Redeemer Ev. Lutheran Church, Iola, WI

Sermons, Devotions, and News from Redeemer Evangelical Lutheran Church in Iola, WI

Tag Archives: disciples

Feasting with God #38 – Who Are the Laborers for the Harvest?

Feasting with God #38

Who Are the Laborers for the Harvest?

Text: Luke 10:1-3

1After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them on ahead of him, two by two, into every town and place where he himself was about to go.  2And he said to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few.  Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.  3Go your way; behold, I am sending you out as lambs in the midst of wolves.”

Trees are changing this year, as they did last year and every year before, into fiery and warm colors, while the air around them is growing cooler, and already frost has touched the ground in some places.  It’s this time of year that we can expect to see pumpkins, gourds, corn and other crops freshly plucked appearing on the market, and even decorating our houses.  The seeds that were planted last season have sprouted and grown and produced fruit, and now it’s time to harvest.

This is a picture that Jesus used to demonstrate what the work of the Kingdom of God is.  Seeds have been planted, according to this picture, but the harvest is coming, and the work requires workers.  This is the very work for which Jesus sent out these seventy-two.  They were the harvesters being sent out.

How do we interpret this picture?  Elsewhere in Jesus’ parables the harvest seems to be the picture of the Last Day, when the faithful are harvested to be gathered into barns (eternal life in heaven) while the wicked who have rejected the faith are bundled up as weeds and thrown into the fire (eternal death in hell) (Matt. 13:24-30).  But that’s not the picture here.  The laborers of the harvest Jesus speaks of now are not the angels, for there is a fixed number of angels, and yet Jesus encourages the disciples to pray for more laborers.  These laborers, instead, are the seventy-two themselves, and others who perform the same work of harvesting.  This is the harvesting of souls for salvation within this life.  This is the work of evangelism, of sharing the good news.

Think of what a comfort this picture means: the seed is already planted.  Nothing new needs to be spread out.  The work of evangelism is merely to reap what God has already sown.  This takes a great deal of weight off of the one who is a laborer in this harvest: our task is simple, for we only put into action what has been prepared before.  We only share the Word already written, as Jesus said to his people when he ascended: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations…teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you” (Matt. 28:19-20).  The message that is proclaimed by the harvesters is not one that we invent.  It is one already spoken by our Lord, by Christ, and we merely teach that same Word.

And this is a necessary work.  Souls cannot be saved if the laborers of the harvest will not do their work.  And these laborers, Jesus says, are few.  So we do pray to the Lord that he will send out laborers into his harvest—but be careful what you wish for!  Those who have received the Word (that is, all Christians), are the ones who will be sent as laborers into the harvest.  If you believe in this Word, you must be prepared to be placed into a position by your God in which you may do the work of the harvest.  You will be placed into a position in which you will share this Word you believe.

And here is where Jesus gives his warning: the laborers of the harvest are also lambs, defenseless, innocent creatures, and the crop they are sent to harvest is also a pack of ravenous wolves who may fall onto these lambs at any moment to tear them apart.  Our harvest is not an easy task of plucking inanimate objects.  We bring the enlivening Word of God to souls which are hardened against it.  There are, in fact, only two types of people in the world: believers and unbelievers.  The believers are the lambs and the laborers of the harvest.  The unbelievers are the field of crop and the pack of wolves.  The work of the harvesters, the believers, is to go into dangerous territory and to seek to make lambs out of these wolves.  This is not only a dangerous task; it is humanly speaking an impossible one.

Praise the Lord that he doesn’t leave us alone to it: even as he sends us out he promises, “I am with you always” (Matt. 28:20).  Paul understood the situation when he wrote, using a different image, “I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth….  For we are God’s fellow workers” (1 Cor. 3:6, 9).  You see, the responsibility is not laid on our shoulders to actually cause a transformation in the heart.  That is only possible by the work of the Holy Spirit.  Our work is to go into the field God prepares for us bearing the Word; that Word is our harvesting tool, our scythe with which we cut the stalks of the crop, so that souls may be brought into eternal life before God.  This is a blessed task, allowing us to share our joy at our salvation, so that God may bring others the same salvation.

Lord, send laborers into your harvest.  Equip each and every one of us to be such laborers.  Encourage us to know that this work, although dangerous, will never defeat us, for we are guided by you, and the work is actually accomplished by you through us.  Let us be your tools through which you win more souls for eternal life, that the harvest may indeed be plentiful.  In your Son’s name we ask it.  Amen.

Scripture quotations 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.

Feasting with God #36 – Salt of the Earth

Feasting with God #36

Salt of the Earth

Matthew 5:13

13You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored?  It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet.

By their way of life, the disciples of Jesus (that means you and me and anyone who would call himself “Christian”) will be as useful as salt is.  Think of your delicious dinner meals: pork or beef or potatoes or corn.  All delicious and juicy, but with just the right amount of salt, those dishes are improved, and may even reach perfection.

But if the salt in your shaker isn’t particularly salty, why would you dash it onto your food?  It’s completely useless.  You might as well throw it out.

In this passage from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, he is instructing his followers in their way of life.  They are as salt to the world.  Humanity is the dinner dish which needs the salt.  So the followers of Jesus are to improve humanity.  Just what this meant Jesus said at the end of his earthly ministry: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you” (Matt. 18:19-20).  If humanity is lead to “observe all that [Jesus] commanded,” certainly that’s an improvement.  Jesus “commanded”: “Judge not, that you be not judged” (Matt. 7:1), and “So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them” (7:12), and “Pray then like this…” (6:9ff.), and “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow” (6:34), and “lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven” (6:20), and “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (11:28).  Observing all these things (and countless more), can humanity not be improved?

It is the mission of Jesus’ followers to “Go,” to teach these things, and to “make disciples,” to make more followers, to spread the saltiness.  If they don’t perform this mission, can they possibly be called Jesus’ followers?  This question, asked another way, is, if salt isn’t salty, can it possibly be called salt?

“I’m not a missionary,” says one Christian.  “I’m not a pastor,” says another.  “I don’t teach Sunday School,” “I can’t speak in public.”  These objections are nothing but excuses that our sinful flesh makes to avoid doing what is in reality a difficult task.  For those who undertake the mission given them by Christ, he also warns, “Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves….  Beware of men, for they will deliver you over to courts and flog you in their synagogues, and you will be dragged before governors and kings…” (Matt. 10:16-18).  So these excuses are legitimate, because by avoiding the mission, you avoid the suffering.  But if you avoid the suffering, avoid the mission, then you also avoid the blessing: Jesus promised, “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.  Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account.  Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Matt. 5:10-12).

That’s the last of Jesus’ “Beatitudes,” where he describes the blessed ones who are members in his Church: Those who are in his church, therefore, can expect persecution, can expect opposition to the righteousness they proclaim, and beyond this they can expect the kingdom of heaven as their reward and inheritance, and they can be confident, because they are not alone, but “so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”  A veritable cloud of witnesses, martyrs, saints, prophets, and mighty Christian men and women go back in history as an example, as friends, as coworkers in the kingdom of righteousness—these great ones were also salt of the earth, just as we are.

And if we are still concerned about how to talk to people, Jesus promises as well, “When they deliver you over, do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say, for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour.  For it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you” (Matt. 10:19-20).  And don’t fret that you aren’t a pastor, or a missionary, or a Sunday School.  Each member of Christ’s Church is a salt that is specifically designated to be applied in a different way and in different circumstances, as we sing in the hymn:

If you cannot be a watchman,
Standing high on Zion’s wall,
Pointing out the path to heaven,
Off’ring life and peace to all,
With your prayers and with your off’rings
You can do what God demands;
You can be like faithful Aaron,
Holding up the prophet’s hands.

(“Hark! The Voice of Jesus Crying,” Evangelical Lutheran Hymnary, #191)

Lord, guide us to fulfill the mission you have for us, in whatever station of life we find ourselves in.  If we are to preach, give us the words to preach.  If we are to teach, strengthen us with the knowledge of your Word and the ability to impart it to others.  If we are to serve your kingdom and be the salt of the earth in some other way, prepare us for that service, and encourage us through the Gospel of your Son who paid the price for our sins and enabled us to come into this service, in whose name we pray.  Amen.

Scripture quotations 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.