Cue the Music
Old movies cued you what to think, to feel, to hope, to fear in virtually every scene by music. I don't think that's cheesy but helpful. I know it would be with some Scripture readings. Cue the music.
Cue hopeful, delightful music. Hear its upbeat tempo, its lilt. It's "The 59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin' Groovy)." Then hear Jesus say, "The harvest is plentiful." And remember Jesus is God the Son, Ruler of the Cosmos, Lord of all time and eternity. He always speaks in the present tense. Always describes reality.
The harvest is plentiful. Where's the handwringing that LCMS, INC. beats up her pastors and churches with? Where's the horrifying statistic that so many thousands of people are going to hell in the time it takes me to finish this sentence? Hopeful, delightful, upbeat music would help you see this scene rightly. "The harvest is plentiful" not meager, not few. And Jesus sees it as a done deal. He's looking over golden wheat fields, loaded peach trees, cotton fields bursting with bright, white bolls.
Ever been weighed down with a burden you couldn't bear? Not one you wouldn't, didn't want to, but could not bear? Standing before 10,000 acres of wheat with one scythe, standing before a pecan orchard ripe unto harvest with one bushel basket would be a burden you couldn't bear. No loving parent gives a child a task he's physically unable to do or bear. The Lord of harvest doesn't do that either. Jesus says there is a Lord of the harvest and it's not the disciples, and He says the harvest fields are His not theirs.
If you're the Lord of the harvest, it's up to you to bring in the sheaves. If you're the Lord Almighty and You have a harvest, do You think You will fail to bring in even one grain of it? How do you think a Pflugerville farmer whose fields are laden with corn would feel towards you if you came barreling down his long driveway, jumped out of the car, and said, "You gotta do this and that to bring in your harvest right now"? I think he would think you're putting your nose in where it doesn't belong; you don't know what you're talking about, and your panicky, fearful tone is nuts.
Cue the happy music. The harvest is plentiful. It belongs to the Lord who cannot fail to bring it in. Yes, the workers are few, but even then the Lord is not upset. He certainly doesn't say, "The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Order the Lord of the harvest to do something." No, He says, "Ask the Lord of the harvest to send out workers." Actually, Jesus says "You must be moved to beg."
"Begging" is our proper roll and since it is passive something outside of us moves us to do it. Since it is imperative, this must happen. You won't be moved to beg the Lord of the harvest if you think it's your harvest, if you think it's up to you to bring in the sheaves, if you think the salvation of the world or just one person is on your shoulders. If you think this way, you will be paralyzed by guilt. You're moved to beg the Lord of the harvest when you're brought to the faith that harvest is entirely the Lord's and if He doesn't act no one is saved. Such a faith presses from our lips the begging Jesus' commands which is the prayer He taught us: Thy named be hallowed; Thy kingdom come; Thy will be done. The Fathers name is hallowed when His kingdom comes in salvation to sinners according to His good and gracious will. Cue the happy, hopeful music.
The scene changes abruptly as it often does in movies. Cue the ominous music. Hear the somber, tightening tones. Hear the theme from "Jaws" Then hear Jesus say to the first 72 shepherds: "I am sending you out like lambs among wolves." The only thing more helpless than a sheep is a lamb. Read Acts 5 the apostles were flogged for preaching Christ. Read Acts 7 Stephen was stoned. Read Acts 12 James was murdered and Peter was thrown in jail. Read 2 Cor. 11. Five times Paul was whipped; three times he was beaten with rods; once he was stoned. Read 1 Cor. 4 he says he was considered the scum of the world. Read about Pastor Timothy in 1 and 2 Timothy. He had stomach problems. He was despised by members, chased by fears.
Cue the ominous music. Jesus says literally "I commission you as lambs in the midst of wolves." He proceeds this with the Greek word for "behold" which the insert doesn't translate. This means Jesus knows exactly what He is doing and it is a startling thing. The music would be different if He had said, "I send you forth as shepherds among wolves," or even "messengers among wolves." One time I left one of my sons at 10 years old alone with a single-shot 20-gauge shotgun in a Louisiana swamp while me and another guy disappeared. In retrospect, that wasn't wise or loving, and I didn't think about how it looked from his 10-year-old point of view.
Jesus can't do anything unwise or unloving. He is showing that kingdom bringing, kingdom building, kingdom spreading can't depend on lambs like us in anyway. Not only are full grown wolves hell-bent on stopping us, we're not allowed to take any of the usual things a traveler would. This means the Lord of the Harvest is taking full responsibility for not only bringing the kingdom but taking care of His lambs.
And guess what? As we say in the Explanation to the Lord's Prayer: The kingdom of God comes indeed by itself without our prayers. Every Sunday we gather here and preach that there is peace on earth and good will toward men because God has sent His only Son into flesh and blood to bring them out from under His Holy Law that can only crush them to bits and sent Him to pay the hell that had to be paid for our sin and sinfulness. Do you realize that if only two or three of us were left and the message of Christ and Him crucified was preached the kingdom of God would be among us? Do you realize that if thousands gather but the pure Gospel that men are saved by faith in Christ without works is not preached the kingdom of God doesn't come at all to that place?
Cue the music; first the happy music because the harvest is plentiful, then the ominous music because of the Lord's strange way of bringing it in, and now cue the startling music. Hear it grow louder, crescendo, and race your heart. Hear "THX Deep Note" and know that there are worse cities than the much vilified Sodom. Sodom use to be like Hitler. Both could be used as examples of unqualifiable and unquantifiable evil. Now we're only left with Hitler. Not in the Bible. From the time God destroyed it through the time of the apostles God's wrath against Sodom was legendary. The threat that He would do to a city as He did to Sodom would cue ominous music. But here the startling music is cued because Jesus turns it around. There are towns worse than Sodom. There are some cities that will fare worse on Judgment Day than Sodom!
What? They publicly accepted homosexuality. God says that all the men of the city from young to old gathered at Lot's door so they could have relations with his guests. And not only this, but the rape of women was acceptable as well. Romans 1 says that the depths of a societies falleness is reached when they publicly accept sexual sins. I can't think of any city or culture ever coming back from these depths. The Gospel is the only hope.
Worse than Sodom is the town, the people, the person that rejects the peace of God brought to them by the preaching of who Jesus is and what He came to do for sinners. The kingdom of God is where forgiveness, life, and salvation are preached in Jesus' name. There His rule over Sin, Death, and the Devil are established. How? These unholy 3 reign by the power of God's Word in the Law. Jesus kept every law ever given to mankind perfectly. He led a sexually pure and decent life. He believed, loved, and trusted in God above all things. He gladly heard preaching and held both the Word and its preaching as sacred. So what Law can the unholy 3 use against you to convict you of sin? Whichever one they reach for to club your conscience with, they can't find. Jesus has kept them all.
Cue the startling music. What? There's not one law that the Devil can rub my face in for having broken? What? There's not one Commandment Death can wave before my face saying, "This proves you deserve to die." What? There's not one law Sin can say, "What about me? What about the time you did this or that?" And as your face grows redder as you think about it, the ominous music starts to rise.
But cue the startling music instead. You are guilty of breaking the Law literally with every breath you take, with every move you make. But you don't suffer, die, or are damned to pay for those broken Commandments. Jesus already did all that in place of the world of sinners including you, especially you. This is the place in the movies, and there are a few, where the guilty person is completely forgiven and set free. He doesn't deserve to be; he didn't earn his freedom. Someone graced him with it. In your case God graced you for Jesus' sake.
Reject the grace of God; reject the kingdom of God among you in Word or Sacrament; or reject being part of God's harvest, and only judgment remains. Heavy, certain, eternal judgement that you couldn't bear for a moment but will bear for eternity. But don't cue the ominous music; cue once again the startling music.
Yes, some towns and some people have the dust of the Gospel messengers wiped off against them in judgment for rejecting God Almighty in the person of the shepherd who looks like a lamb. Yet still there is no handwringing, no cuing of the dirge. Even though people reject, even though most people reject the Gospel because it is a foolish message that stinks of stupidity and naivete to them, Satan still falls as surely, as quickly, and as spectacularly as a summer lightning strike.
Every time we gather here crying Lord have mercy, every time we praised the Lamb of God for carrying away the sins of the world, every time we pray for peace and are given it in Words, Bread and Wine, Satan and his minions fall and despair just a little bit more. Cue the victorious music, and shout the Lord's great harvest home. Amen.
Rev. Paul R. Harris
Trinity Lutheran Church, Austin, Texas
The Seventh Sunday after Pentecost (20160703); Luke 10: 1-12; 16-20