Sermon – Pentecost 4 – July 7, 2019
Luke 10:1-20 ‘Joyful Story Telling’
CT: We share in the joy of Jesus’ story; our names are written in heaven that we might joyfully give reason for the hope we have in Christ Jesus.
Intro: People scream and shout, create waves in the crowd, paint their faces and chests green and even put pieces of cheese on their heads. Every week major sports events attract more people than ever cross the thresholds of Canadian churches in a year. Did you catch the excitement of Canada’s basketball team winning the NBA title; the after party, the parade, the hysteria? We call them fans. But when someone is passionate about their Christian faith and tries to express it outwardly in public; we call them fanatics, or at best, just weird!
Reason to Rejoice: But God does not call us to silence; He calls us to mission. Isaiah wrote that we have every reason to rejoice “with Jerusalem.” This is not the old Jerusalem, who stoned and killed the prophets; it’s the one that Jesus wept over and said He longed to gather under His wings like a hen gathering her chicks. (cf Matthew 23:37) How often does Jesus say the same thing about us? In the midst of the atrocities; the painful past and present of the old Jerusalem, the kingdom of God has drawn near, and draws near to us in the midst of our hurting and sorrowful moments of life. Jesus gave His life for ours on a cross that He might include us in God’s plan for a New Jerusalem. God’s promise through Isaiah is to sustain us and give us every reason to take delight in His abundance; peace that extends like a river. He will comfort us and in the flesh we will see these things with our own eyes. Every enemy and all that causes hurt and pain will be no more. We have that promise here and now through His Word and His Church, where we are given hope in the foretaste of His goodness.
Joy in Service: Yet many Christians live as if their faith is a painful proposition. Any talk about joy in Christian living is compared to a visit with the hospital dietician, complete with a low salt, no fat, can’t enjoy anything diet. (As my son in law says, “no fat = no good!”)
There’s a story of a young boy who grew up in a strict Christian home. Sunday was the Lord’s Day; he couldn’t even play with his toys because fun was prohibited. He wandered out into the pasture behind his house and saw a mule, with a long sad face standing beside the fence. He patted its nose and said, “Poor fellow, you must be a Christian too!”
Our living and going out as Christians is not some joyless task; it’s a joyous adventure of faith. Like the 72 sent out trusting in God to provide, and He did, and they rejoiced! By God’s grace and power we experience the joy of sharing His love for us with others. How can we keep a low key when Zephaniah tells us how our heavenly Father rejoices over us with singing? (cf Zephaniah 3:17)
There will always be someone wanting to throw a wet blanket on our rejoicing, and so we too dodge the moment with excuses: “I’m not ready or qualified or cut out to tell others about my joy in Jesus. I’d better keep it to myself!” We miss the moment; we miss the joy! I’ve heard young people say, “There’s nothing to do; I’m bored!” I would suggest a few things to do, but they would rather stay bored. No professional sports player likes to be benched; there’s no fun in sitting on the sidelines! But maybe you’ve been there when you think, “God hasn’t given me enough to work with, or I can’t see how this will ever work?” What if the 72 took on that posture or thinking?
There is a joy that cannot be experienced from the outside. There is joy that comes from seeing a child hear about Jesus in VBS or Sport’s Camp. There is the joy of fellowship that takes place at a mission fundraiser, or a funeral luncheon that takes away all our reasons not to be there. It’s the joy of the closeness of God’s kingdom that comes from our participation in it. Being a Christian is not a spectator sport; you were baptized into it to live it.
Joy to Share: This kingdom comes to us today through bread and wine where we participate in Jesus’ body and blood, (cf 1 Corinthians 10:16) and here together, we share in the joy of the forgiveness of our sins. His personal touch at His Table speaks of God’s immeasurable love for us as He strengthens our faith. There is joy in knowing God desires to hold us, comfort us, and heal us. There’s the joy of knowing God forgives even me—even you! We share in the heavenly joy that Jesus speaks of—like a giant crowd wave at a hockey game—only with angels, when one sinner repents (over you and me).
So too, Baptism is a time of rejoicing because Jesus has chosen and called us God’s own! It’s a joy we share with others as we try to explain God’s grace. He will not disappoint us. Jesus is not a ‘no show’; He rose from the dead and lives and goes with us as He sends us with His words about the closeness of His kingdom that will not fail. Our joy is like the angels at Jesus’ birth. We have “Glad tidings of great joy,” to tell. Responses to the message will vary; rejection shouldn’t surprise us, but the burden of moving the human heart is the Holy Spirit’s work. We rejoice because our heavenly Father has chosen us to bear His Good News; that He will use you and me to make a difference in the lives of people around us.
Our Joy: A visitor to Africa watched a missionary nurse dress the ugly sores of a leper. Finding the stench unbearable, the visitor said, “I wouldn’t do that for a million dollars.” The nurse replied, “Neither would I, but I do it gladly for Jesus.”
The closeness of God’s kingdom brings joy that’s often hidden to those around us. But the greatest joy of all is hearing that our names too are written in heaven; that through Jesus’ precious blood, our names are written in the ‘Lamb’s book of Life’. You and I have a message of eternal, heavenly joy amid the troubles of here and now. As the Apostle Paul said to the Philippians, “Rejoice in the Lord always! I say again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near.” (Philippians 4:4-5)