16th Sunday after Pentecost September 29, 2019
505, Worship Supplement 2000 772, 498
Hymns from The Lutheran Hymnal (1941) unless otherwise noted
Grace, mercy, and peace are yours from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, our Savior. Amen.
We start with a bit of a riddle today:
I have a field, but I do not plow.
My power is invisible, but it is clearly seen.
I’m not an artist, but I do draw.
What am I?
Answer: a magnet. There is an electromagnetic field around magnets that though it cannot be seen, its effects are seen as draws other objects toward it.
Yet, for a moment, reconsider that same riddle and you could come up with another answer altogether, perhaps one that you were considering to begin with, and one which does fit our Mission Festival theme today. All the world is a field of souls ready to be harvested by Christ. His power to bring those dead in trespasses and sins is an invisible power, but it is clearly seen throughout the world as individuals are brought into His kingdom through faith. Like a magnet, Jesus continues to draw sinners to Himself through the preaching of the Gospel message. These are the things that we will consider today and we use as our text His words found recorded in John 12:31-32:
Now is the judgment of this world; now will the ruler of this world be cast out. And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.
Magnets are interesting things. They are quite useful in motors, speakers and compasses, but they are also fun to play with. With two small magnets people can entertain themselves for a long time — trying to see if one to levitate over the other without holding on to it; trying to move one magnet over the other just fast enough to keep the other magnet trailing behind without latching on; seeing how many sheets of paper it will take before the magnetic pull of the magnets can no longer penetrate. Magnets are fascinating.
Of course, magnets aren’t just useful time consumers, there is much usefulness in magnets. They are very good at locating a small needle on the floor, or relocating a pile of scrap steal. They can be used for direction. They even have some therapeutic uses. But it’s that drawing aspect of the magnet that makes it a good picture of Christ and the message of the Gospel. Jesus says in our text: “Now is the judgment of this world; now will the ruler of this world be cast out. And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.”
When you drop a needle on the carpet and you can’t seem to locate it, there is a sense of urgency in finding that needle because you don’t want anyone to step on it. In these words, Jesus also speaks with urgency because of the danger that is coming upon the earth. He’s speaking about Judgment Day. There’s only one way for people to be spared the wrath that is to come. It doesn’t matter if they are living in Nepal, or the Congo, or in the inner city of America, or in our own community. The day is coming when Satan will be cast down to that lake of fire, and with him all those who have sin on their records. Jesus emphasizes the urgency by using the word “now” two times. Of course, it wasn’t right at that moment, and Jesus certainly did mean it that way. What He means is that, since we don’t know when it will be, we should always think of it as coming at any moment.
It’s very common for a generation of people to think that whatever crisis is going on in that time frame is a turning point for future of the world. We have our 9-11, the previous generation had the attack on Pearl Harbor, and before that there was the firing on Ft. Sumter, the Discovery of the New World, the Fall of the Roman Empire, the tower of Babel. Truth be known, there are only three real turning points in the history of the world. The first is all the way back at creation when Adam followed the lead of his wife and ate the forbidden fruit. The second is the sacrifice of the Son of God on the cross as the payment for the sins of the world. The third will be the Last Day on which each individual will be judged on the basis of faith in Jesus for the forgiveness of sins. All three of these events are true turning points because all three of them bring the judgment of God. In fact, the Greek word for judgment which we see in our text, is the word from which we get our word crisis.
Yet, this crisis was not felt by mankind alone. God Himself also saw it as a crisis. He did not create man to die—either temporally or eternally. He created us to have perfect communion and fellowship with Himself. He created us to have someone upon whom to lavish His great love. Our sin, while it changed us, did not change Him. He remained a loving God. In His love, took action before the crisis of Judgment Day would arrive. That action was the sending of His Son, whom we know as Jesus, who not only would be “lifted up,” that is crucified, for us, but would be the magnet to draw us back into fellowship with God through the knowledge of forgiveness through His cross. Christ has drawn you to Himself and to His Father when He washed away your sins in Baptism. Christ continues to draw you to Himself as His Word exposes sins in your life and then binds you up with the peace of the cross.
One more interesting thing about magnets is that they have the ability to pass on to those things which they attract their attracting power. Put a nail on a magnet and that nail can pick up another nail, and another, and another. So it is also with the drawing power of the Gospel of Christ crucified. You, the very sinner that Christ has drawn to Himself for forgiveness and salvation, Christ now uses to draw others to Himself.
It starts in our own homes, before we ever step across the threshold of the door. Parents are entrusted with children to bring up in the fear and the admiration of the Lord. By the way, that means not only teaching them right behavior and disciplining them when they do wrong, but it especially means proclaiming God’s forgiveness and love to them when they repent. No child is drawn to Christ or to the Father just by being spanked or verbally chastised. They are drawn to God by the Gospel which assures them that their sins, no less than ours, are forgiven for Jesus’ sake.
After we step out of the door, the attracting power of Christ flows through us to our coworkers, classmates, and other acquaintances. Still there are others—Christ says “all people.” Those with whom you come in contact at the grocery store and supply store are being drawn by Christ through you as you treat others with respect and love, and they see your good works and that you actually care enough about them to speak words of God’s love in Christ to them. Still further, people whom you have never met and likely will never meet are being drawn to Christ as you give offerings to support missionaries in places like India, the Congo, Nepal, etc. Those too, Christ draws to Himself, using you to do so.
What is that power of Christ that flows through us? It’s His Word and the love which it works in us. His Word that comes into our ears, fills our hearts and then flows from our lips. His Word that is taught around our own kitchen tables, in the classrooms of our Sunday School and Bible Class, the classrooms of ILC, and the huts of India.
Understand clearly what this means. It means that the burden of reaching hearts and bringing people into the kingdom of God, and finally into heaven itself, is not ours, but Christ’s. True, His power flows through us—like those nails stuck on a magnet—but it is still His power and that power flows through us in His Word. Our task is simple: speak the Word of Christ and support the preaching of it. It alone is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes.
May the Holy Spirit teach us each to see ourselves as nothing more than chunks of iron—worthless scraps to the world, but valuable to the Lord. He has drawn us to Himself and transformed us into instruments by which He draws others to Himself. So long as we remain connected to Him by faith, His power flows through us bringing others into the kingdom of His grace. AMEN!
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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.
Scripture quotations marked (ESV) are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.