"The MIGHTY Lord is with us; the God of Jacob is our FORTRESS." Psalm 46:7
 
 

7th Sunday after Pentecost
Rev. D. K. Schroeder
Luke 10:1-20 Sermon 
July 15, 2007

Hymns (from The Service Book and Hymnal):
182 “O Day Of Rest And Gladness”
124 “Creator Spirit By Whose Aid”
468 “O Jesus King Most Wonderful”
532 “Jesus Still Lead On”

GOING FORTH AS JESUS’ DISCIPLES

TEXT (vs. 1-2, 8-9): “After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them two by two ahead of him to every town and place where he was about to go. He told them, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field….When you enter a town and are welcomed, eat what is set before you. Heal the sick who are there and tell them, the kingdom of God is near you.'”

This past week, someone rang my mother’s doorbell. When she answered it, there was a young lady standing there on her front stoop. This young lady proceeded to try to sell her magazine subscriptions, and she was fairly persistent about it too.

She told my mother that she was working her way through school, and needed the money. When my mother refused to buy any magazines from her, the more insistent she became. She told her, “Aren’t you proud of me, trying to work my own way through school?”

Mother told her that she was happy that she showed some initiative, but that there were much better ways to go about making money than doing door-to-door sales. She continued to persist, but my mother wasn’t about to be budged. She wasn’t going to buy any magazines from her. She told her that she didn’t want to subscribe to any more magazines, and that she was wasting her time even trying.

Now I don’t know if this young woman selling magazines was on the up-and-up or not. I have no way of knowing if she was really a student or not. I do know however that these people are taken and schooled as to how to make high-pressure sales by the people for whom they work. They know the right words to say, the right buttons to push, and all the tricks to use to get people to put their name on the dotted line. They know they won’t sell to everyone, but they’ll have an almost surprising rate of people they do persuade to buy from them.

Magazine salespeople are not the only ones who employ these tactics. Have you ever had to sit through the spiel from the man selling Kirby or Filter Queen or Rexaire Rainbow vacuum cleaners? They have a whole rehearsed spiel there as well. They even have a system worked out where they will phone their manager and stage a rehearsed fight with him, making you believe they are doing battle with him on your behalf. If you’ve ever witnessed this (and I have on a couple of occasions), believe me, it is all an act.

I don’t like direct sales. I don’t like the pressure, I don’t like the hype, and I don’t like the shady methods many people use. Sales people pretty much have to rely on commission for their pay, so they are driven by money. The hungrier a person is, the harder they will work to make a sale. I don’t care if it’s magazines, or vacuum cleaners, or Amway, or Quixstar, it all boils down to the same thing.

I’ve had many people try to talk me into doing commission sales. I even tried selling insurance for a short time, and I absolutely hated it. I almost starved. I just don’t like that type of work.

Now I have nothing against people who are in sales, in fact I deal with a fair number of them all the time. I realize that they have their place and need to exist in our world. Businesses need people who will sell their product. But I won’t have anything to do with someone who tries to use high pressure and dishonest tactics with me. And I certainly am not going to respond well to a stranger at my door hawking something. That’s just not the way I do things.

People have tried to carry this sort of thinking over into religion as well. The Jehovah’s Witnesses are masters at it. They’ll come knocking at your door, and there will usually be two of them. Some of them even bring their children along, thinking that people won’t be rude and slam the door in their face if there is a child or two standing there.

But it’s a tactic. They will stand and argue with you. They will persist. And they don’t care if you’re a church member somewhere else, they want you.

As we look at our text for today, we find Jesus sending out a group of disciples. In the Greek, it is unclear whether the number sent out was seventy or seventy-two; however the exact number in this instance is insignificant.

We know that the number of disciples had grown with Jesus’ popularity, way beyond the original twelve apostles. He undoubtedly had far more than the seventy-two mentioned in our text for today. But he had this select group whom he was sending to the towns and villages ahead of him. They were being sent to prepare for his arrival in those places. He would be coming soon.

As we have discussed before, Jesus was traveling to Jerusalem, where he would eat the Passover with the apostles, stand trial, and be crucified. Jesus knew what was ahead of him.

Jesus was not unknown either. The people had heard of him. They knew of his miracles, and many believed, even though they may have never seen him in person. That was about to change as Jesus would be entering their town. The one they had heard so much about was going to pay them a visit.

This is what the seventy two were supposed to do. They needed to alert people of his coming, so they would be prepared to receive him. These disciples were even given special power, so the people would know that they were genuine. They were given the ability to heal the sick, and they had the power to cast out demons. These were things for which Jesus was famous; so if his disciples could do these same things, then they would know what they said about Jesus was true. He was coming along after them. These were ordinary men, but they had an extraordinary message they were proclaiming.

Of course not everybody was a follower of Jesus. He did have his enemies out there. So if the disciples went into a town and they were rejected, it’s as if they had rejected Jesus himself. Verse 16 quotes Jesus saying 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.” He even states that such a place invites judgment upon themselves, stating that it would be more bearable for Sodom, that sinful city in the Old Testament, than it would be for them. God’s judgment would not be pleasant.

When we consider that God is indeed God and acts in ways that are beyond human comprehension and understanding, we sort of expect him to come into our midst in the same way. We sort of expect something super human and spectacular.

Our text for today shows us that Jesus appoints and sends ordinary people to share His Kingdom. He gives ordinary people the opportunity to be a part of His plan to bring His Kingdom near to all people.

At the personal level, God appoints and sends people to share His Kingdom when He brings them to faith. As the Holy Spirit works faith in the heart, He also leads us to confess our faith as we gather together with fellow Christians and as we journey through our lives in this world. The Holy Spirit encourages us in I Peter 3, 15: “But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect…”

Personally speaking, I’ve never been a person who is inclined to go door-to-door selling Jesus. I think you could probably gather that when I told you that I don’t like doing direct marketing sales. And I’ve been criticized for that too. There are those who think that a pastor’s job is to grab a handful of tracts and start hiking down the street trying to rustle up members for the congregation. And when the pastor isn’t married with a family, then what else has he got to do with his time?

Now some people do have some success doing this, and I certainly give them credit for it. There have been more than a few people who have come to know Jesus this way. God can certainly use whatever means available to increase his kingdom.

But over 98 percent of the people, who join a church, do so because they knew and were invited by one of the lay members of the church. The lives of the members become the witness of Christ and his Church.

So what does that mean? Do we try to preach Jesus to all of our friends, relatives, and acquaintances? Do we try to jam our religion down their throats?

I think if we did that, we wouldn’t have too many friends and acquaintances any more. And our relatives would probably try to avoid us like the plague. People who are always “preaching religion” at someone else are tagged as “troublemakers” and are not welcomed very warmly.

So what do we do? Let’s try being a witness by the way we live our lives. How do we handle trouble or adversity? How strong is our marriage? How are our lives examples of the faith living within us?

There are subtle ways too. You can let people know you go to church with a comment like, “Pastor had a good sermon last Sunday,” or “I’m going to Bible Study tonight,” or “It’s clean-up day at the church,” or “I’m going to visit one of our church members who’s in the hospital.” Maybe you can even softly hum a familiar hymn. If someone knows you are active in your church, and that you’re not trying to shove it down their throat, they might be interested.

Then there are the more direct ways. If someone new moves into the neighborhood, invite them to church with you. If someone you know has a crisis, offer to introduce them to your pastor. And if someone seems down and out, let them know about the hope you have within you.

Our text for today gives us an unmistakable example of how Jesus uses ordinary people for being his witnesses and building his kingdom. It doesn’t take a seminary education or a degree in a Bible college to let people know you are a Christian and that you regularly attend church.

Jesus uses ordinary people from all walks of life so that people will know that he is everybody’s Saviour, and not just for an elite group. The sins that we all have committed are not too big nor are they too insignificant to be forgiven by Jesus. Through faith in our Saviour, we have forgiveness, and therefore we have peace. It is a peace that surpasses all human understanding; and when we have that peace in our lives, it will be noticeable to the world around us.

Through Jesus, we also have power. The power does not lie within our own abilities, but solely with God. Our power comes from God the Holy Spirit working through his Word. Through that Word, we have the power in our hands to effectively combat the devil and send him running. And God places this power in the hands of everyone who receives Christ by faith, and doesn’t reject him.

Somebody asked me the other day, “How do we make our church grow?” The answer is, we don’t. We aren’t the ones who make it grow. God does that through the Holy Spirit. God makes use of each one of us in one way or another. Even though the idea of canvassing should be regarded as valuable, yet I don’t advocate that we all go door-to-door selling Jesus. We don’t need to employ special tactics and fancy gimmicks either. What we need is the faithful Christian witness of our people who, even if only in very small ways, lets others know that what we have here is worth sharing. We have the gospel, which confesses Jesus Christ as our Lord and Saviour.

Let us pray boldly that God would use us, in whatever way he sees fit, to bring this message to the world and to increase his kingdom here on earth.

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