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Our Story

June 17, 2023 Pastor: Rev. Dean Kavouras

SENDS

Christ Lutheran Church
Cleveland, Ohio
June 18, 2023
by: Rev. Dean Kavouras

Pentecost 3
Our Story

And Jesus went through out all their cities and villages teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the Kingdom and he healed every disease and affliction. And when he saw the crowds he had compassion on them because they were harassed and helpless like sheep without shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, "the harvest is plentiful but the workers few. And so pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest."

And so he summoned/ordained his twelve disciples and gave them authority over demons to expel them, and to heal every disease and every affliction ... These twelve Jesus sent and charged them saying, "Do not go to the Gentiles, nor enter any Samaritan towns. But go, rather, to the lost sheep of the house of Israel; and as you go proclaim that The Rule of Heaven is at hand. Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers and banish the demons

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The readings we hear today from Scripture are not only history, but they are “our story,” too.

Today we are Israel stationed before Mount Sinai which for us is the Christian Altar in all its glory; the place where on the church “remembers” and “re-presents” the Lord’s Sacrifice for the remission of sins, life and salvation.

As the LORD called out to Moses from the Mountain and commanded him to officiate over the royal marriage about to take place: between the LORD and his Bride. Even so the Christian minister is commanded to preside over the “marriage feast” of the Lamb. Of Christ and his Bride church.

As Israel pledged to keep the marriage covenant with the LORD, even so the church pledges to do the same at the altar each week. Here we confess our sins of sins of unfaithfulness against our Lord, and against one another. And here the absolution of the cross “Father forgive them for they know not what they do,” washes over us like fresh spring rains; and we are made pure again. But the blessings do not stop there because at the altar we are also granted a new heart, new strength, sharper insight and better wisdom so that we might progress, rather than regress, in the baptismal life we are meant to live.

We learn this in today’s epistle (Rom. 5:14) when Paul says, “Adam was a Type of the One to come.” What he is saying here is that Adam was not the finished product of God’s Creation. But only a Type of the One to come. Of Christ who is the Perfect Man. And so the whole life of the Christian is dedicated to: attaining ... to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ. (Eph. 4:13)

We said earlier that today’s lessons are not history, but our story, and we find this to be especially true in today’s gospel. We are the ones on whom Jesus has compassion. We are the ones who are like sheep without a shepherd, and as Jesus himself predicts, “when the shepherd is struck down the sheep scatter.”

Without the Good Shepherd we cannot find good pasture to nourish our lives. And so we gorge ourselves on the world’s rubbish which kills us slowly. In our scattered condition we no longer have “strength in numbers” critical to survival, so that the wolf, who is the devil, can pick us off one by one.

Divide and conquer is the oldest tactic of all, invented by the Ancient Serpent. He used it to separate the Woman from her God and from husband; as he still does today in society, in the family and in the church. But God immediately had compassion on humanity when we had fallen, by the promise of a Savior; a Savior who still has compassion for us now.

Like Adam, Woman and people throughout the ages, we too are “harassed” by deadly enemies who mean us harm against whom we are “helpless.” Helpless except the most potent weapon of all: the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ; on which he suffered for us, reconciling us to our God, and turning enemies into friends.

When Jesus looked out on the crowd that day, and when he looks upon us today, he still has compassion on us all because he sees with Perfect Eye. To him our minds, hearts, inner-most thoughts (even ones we cannot discern) are known to him. And he knows our weaknesses, where we are most likely to be attacked, and he knows our antagonists. And the reason we are in the condition we are in is because by our transgressions we have divorced ourselves from our God by our transgressions. cut ourselves off from the Source of our lives. Just like fresh cut flowers in a vase. Alive today, dying a slow death, and tossed in the rubbish tomorrow.

But the church’s mission is to reconcile people to their God just as St. Paul says in today’s epistle. “For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son,” writes St. Paul, “how much more being thus reconciled, shall we be saved by his life.”

Please note that this is the work of the church. That Jesus did not commission individual Christians to be missionaries or evangelists. But he commissioned his Apostles whom he names for us, and who in turn commissioned others down to this very day.

We must read Scripture aright. Jesus commanded his disciples to “pray urgently” to the Lord of the harvest which is more plentiful than there are workers to reap it. And in the next sentence he answers the prayer he commanded them to pray by commissioning them to carry it out. He gave them the needed authority and power, the plan and the tools then sent them to gather the harvest. We are that harvest.

And what the church did then she still does today.

She still proclaims that “the Reign of God is near,” which is a message of great comfort for believers, and of pure dread for scoffers. But even you, O Scoffer, are hereby empowered to repent and believe the gospel. And so do not give up hope; your demons can yet be expelled, and then then how alive and happy you will be.

This is something the church still does. She expels all demons. The demons of self-worship, self-deification, self-glorification, self-righteousness. The demons of cultural deception. The demons of addiction.

And the church still heals the sick. Do not think for a single minute that when we pray for the sick that is a charade. Or pro forma. If that is the case Christ died for nothing, and our faith is in vain. Rather it is the church’s prayer, and anointing oil, that makes the sick well, banishes the demons, and raises up the dead. Amen