Christ Lutheran Church
July 3, 2022
by: Rev. Dean Kavouras
After this the Lord ordained seventy-two others and sent them two by two ahead of him to every city and place where he himself was about to go. And he said to them, "The crop is abundant but the harvesters few; and so make urgent plea to the Lord of the harvest to send laborers into it. (Luke 10:1-2)
In today’s gospel we observe the church in her infancy.
Just like the child in the womb is all there, fully human, even so the infant church is all there in today’s gospel. Just as the child grows and matures even so the church, and we are living in the time of her maturity. But our prayer to Almighty God from today’s Collect is still this:
Continue! “Continue to send Your messengers to preserve Your people in true peace that, by the preaching of Your Word, Your Church may be kept free from all harm and danger …”
Now if we trace the mature church back to her infancy we will find the same thing THEN as we see among us TODAY namely Divine Service taking place. In our case it is an ordinary Mass (if Mass can ever be called ordinary); but in today’s gospel we witness an Ordination Mass.
What does it take to have a mass? The Word and Bodily Presence of Jesus among his people! They had it then, we have it now!
But let us be careful as we proceed because the Lord did not “appoint” 72 disciples as all English versions of the Bible say. But he “ordained” them. THAT is the right word for anyone who is brought into the church’s ministry. One can be appointed into many offices, but only in the church is one “ordained” to carry out the work that we find in today’s holy gospel.
Many people do not seem to understand how rapidly the church expanded during the Lord’s earthly ministry and immediately following Pentecost. But by the time St. Paul writes his letters, 25 to 30 years after Pentecost, the church was already a world-wide phenomenon, fully organized with clerical and administrative structures, liturgy, Bible, catechism, traditions, creeds and much more.
Why so rapidly?
Because of these 72 men, the gospel they preached, and the diseases they cured with this formula, “The reign of God is now among you.” Yes, some rejected, but many also received it and the beautiful feet that brought it.
Why so rapidly?
Because of the people who repented and believed the gospel on Pentecost after each one inexplicably heard it in his own language; and then returned to their various countries proclaiming that, “The Reign of God as among you.”
And so it was no exaggeration when the Pharisees opined in John 12:19 “The whole world has gone after him!”
No exaggeration when the rabble of Thessalonica, “lewd men of the baser sort” as KJV has it, attacked Paul, Silas and Jason, took them to court and raged: “These men who have turned the world upside down have come here also…” (Acts 17:6)
No exaggeration when in the middle of the 4th century the turn coat Roman Emperor, “Julian the Apostate” had to concede to Jesus with these famous words, “Thou has conquered O Galilean!”
Nor an exaggeration when in our day the “heathen rage” the world-over with one not very sociable electronic voice: because they understand by the Supreme Court’s recent decision that “the reign of God is among them,” and it threatens them with a Judgment that, without the knowledge of the cross, they must deny to keep their sanity.
Since that time the “Reign of God” has reached our shores, our city, our homes, our hearts and minds and has made us “faithful, true and bold.” (TLH #463) It is not only near, but it is factually here. Here to remit our sins, reconcile us to God by grace, and to give he world a New Commandment by which it can find peace and justice should it hear and heed it: “Love one another as I have loved you.”
As the Lord sent the 72 on their way to every town and place where he himself was about to go – even so the Lord sends his church today into the whole world to which he himself will return; in glory; soon enough; to “judge the living an the dead” in “every town and every place.”
Then the church will raise up her head in jubilation and adulation to Christ our Brilliant Savior. But those who have not received his messengers will cry out to the mountains, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who is seated on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb.” (Rev. 6:16)
And so we pray in today’s Collect: “Almighty God … continue!” But how does the church “continue” the ministry that Jesus launched that day?
We are doing it now!
As the mature church engages in Divine Liturgy the forces of Satan fall out of the heavens faster than lightning. They don’t go easily or willingly, so we are indeed as the Lord says, like Lambs in the midst of a pack of blood-thirsty Wolves.
Wolves, whose patron saint is hard-hearted Pharoah, who cannot see the clear facts of life: that the baby in the womb is a human being, made by God to look like God and be like God: first by birth and then by New Birth in Baptism.
Wolves who rush headlong into the judgment of Sodom, Gomorrah, Chorazin, Bethsaida and beg by their rage at God, to be thrown down into Hades like high and mighty Capernaum.
But praise be to Christ Beloved, that God did not abort humanity with the sin of Adam. He did not toss his creation into a dumpster but gave us a Savior instead. Life now and life forever at his own right hand where there are pure “pleasures forevermore.” (Ps. 16)
The 34th Psalm asks this question: “Is there anyone that desires life and loves many days, that he may see good?” And gives this answer: “Then let him keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit,” which is a loving admonition teaching all men to stop talking trash; but to speak the Divine Word in Divine Service this day.
This is how the church is propagated in her maturity!
Not by evangelism programs, or by going out “two by two.” But by assembling together in the presence of Jesus to hear his word, which is the Father’s word:
"I forgive you all your sins."
"This is my body given for you."
"This cup is the New Testament in my blood."
Now unfortunately we don’t have time to study today’s Old Testament reading but know this: that it is patently Eucharistic: a pure prophecy of the cross of Christ in which we glory, and the “festival” (Is. 66:10 LXX) that the Israel of God (Gal. 6) celebrates today.
For it is here that the children borne of the Divine Marriage find satisfaction at the “consoling breast” of Mother Church; here that they “drink deeply with delight from her glorious abundance;” here that they “dandled upon her knee;” here that their “hearts exalt,” “their bones flourish like the grass,” and where “their enemies cannot touch them.”
“Almighty God … continue to send your messengers … ” Amen.