THANKFUL LIVING: SEEKING THE LOST!
A Sermon for the 2nd Sunday after Pentecost
by the Rev. Dr. Samuel D. Zumwalt, STS
June 18, 2017
Matthew 9:35 – 10:8 © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers]
35 And Jesus went throughout all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction. 36 When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. 37 Then he said to his disciples,“The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few;38 therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.” 10 And he called to him his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every disease and every affliction. 2 The names of the twelve apostles are these: first, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother; James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother; 3 Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; 4 Simon the Zealot, and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him. 5 These twelve Jesus sent out, instructing them, “Go nowhere among the Gentiles and enter no town of the Samaritans, 6 but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. 7 And proclaim as you go, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ 8 Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, cast out demons. You received without paying; give without pay.
THANKFUL LIVING: SEEKING THE LOST
Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
When the Lord Jesus chose disciples to train for the apostolic ministry and mission of His future Church, He knew the day was coming when He would be differently present among them and us. Because the Lord Jesus is the long promised King from David’s family (2 Samuel 7), He began to exercise His rule and His reign by reaching out first and mostly to His fellow Jews, the descendants of Abraham and Sarah. The Lord Jesus saw the crowds, and He had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. When King Jesus looked at them, He felt deep down in His guts for God’s people who had been whipped (or even skinned alive) and thrown away (even worn out with hunger). They didn’t even know what they needed. They needed Jesus. You and I need Jesus. Everyone needs Jesus always.
Lostness and Foundness in a 21st Century Context
So it’s Father’s Day weekend, and it’s a good day to think about the importance of fathers, and how fathers can make a difference in their children’s lives. As of 2014, 58% of America’s children were living with two married biological parents and another 4% were living with two unmarried biological parents. Twenty-three percent of America’s children were living with a single biological mother and 4% with a single biological father. Five percent of American children were living with one biological parent and one stepparent. Three percent were living with grandparents, 1% with adoptive parents, and 1% with foster parents. So roughly one out of three American children were living without a biological father in the home. For those children without any kind of father in the home, they are 4 times at greater risk of poverty; 7 times more likely to become pregnant as a teen; 2 times more likely to drop out of high school; more likely to abuse drugs and alcohol, to commit crime, and to go to prison. Christian marriage, where the parents practice the faith and stay together, makes a great difference in the lives of their children!
My father was not a perfect father, but he was married to my mother for almost 31 years before his death at age 62. His father had committed suicide when he was 12, and that loss haunted my Dad for the remaining 50 years of his life. In many ways, my Dad didn’t know how to be a father for a long time, but he finally stumbled his way to being a better father to me, his youngest child. As a father, he was a late bloomer, but he was always there for his family.
My father was a man of great contradictions. On the one hand he was an outspoken Christian easily able to tell people about Jesus, but, on the other hand, my father never went to bed without having drunk at least four beers and usually six; he was an upstanding drunk as they say in Alcoholics Anonymous. My Dad never missed a day’s work. He worked seven days a week as the local railroad agent-yardmaster, but he was always frustrated because he wanted to be more than he was. My Dad read constantly and was self-educated, but he always felt ashamed that he had not gone to college. He had turned down a college scholarship in order to care for his widowed mother and younger siblings. My father was deeply active as a small-town community leader, always able to raise money for worthy causes, but he never built personal wealth. My father always told his children that he loved us and was quick to hug us and to provide for our needs, but he never knew how much his family loved him until he was dying of lung cancer.
Although I only had my father for one-third of my life, 21 and one-half years, hardly a day goes by that I don’t think of him and the great influence he had on me both by his positive and his negative traits. In many ways, I became a pastor, because my father taught me how to listen to sermons, how to pray daily and to read the Bible, how to care for those who were lost souls, and how to hope passionately for that day when God will make all things new! I’m grateful for my father and look forward to the conversations I hope we can have in eternity.
Being a father is a calling from God. If you as a Christian can father a child or adopt a child or receive a child by marriage or become a foster parent, you have a calling to raise that child to be, first of all, a child of God through Holy Baptism, and, secondly, to become the godly person God created that child to be. We have already heard what happens when a father is absent from a home. It makes it all the more important that a man steps into the lives of fatherless children and begins to provide the strong fatherly modeling and leadership every child needs.
The King Who Seeks and Saves
When our Lord sent the apostles to the lost sheep of the house of Israel, He was sending them to those who had wandered away from the faith. He was sending them to those whose lives were hungering and thirsting for all the wrong things. The old evil one was skinning them alive like a ravenous wolf attacks the most fragile sheep that has wandered away from flock and shepherd. Our Lord sent out the apostles to tell and to enact that the royal rule and reign of God had broken into history. God’s King, the Messiah, the Anointed One, Jesus had come to seek and save the lost ones. Although His apostles refused to hear Him what He was clearly saying, God’s King was on His way to the cross where He would suffer and die for sinners in order to destroy the rule of the devil, the world, and our sinful selves. The Lord Jesus was on His way to the cross to suffer and die for your sins and my sins and for the sins of the whole world. We need Jesus!
Because all of us can be defensive about our failures, including us preachers, it is important to say that the Lord God has no interest in having people wallow in guilt or shame. Why? Because guilt and shame can leave people stuck in a kind of cycle of failure and even a kind of victim mentality that is utterly unhelpful. If you have failed at marriage or if you have failed as a father or as a mother, the past is prologue to the present and the future. Confess your sins to God, and, if you find yourself unable to move forward, visit with a pastor (we have six in this congregation) with the intent to confess your sins and to receive God’s absolution for Jesus’ sake. A pastor or a pastoral counselor can often help you to get unstuck and to do what you are called to do as a baptized child of God.
The main reason to worship here every weekend is so that Jesus will find you and me again in all our lostness, speak His Words of judgment and grace, forgive our sins, and send us out again to be the children of God we are called to be wherever we go…especially in family life. When we gather here to listen to God’s Word, to confess our sins, to receive the Lord Jesus’ real presence in the Host and Cup with each other, we are also gathering with all God’s people of every time and place. Surrounded by that great cloud of witnesses, we do not lose heart. Eternal love, joy, and peace awaits us when we have finished our daily battles against the forces of evil. Stopping in for worship each weekend is like desert travelers reaching an oasis to be refreshed.
Giving What We Have Received
Methodist bishop Daniel T. Niles from Sri Lanka (formerly Ceylon) famously said: “Evangelism is one beggar showing another beggar where to get food.” A Christian father can do no greater thing than to show his children and grandchildren the way to the altar, week after week, to receive the Lord Jesus’ real presence in the Host and the Cup. When our children are grown, we can pray for them, we can urge them, and we can continue to model for them where the Good Shepherd is present in the Word and the Sacraments for forgiveness, life, and salvation.
It is not easy to be a Christian man or a Christian woman. It is much harder still if we forget that we always need Jesus. With His eternal life and love flowing into us through the Host and the Cup, we can be strengthened for greater service in all our ministries in daily life.
Fathers, grandfathers, and godfathers: never forget the power of your example and your presence in a child’s life. Your prayers, your faithfulness as a husband, your love and humor, your generosity and strength are teaching not only the little children but adults, too. God needs you to pray daily, worship weekly, read the Bible, serve at and beyond St. Matthew’s, be in relationship to encourage spiritual growth especially in children, and to give generously always.
Go in the power of the Holy Spirit, dear ones, to give what you have here received. Bring the children to the services of God’s house and, yes, to Vacation Bible School. And, if you are able, be a teacher or a mentor or a surrogate father or a godly friend to a child. Follow Jesus in giving your life away in limitless humble service. Men, we need you to be godly men of God!
In the name of the Father, and of the +Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
©Samuel D. Zumwalt, STS
St. Matthew’s Evangelical Lutheran Church
Wilmington, North Carolina USA
Thankful Living: Seeking the Lost
“O God, the strength of all who put their trust in you: Mercifully accept our prayers; and because in our weakness we can do nothing good without you, give us the help of your grace, that in keeping your commandments we may please you both in will and deed; through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen” (The Daily Prayer of the Church, 616).
Matthew 9:35 “..the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction. “
John L. McKenzie: “The first of Matthew’s great discourses was the proclamation of the reign; the second is the first step in the foundation of the Church. In this discourse Jesus admits others to share both his mission and its powers, and he commissions them to proclaim on a scale wider than he could reach personally” (Jerome Biblical Commentary: The Gospel According to Matthew, 79 ).
Matthew 9:36 “When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed…”
John L. McKenzie: “They are ‘harassed,’ ‘bothered’; this somewhat vulgar Greek word (‘eskulmenoi’ from ‘skullo’ – ‘to skin alive, mangle’) is an excellent term to describe the thousand petty persecutions and annoyances to which the poor are subject” (79).
Matthew 10:1 “And he called to him his twelve disciples and gave them authority….”
Nelson’s Illustrated Bible Commentary: Matthew: “The twelve are called ‘disciples’ in 10:1; in v. 2 they are called apostles. The word apostle emphasizes delegated authority (1 Thessalonians 2:6); the term disciple emphasizes learning and following. Because the disciples had been given authority, they were now called apostles. The disciples are named in pairs and probably were sent out that way (Mark 6:7)” (1158).
Matthew 10:7 “And proclaim as you go, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’”
Nelson’s Illustrated Bible Commentary: Matthew: “The instructions given to the Twelve were specifically for their particular preaching mission to announce the nearness of the kingdom. If all of the commands in this address were meant to be followed explicitly today, the church could not have a worldwide mission (compare 10:5). The message is the same as the proclaimed by John (3:2) and the Lord Jesus (4:17). The king was present but the kingdom was not; it had drawn near and was ready to come” (1158-1159).
1. Do I remember that the Kingdom (God’s rule or reign) is wherever the King is ruling?
2. Whom do I know is presently being “skinned alive” by the forces of evil?
3. Am I learning from Jesus to go out to find those who do not know how much they need Him?
(Read this aloud daily until everyone in your home can say it from memory.)
Christian Questions with Their Answers
Prepared by Dr. Martin Luther for those who intend to go to the Sacrament
[The “Christian Questions with Their Answers,” designating Luther as the author, first appeared in an edition of the Small Catechism in 1551, five years after Luther’s death].
After confession and instruction in the Ten Commandments, the Creed, the Lord’s Prayer, and the Sacraments of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper, the pastor may ask, or Christians may ask
themselves these questions:
12. What are the Words of Institution?
Our Lord Jesus Christ, on the night when He was betrayed, took bread and when He had given thanks, He broke it and gave it to the disciples and said: “Take eat; this is My body, which is given for you. This do in remembrance of Me.” In the same way also He took the cup after supper, and when He had given thanks, He gave it to them, saying: “Drink of it, all of you; this cup is the new testament in My blood, which is shed for you for the forgiveness of sins. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.”
13. Do you believe, then, that the true body and blood of Christ are in the Sacrament?
Yes, I believe it.
14. What convinces you to believe this?
The word of Christ: Take, eat, this is My body; drink of it, all of you, this is My blood.
15. What should we do when we eat His body and drink His blood, and in this way receive His pledge?
We should remember and proclaim His death and the shedding of His blood, as He taught us: This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me (Luther’s Small Catechism).
1. Pray for every unbaptized child and adult you know and for the child’s parents, too.
2. Pray for your unchurched loved ones and friends. Invite one or more of them to worship and Vacation Bible School (June 25-30. 5:45-8 p.m. nightly).
3. Discuss with your spouse, your family, or a friend why God wants us to examine our hearts prior to our receiving the Real Presence of Jesus in the Holy Sacrament of the Altar.
4. Make a habit of taking a Bible from the cart outside the door and, before communing, read through all Luther’s questions and answers on pp. 1065-1066.
For Husbands and Wives
Repeat daily: “I (name) take you (name) to be my wedded wife (husband), to have and to hold from this day forward; for better, for worse; for richer, for poorer; in sickness and in health; to love and to cherish until death do us part, according to God’s holy ordinance, and thereto I pledge you my faith.”