Sunday, July 4, 2010

Ask the Lord

Happy Independence Day -- our country began with a DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE signed 234 years ago.  Jesus came to do a work of independence--to declare freedom and to decisively defeat the rulers of this world -- sin, death and all the devil's power--to set us free from the strongholds of death.  And, today, continues to set people free through his Word.

Today's sermon is based on two readings assigned: Isaiah 66:10-14 and Luke 10:1-11, 16-20

        You can listen to the sermon beginning with the gospel reading*, by clicking here.  

        If you prefer to read, look below after these notes.

The title "Ask the Lord" was inspired by something Gemechis Buba said in a sermon that you can access at Standing at the Crossroads.  Incidentally, another sermon by Gemechis is at this link on the Hosanna! Lutheran Church website.  There you can listen to him or other presentations from Faith Lift. Lots there worth your time.

One more comment... to understand the Isaiah 66:10-14 reading, we need to understand that all of the promises associated with Jerusalem and Israel are transformed through Jesus Christ.  There are a few chapters in Romans where it says that the Jewish people are not rejected -- and that's very important.  However, the promises for Jerusalem and Israel are transferred to us, to the family of faith.  So when Isaiah 66:10-14 talks about being consoled in Jerusalem, what it really means is being consoled in the family of faith.  You, in this scripture, are both the child and the mother.  You are the child who need comforting and nurture, but, when you know Jesus' love and grace, you are also the mother who offers that comfort and truth to others.

Here is the written version of today's sermon--the little addition in the beginning about the SPOON was a spur of the moment add on.


Jesus said:
Nevertheless, do not rejoice at this, that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven (Luke 10:20).
AS A NATION – and as individuals – we’ve all had our share of victories, defeats and draws.
The Revolutionary War – Victory
The Civil and World Wars – Victory
The Korean War – pretty much a draw
Vietnam – Defeat
Iraq – Afghanistan… still to be seen.
But – as Christians – as disciples of Jesus – we do not rejoice in our victories as individuals or as a nation –

Instead, we dance for joy because our names are written in God’s Book of Life – and there will be a wonderful welcome in heaven where we will be gathered like children – comforted at a mother’s breast—all because of Jesus.

Isaiah 66
Rejoice with Jerusalem, and be glad for her, all you who love her—
now, because of Jesus “Jerusalem” is not the city that has that name in the middle east—Jerusalem is now the community of people who trust Jesus—

rejoice with her in joy, all you who mourn over her…
there is a lot to be sad about these days… we’ve been through so much…
rejoice with her in JOY
it says in Isaiah 66 verse 10… verse 11
that you may nurse and be satisfied from her consoling breast—
that’s one of the things we do when we come to church… we are here to be COMFORTED…
that you may drink deeply with delight from her glorious bosom.

I know that’s not the way we usually talk, but the church—the people who believe and trust in Jesus—we are pictured in the Bible as THE BRIDE OF CHRIST… and the Word of God is what we receive as we get together—and the Word of God is what nurtures and feeds us—sometimes like mother’s milk—and sometimes like meat.

Verse 12: For thus says the Lord: I will extend prosperity to her like a river, and the wealth of the nations like an overflowing stream; and you shall nurse and be carried on her arm, and dandled on her knees. As a mother comforts her child, so I will comfort you; you shall be comforted in Jerusalem.

Even when we have victory, even when we have prosperity, even when the wealth of the nations comes our way… there’s something better we can receive when we Ask the Lord.

We can be comforted forever… in our forever home.

It is there as my hope.

And I can’t wait.

Rejoice, says Jesus. Rejoice that your names are written in heaven. HALLELUJAH!

Through all the victories and defeats of this life, when we know Jesus – when we know Jesus… then we know that we have a forever and secure home… But not only that

Because the comfort we receive from Jesus when we ask him for it, and when we receive the blessings that come from God, we want everyone else to know Jesus too.

Jesus is the way, the truth and the life—the only way, the only truth, and the only life—knowing Jesus is the only way to the only true home where there is forever life. God has poured his love into our hearts, like a mother feeding a child! And we want to share that—we can’t hold it back—We do not want anyone to go to their grave without knowing the Lord.

How sad, how tragic—how sad that anyone would live and die without knowing the Lord… and there are so many who are in that predicament. Like we heard last week in that sermon from Pastor Mark Larson:

It's still RAINING. . . Raining the souls of those being lost from our Heavenly Father's tender care to a hopeless, despairing eternity. So Jesus—in our gospel from last week—from the end of Luke 9—Jesus says, "Follow Me. Right Now! Don't look back!"

So many! The harvest is plentiful. It needs to be gathered before it perishes. And the time is now.

Yesterday I talked with one of the youth who was coming back from the mission trip. The mission trip took our youth to Crow River Montana. I asked how it was there and he said “different.” And I said, what do you mean, and he said: The people there are really poor. They have so many needs. I’ve never seen anything like it.

The Crow River Reservation has 65% unemployment. Lots of depression and despair. Truly a place for serving like Jesus and helping people know Jesus. When people know Jesus they are knit together with him in a worldwide community… and we will stand beside one another and extend that kingdom to all who do not yet believe.

But how can we do that?

A once a year mission trip – we can handle that.

BUT—to help people know they are really loved by Jesus—to serve them and help them know the Lord deeply—that’s a much longer commitment… it takes not just “moving from house to house…” as Jesus tells the seventy in Luke 10… It means not just being in a place for a little while… not being temporarily in a place, but staying there… or, for most of us… serving where we live…

To really see the harvest of lost souls come to faith and trust and new life in Jesus, it means loving where we live in the name of Jesus—telling everyone always where we get our hope, where we find our forever home, praying and expecting God to drive the devil out.

But how can we serve day in and day out? How can we love like Jesus when we’re just empty—when there’s nothing in our spoons but air? And how do we avoid taking every little offense as an excuse to shake the dust off our feet and leave?
The harvest is plentiful, says Jesus. There are so many who are ready to receive the Lord when He comes to them consistently through love and truth—extreme love and extreme truth… And lots of generosity. Much serving.

The harvest is plentiful. Many will come to Jesus if we use the tools the Lord has given.

But, if you’re like me, you’re tired. You’re wounded. You’re dry. And inexperienced in bringing Jesus to the world.  Usually we only talk about Jesus when we're with people who we already think are believers--with people who we think already believe.

What do we do?

Ask. Ask God.
  (I made a reference here to the sermon by Gemechis Buba about how Americans run ahead before praying to send people.)

The harvest is plentiful—many need Jesus—and the laborers—those who are willing to give their lives whole heartedly and unreservedly to the Lord, without worrying about security or popularity—the laborers are few.

What do we do? We ask. We pray. We come to the Lord on our knees and BEG God to do the sending, to do the commissioning, to do the inspiring. 

We can’t do it. It needs to be done by God.

It begins as we crawl up into the lap of God, to receive his Word, to bring our requests, to be comforted—and then, strengthened by Jesus, we find ourselves pushed out into the world with a word that we cannot keep inside.

The harvest is plentiful—the laborers are few—pray, ask, beg the LORD of the harvest—the harvest, the success, the victory—it belongs to God, not to us… Beg the Lord of the harvest to send out the laborers.

We cannot depend on our own strength.

We must ask.  And depend on the Lord.


* I had intended to include verses 12-15 in my reading but forgot to do so.  I just read out of the big lectionary book which omitted those verses.

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