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The Gracious Gift

June 13, 2020 Pastor: Rev. Dean Kavouras

Verse: Romans 5:15

Christ Lutheran Church
Cleveland, Ohio
June 14, 2020
by: Rev. Dean Kavouras

Pentecost 2
The Gracious Gift

And Jesus went about to all the cities and villages teaching in their synagogues, and preaching to gospel of the Kingdom and healing every disease, and ailment. And as he beheld the crowds of people he felt compassion for them because they were harassed and scattered like sheep without a shepherd.

Then he said to his disciples: The harvest is plentiful but the laborers few; pray, therefore, the Lord of the harvest to send laborers into his vineyard.

And he summoned his twelve disciples and invested them with power over unclean spirits to expel them; and also to cure all disease and every ailment. These are the names of the twelve apostles: First, Simon who is called Peter and Andrew his brother, and James the son of Zebedee and John his brother. Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James the son of Alphaeus and Thaddeus; Simon the Canaanite and Judas Iscariot who betrayed him.

These twelve Jesus sent, charging them: Do not go into Gentile territory, or into any Samaritan town. But go, rather, to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. And as you go, announce that: the Kingdom of Heaven is near. Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, expel demons! Freely you have received, freely give. (Matthew 9:35 – 10:8)

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Every Sunday we rehearse the marks of the church in the Creed. They are:
one, holy, catholic and apostolic. Each is a sermon in itself, but today we will focus only on the last one, apostolic.

In today’s gospel we learn the reason that “apostolic” is a mark of the church. It is because the Lord chose 12 men to be his disciples, which means “students” who, upon their graduation on Pentecost, became apostles, which means “one who is sent”. And that is what the Lord does: he sends them. First to a limited territory, later to the whole world.

Because these men did the work they were ordained to do we who live on the other side of the world, 2000 years later, are in possession of the “Gracious Gift Of The One Man Jesus Christ,” that St. Paul speaks of in today’s epistle. (Rom. 5:15)

It is fitting that this gospel should be assigned for today as we enter the second semester of the church year.

The first semester is “the festival season” where we feast on the mighty acts of God to reconcile sinners to himself. Our Lord’s majestic birth, his baptism, temptation, suffering, death and resurrection to name a few; and what a time it was! Especially in the year 2020 when the whole world, in unison, “gave something up for Lent!”

Breathing …

But as most of the world hid under its collective bed to avoid the Angel of Death; the church prayed the prayer of Psalm 90, “Teach us to number our days so that we might gain a heart of wisdom.”

Yes, what a feast it was. Many Christians learned for the first time how to suffer for the name of Christ as they bore the yoke of state persecution. Choosing, like Moses, “to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season.” (Hebr. 11:25)

But Easter, which is the consummation of that great season of self-denial was denied to us! And like Jacob longing for Rachael we entered a second period of servitude, as it were, a second 40 days of Lent.

But do not let it throw you, O Christian because in truth every Sunday is Easter in the church!

Every Sunday Mary Magdalene meets her risen Lord at the altar! Her confidence is renewed. Her hope, revived. The joy of salvation, restored as she assembles to receive: “The gracious Gift of the One Man Jesus Christ” “in with and under” the bread and wine.

As for those who still want to burn down the world, and eradicate the church hear the words of Revelation 22:11

“Let the one who does wrong continue doing wrong;
let him who is soiled continue to soil himself,
but let him who is righteous continue to do what is righteous,
and let him who is holy, be holy still!”

The second semester of the church year is “Season of the Church” which we learn in today’s gospel.

Remember what happened: Jesus looks with compassion on the “sheep of his pasture” (Ps. 100) oppressed day and night by sin, death and enough devils to fill the world.

Next he commands his disciples to “pray to the Lord of the Harvest” to send out workers.

And then Jesus, who IS the Lord of the Harvest, answers their prayer, commissions these same men, and invests them with the following charge:

Announce that the Kingdom of Heaven is near, heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, expel the demons; and so they did; and so the church still does today.

She still announces that the Kingdom of Heaven is near. Not only near, but here! Right here! You are sitting in her lap; reclining on her breast and basking in her radiant glory.

Yes, the Kingdom of Heaven is now on earth; and Jesus is our Lord.

Jesus!

Not coronavirus. Not George Floyd. Not rioters and looters. Not the Pontius Pilates of this world who arrest the church of Christ, only to set Barabbas (Antifa) free.

And so repent, one and all, and you will receive, “the gracious Gift of the One Man Jesus Christ.” (Rom. 5:15)

2) Secondly the church heals the sick. Her medicine is Scripture, prayer, and wherever she is fully faithful to Scripture she consecrates oil and anoints the sick with it. These are the medicines of the Holy Spirit; the vaccine that inoculates us against sin, and that dries the tears of all who weep.

But that is not all. The whole world today is certain that putting the planet under “house arrest” for 12 weeks is what has saved humanity from extinction.

Dicto Simpiciter, Beloved!

Hasty Generalization, O Royal Priests! For it is the prayer of the church that calls down the tender mercies of God to earth, new every morning, and if ever there were essential workers, you are they.

Thirdly the church still raises the dead! Not like Jesus did, but you should know this: that many people who were as good as dead, have been restored to life by the church’s prayer.

But the more usual way the church raises the dead is by baptism where those are born “dead in trespasses and sins,” are made alive in baptism so that they might serve Christ in “everlasting righteousness, innocence and blessedness.”

Finally, The church still expels demons. We do it here every Sunday. As often as the baptized assemble to sing the Lord’s praises not only do we vanquish our own demons, but the “strong Word” here chanted penetrates the church’s walls, finds its way to ear of every demon wherever he skulks, and crushes his beastly head.

We also expel demons in private confession; ask your pastor for that gracious gift, and it will be given. And so if you are tormented by demons whatever their form:

demons of rage, demons of addiction, demons of homicide, demons of suicide, demons of disorder, demons of lust or sexual perversion – come to Jesus and he will set you free for he promises in John 8:36, “If the Son sets you free you will be free indeed.” (John 8:36).

You will be free, and you will receive “the gracious Gift of the One Man Jesus Christ” from the “one, holy, catholic and apostolic church.” Amen