The Third Sunday After Pentecost June 17, 2007
1, 770 [TLH alt. 507], 496, 502
Hymns from The Lutheran Hymnal (1941) unless otherwise noted
Then Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every sickness and every disease among the people. But when He saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion for them, because they were weary and scattered, like sheep having no shepherd. Then He said to His disciples, “The harvest truly is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.”
Dear fellow-redeemed in Christ:
When Jesus entered Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, the Pharisees didn’t like it that His disciples were singing His praises. Jesus told them, “I tell you that if these should keep silent, the stones would immediately cry out” (Luke 19:40). In some ways that might have seemed even more impressive than people singing His praises. Just imagine how that would be—rocks shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David.” You might think that even today if a rock would tell you that your sins are forgiven that more people would be Christians. Yet that’s not the way God chose to communicate His message.
God chose sinners to be His workers, to be the ones who proclaim His Gospel message to point the way to the Savior. What a blessing for us to be considered in this work! It would even seem natural for us to do so because we are a new creation in Christ. When we really consider how God has changed our future, the Good News cannot be contained within us.
Every Christian is to be considered a laborer in God’s harvest. No matter what we do for a living we are first and foremost laborers in God’s field. There are times when the Devil gets thoughts going in our heads that we are not qualified to work in God’s harvest. After all, we’re told that very thing in seeking out a job. Some people are told that they’re too young and others are too old. Some are told that they won’t be allowed to work for a company because of a criminal record or even a bad reputation. God does not agree with that way of thinking for His laborers. If you are His child then He wants you to work for Him, to proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light (cf. 1 Peter 2:9).
Scripture bears out that God wants all ages and all backgrounds to work for Him. Do you think that you’re too young to work for Jesus? Consider the young boy Samuel whom God used to give a prophecy to Eli, the priest (1 Samuel 3). Consider the young slave girl who told her master, Naaman, that there was help for his leprosy with the prophet of the true God (2 Kings 5). When the Lord needed a reformation in Israel, He set upon the throne an eight-year old boy named Josiah and through his leadership true worship was restored (2 Kings 22-23).
You who are young don’t ever think that you’re too young to talk about Jesus. Even if you five years old you may know something that a grown-up does not know when you know that Jesus died for your sins. You may have friends who have never even heard of Jesus or Baptism or Heaven and Hell. You could invite them to Sunday School or Vacation Bible School. You can tell them of the Bible stories and songs that you know.
It’s no different for you who are around high school or college age. Now you may have friends who are further cemented in unbelief or who were once believers but are now starting to wander off the path of righteousness. You will have friends who are beginning to doubt that God’s commandments apply to them, or they may even doubt that there is a God. They may begin experimenting with drugs and alcohol and venturing into sexual promiscuity. God has placed you among your friends in order that you may shine the light of truth into their lives and give hope where there wasn’t any before.
On the other end of the spectrum are those of you who are elderly. The temptation may be to think: “My work for God is done. After all, I’m old and I’m tired and it’s time that someone else take up the fight. I’m retired.” That might be true in some areas of life but not when it comes to harvesting in God’s field. Christians don’t retire—at least not in this life.
We find Simeon and Anna in the temple praising the baby Jesus and giving comfort to Joseph and Mary who were no doubt wondering about their new baby. After meeting Simeon and Anna they had some confirmation about who He really was (Luke 2:25-38).
Even today we have the opportunity to hear words of wisdom from older Christians. They have seen trends in Christianity come and go. They have been through the recklessness of youth and difficult financial and emotional times and have seen how the Lord has allowed them to endure. They have made mistakes and have learned from them. They have seen the Lord’s hand bless them time and time again. You who are older still have work to do by encouraging the young, by directing them to optimism and hope in the Lord.
Even if you don’t have the zip of youth or the stamina that you used to have, even if you can’t get up on the roof to put shingles on the parsonage, even if you are on a fixed income and can’t give the monetary offerings like you used to give when you were working, you can still pray. You have the one thing that young people always want more of—time. Use that time to pray. Pray for your pastor and teachers. I’m not too bashful to ask for prayers because I know I need the Lord’s strength to be able to carry out my duties on your behalf. Pray for our foreign missionaries. Pray for our professors at Immanuel Lutheran College. Pray for a continuing orthodoxy in our synod. Pray that hearts will be opened to support the work of God’s kingdom both locally and in our synod. God has plans for you as a worker in the harvest. You’re not too old.
Maybe you think that your past sinful life is an impediment to working in God’s Kingdom. God still has work for you to do as a laborer in His harvest. Jesus called Zacchaeus and Matthew who had bad reputations as cheating tax collectors. Jesus called the apostle Paul who was public enemy number one of the Christians in the early days of the New Testament church. They all did tremendous work for Him.
Your sin and your past do not impede you from talking about your Savior. In fact, your sin shows how much God’s grace has abounded. The change in your life is a testimony to the fact that God changes hearts and that God forgives. You have undergone a washing of regeneration no different than the apostle Paul, and so He has equipped you to work in His kingdom. You’re not an angel, but God didn’t call angels to spread His Word. He’s asking you, a sinner, to promote Him and His saving grace, to go out as a laborer into His harvest. You are equipped and ready.
Just as a body has many different parts, so also does the body of Christ. As laborers we all are working the harvest, but we each have different gifts and talents and different tasks to perform.
There are those that might have the gifts to work in the public ministry as a pastor or teacher. If you see young people who you think might do well in that vocation, tell them. Encourage them in that direction. We need talented, dedicated people to work as our pastors and teachers.
But the work of God’s kingdom covers a wide variety of tasks. Just think what it takes to operate our congregation. We need to have someone with the ability to teach God’s Word. We need—or at least we like—to have music to go along with our service. We need people to write hymns. We need people to play the music. We need singers. This building had to be built—that took money and commitment. We need to have that ongoing commitment to keep it maintained and keep the lights on. The list goes on and on. That takes all sorts of talents and all sorts of laborers in God’s harvest.
Above all we need to reach people. I’d like to share with you one particular inspirational story from the 2006 Convention of the Church of the Lutheran Confession [CLC]. One evening we had the opportunity to hear from a man who had moved to Albuquerque, New Mexico. There was a small CLC congregation there at the time, but it closed up shop shortly after he arrived. It was down to the point where he was basically the only member. But he had a friend whom he invited to worship. That man has invited other friends. They have four members, but regular contacts of about twelve people. They worship in an apartment. The leader reads Ministry by Mail sermons. At this point they’re reading the hymns and the liturgy, but they’re giving a beacon of hope.
One man with no theological training, but with a love of God and a love of souls has reached twelve people. Just think if everyone here today could do that. If everybody here today would bring twelve new people to church, or equally as good reach twelve members who are no longer attending, just think of the harvest!
The fields are white for harvest. God has called you personally as a worker in that harvest. May He send out even more. Amen.
Ministry by Mail is a weekly publication of the Church of the Lutheran Confession. Subscription and staff information may be found online at www.clclutheran.org/ministrybymail.
All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.