; the anger that wells in you against the useless Priest and Levite, who passed by on the other side of the road. Surly God’s anger towards us would be the same, if not greater, if we, being sent as the Good Samaritans, performed less than perfectly! It’s a scary prospect to contemplate; how good a Samaritan do I have to be to be accepted by God as good?

The answer is: I have to be as good as God! You and I have to be as good as God to love our neighbours as ourselves and inherit eternal life! It’s no wonder under the weight of such expectation we stumble and fall every time; our robes of righteousness quickly become dirty filthy rags!

But God is not towering over us looking down waiting for us to fail so he might smash us with his anger. God is with us! In fact, God came down and got his robes of righteousness dirty so he might take us from rages to riches. We can boldly look forward in faith and hope because it is Jesus himself who is the Good Samaritan. He is the only one who can perfectly please God through doing the right thing. Jesus Christ, God the Son, is the only one good enough.

So if Jesus is the Samaritan in his parable, we must be the ones beaten by the roadside. We are the ones who have been wronged by others. In fact we have got ourselves into the many bad situations in which we find ourselves, both as the recipients and as the perpetrators of evil. Our sin and the sin of others make us unacceptable, beaten, filthy and dirty. Left in this condition we too would die outside eternity without a loving God!

Then the law comes along, it must come along, to show that we can’t get up and follow it, and nor will it come and assist us in getting up. Just like the Priest and the Levite who passed by on the road from Jerusalem to Jericho, the law passes over us in judgement. It kicks us in condemnation, because we’re not fit to be in the presence of God, who is holy.

However Jesus Christ, the holy Son of God, who resolutely set his face towards Jerusalem and went there to be nailed to the cross in all its dirtiness and filth, comes to us on the road and picks us up.

As Jesus tells us elsewhere, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.” (John 14:1-3)

Jesus picks us up along the way, dirty and broken, and takes us to his Father’s house, and prepares the way by way of his crucifixion at Calvary!

The context and the whole point of the Good Samaritan parable is this: to show that we cannot be the Good Samaritans. Jesus told the expert in the Law the parable, to show him that no matter how self-inflated his expertise might seem, it was not enough.

In fact the law comes from Jerusalem and its destination is Jericho. Jerusalem is the holy throne of God, and Jericho is a place of complete rebellion, where one seeks to build the walls of salvation to their own detriment, just as those were cursed by God who sought to rebuild the walls of Jericho in Old Testament times.

However, Jesus is going the way of the Gospel. He is the Good News Samaritan! He went to Jerusalem but surprisingly he was cursed there as if he had gone to rebuild the walls of Jericho. But having been cursed, God raised him in all glory and now he is rebuilding our lives from the curse of sin, he is preparing a place for us with him in heaven. There can only be one, and that one is Jesus Christ!

Where all others failed to pick us up in our dirty filthy broken state, in fact they had no right to pick us up, Jesus our Good Samaritan lifts us up and carries us on his donkey, the church, and resolutely takes us with him to the cross and his resurrection. And there at the cross he takes our filthy rages and exchanges them with his robes of perfect holy righteousness, and because of this his resurrection is the assurance and hope of our resurrection from the dead.

So, now as we travel with he who resolutely leads and carries us towards eternity, we can reach out to others from the donkey, God’s church, doing good works and bearing the fruit of spiritual wisdom and understanding. We can boldly lift others onto the heaven bound mule, but only because Jesus leads us near our neighbours, and it is he who lifts the lost into his way, just as he lifted us up from weakness onto his shoulders at the cross.

We can boldly reach out to others, because Jesus is the Good Samaritan; he has paid the cost for our accommodation and healing. In fact, he has paid the price once and for all, for the accommodation and healing of every person! Jesus Christ, God the Son, holy and blameless, endured the cross and its scorn and shame, to qualify us to share in the holy inheritance of heaven.

So as we leave God’s presence today, carried by Christ on his donkey, having received but a glimpse of the Glory of God enthroned in his holy kingdom, God seeks to boldly use us to pick up the lost on our way through life to eternity.

But let us not forget that we too are still travelling from Jericho to Jerusalem, from the curse of sin and death unto holiness and eternity. Therefore, we’ll still be beaten and battered and left for dead in this life. Our sinful nature will seek to tempt us away from the security of Jesus’ way.

But as beaten and battered as we might become, we will not be overcome, and Jesus, our Good Samaritan, will resolutely continue to pick us up and carry us towards death and through it into his eternal kingdom, our heavenly Jerusalem, our heavenly home. Amen.

Friday, July 06, 2007

C, Pent 6 Proper 9 - Galatians 6:7-9 "To Boldly Sow"

Last week we were presented with the bold farmer looking forward in faith as the weeds of his sinful nature were ploughed out and he was planted with the seeds of the Spirit, trusting a bountiful harvest was forthcoming. He looked forward in faith because he was guided by the best GPS known to humanity; this was not a GPS dependant on satellites for guidance along the right track, but rather it was on God Providing Salvation, through a Grace Perfecting Saviour, and a Gospel Positioning Spirit. With a threefold GPS like this, there’s no reason why you and I can’t be the bold people we’re called to be in Christ.

However, this boldness given through our Triune GPS, must also be constantly tuned by God so that it draws on him alone and leads us to him alone. The temptation to move past the power of God’s guidance and turn his GPS off, thinking we can keep the furrow straight by our own power is real, once God gives us the confidence to stand firm and look ahead in him.

This happens so easily with all of us. The old sinful nature, sometimes encouraged along by the devil or others, quickly takes credit for the boldness and confidence we have in Christ. We are tempted to think we might do better and yield a bigger harvest, if we take back control.

Yet Paul warns, “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A person reaps what they sow. The one who sows to please their sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” (Galatians 6:7-9)

You see as soon as we think we no longer need the Triune GPS, turning off God’s guidance — God’s single track to salvation through his Son and the Holy Spirit — there’s no way we can follow God’s way. We simply turn from looking forward in faith by the Spirit, back to the ways of the old sinful nature.

Even if we convince ourselves and others we are ploughing out the weeds and planting the seeds of the Spirit, we are in fact, aerating the weeds so they only get stronger and tougher, and destroying the seeds of the Spirit. After all, Paul also says, “If anyone thinks they are something when they are nothing, deceives themselves. (Galatians 6: 3)

However, on the other hand, if we realise our weakness and boldly stand in the grace of God, owning the reality of our sinful nature but continually trusting God daily washes us clean in the waters of baptism, we testify to the power of God and his means of guiding us through this life towards the harvest of eternity. When we accept the reality of our sinful nature and depend on the gifts of Spirit, given through Christ at the cross, we testify to the worthiness of these gifts and that there are no other gifts like them. In our bold confession of our sinfulness and our dependence on God’s guidance, glory is brought to God as the one and only source of all truth.

Both, the Old Testament narrative of Naaman’s healing and the Gospel account of Jesus sending out the seventy two, testify to the power of God in a number of ways. And it is by these you can be encouraged to boldly stand firm in Christ, believing who he has made you to be and where he is taking you in eternity.

Firstly, in 2 Kings 5, Naaman, the Aramean military commander, is struck with leprosy. The disease was severe, and warranted attention, Naaman knew it and so did his master, the king of Aram. Yet from whom do these powerful men receive guidance? It’s not from the spiritual leaders of Aram, or the leading physicians of the country, or from the King’s Cabinet. Rather it was from a young girl captured from Israel to be a servant in the house of Naaman.

Two things stand out as unusual with this servant girl and her masters. Firstly, she has the boldness to suggest Naaman see Elisha, the prophet from Samaria. And secondly, Naaman’s wife, Naaman himself, and the King of Aram, take counsel from a slave girl, a foreigner, and send Naaman to the Israelite King to be healed. This event strikes me as strange; that she had the boldness to say what she did; that they even listened to her in the first place; and that she wasn’t disciplined or executed for giving advice from her lowly position. Something is going on here!

What is going on here can be revealed in Naaman’s disgust at Elisha’s instruction to go and wash in the Jordan seven times. Surely something so simple in a river that’s anything but extraordinary or special is not going to do the job, was Naaman’s angry response. However, at the encouragement of his servants, Naaman goes and is healed by the waters of the Jordan.

Added to this is the response of Elisha’s servant, Gehazi. After Naaman leaves for home healed after Elisha refuses payment for the healing God had performed on Naaman, Gehazi goes and deceitfully demands Naaman give Elisha silver and two sets of clothes for a couple of fictitious people from the hill country of Ephraim.

It’s in Elisha’s condemnation of Gehazi, the boldness of the Naaman’s servant girl, the healing powers of the tranquil Jordan, and Elisha’s command to go to the Jordan, that we see the true power of God, which in turn encourages us to boldly stand firm in the guidance and leadership of the Lord, through which his means of placing salvation and the Spirit is given to us.

After Gehazi had extorted these gifts from Naaman he went in and stood before his master Elisha. “Where have you been, Gehazi?” Elisha asked. “Your servant didn’t go anywhere,” Gehazi answered. But Elisha said to him, “Was not my spirit with you when the man got down from his chariot to meet you? Is this the time to take money, or to accept clothes, olive groves, vineyards, flocks, herds, or menservants and maidservants? Naaman’s leprosy will cling to you and to your descendants forever.” Then Gehazi went from Elisha’s presence and he was leprous, as white as snow. (2 Kings 5:25-27)

So too, wasn’t it God’s Spirit who rested on the servant girl who first suggested Naaman go to Elisha? The same Spirit who opened the hearts of Naaman, his wife, and the King of Aram, to receive God’s guidance through the girl, coupled with the deadly reality of Naaman’s leprosy? Wasn’t it the Spirit of God who led Elisha to direct Naaman to the Jordan and wasn’t it the power of God’s word through which the Spirit worked with the river water to heal Naaman?

Therefore, we are encouraged by these to stand firm and continually return to Christ and his gift of the Spirit given in the waters of baptism, so we might boldly be the Spirit led Christians we are called to be! We can look forward in faith and hope, rather that looking back in fear and faithlessness to serve our sin which so easily entangles and destroys us! Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A person reaps what they sow.

Secondly, the gospel for today points us in the same direction. Jesus himself sent seventy-two faithful disciples out to prepare the harvest for him. They returned amazed, full of joy, exclaiming, “Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name.” (Luke 10:17)

Even greater than God’s Spirit resting on Elisha and using him to be the bold bearer of his word, Jesus is the incarnate Word of God. Jesus was not just a prophet with a message from God, Jesus is the message and Jesus is God! Therefore the seventy-two could go out boldly into the harvest fields as lambs amongst the wolves bearing Jesus Christ, their message, and in the message they could confidently proclaim the Kingdom of God was near.

This is why Jesus says, “Heal the sick who are there and tell them, ‘The kingdom of God is near you.’ But when you enter a town and are not welcomed, go into its streets and say, ‘Even the dust of your town that sticks to our feet we wipe off against you. Yet be sure of this: The kingdom of God is near.’” (Luke 10:9-11)

The Kingdom was near those to whom they were sent because in their message of proclamation was Christ. Just prior to them going out Jesus said to them, “He who listens to you listens to me; he who rejects you rejects me; but he who rejects me rejects him who sent me.” (Luke 10:16) And on their joyful return and surprise that even the demons submitted to them in Jesus’ name, Jesus replied, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you. However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.” (Luke 10:18-20)

Likewise we too, who are being guided by God towards salvation, are called to recognise we are nothing without Christ leading us by the Spirit in his word. We can never move past the guidance of God, in these things, thinking we have the power to sow the seeds of our salvation or to renavigate the track Jesus has put in place.

However, we can be bold in Christ, remaining in him and his word, allowing the Holy Spirit to lead us towards the heavenly harvest, having given us authority and power over the enemy forever.

“All” glory and power be to our Triune GPS – our God Providing Salvation, our Grace Perfecting Saviour, and our Gospel Positioning Spirit, who scuffles out the weeds of our sinful nature, and sows the seeds of the Spirit, the seeds of our salvation.

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. (Galatians 6:18) Amen.