THE 2ND SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST AD 2020
TRINITY EVANGELICAL LUTHERAN CHURCH
REV. KURT E. REINHARDT
They set out from Rephidim and came into the wilderness of Sinai, and they encamped in the wilderness. There Israel encamped before the mountain, while Moses went up to God. The Lord called to him out of the mountain, saying, “Thus you shall say to the house of Jacob, and tell the people of Israel: You yourselves have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles' wings and brought you to myself. Now therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession among all peoples, for all the earth is mine; and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words that you shall speak to the people of Israel.”
So Moses came and called the elders of the people and set before them all these words that the Lord had commanded him. All the people answered together and said, “All that the Lord has spoken we will do.” And Moses reported the words of the people to the Lord.
Romans 5:6-15 For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.
Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned— for sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not counted where there is no law. Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sinning was not like the transgression of Adam, who was a type of the one who was to come.
But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if many died through one man's trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many.
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. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “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.”
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. 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; Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; Simon the Zealot, and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him.
Jesus Sends Out the Twelve Apostles
These twelve Jesus sent out, instructing them, “Go nowhere among the Gentiles and enter no town of the Samaritans, but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. And proclaim as you go, saying, The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, cast out demons. You received without paying; give without pay.
Harassed and helpless. Some of you may have had a bit of that going on these last few months that we have had to be apart. I had no problem feeling that way without the stress and strain of a global pandemic and the extreme measures taken to keep us safe from Covid 19. Like many of you, I had way more to do than hours in a day to do it in, without the added challenges of trying to do so much of it in new and unusual ways, all the while living with media stoked fear of what this new virus might do to me and those that I love.
That harassed and helpless feeling wasn’t helped this week, when the Government announced that we could start gathering for Service again, but never came through with their promised guidelines on how they wanted us to do it. The conference call that I joined in on with 85 others with Huron-Perth’s Chief Medical Officer of Health on Thursday left me feeling pretty much the same way, as she repeatedly told us, that she was also still waiting for provincial direction. She did repeatedly make clear that she wanted us to hold off on congregational singing at this point - A burden (and it is a great one) that I’m willing to humbly bear in Christ for the sake of the joy of having you back within these walls, but there wasn’t much more than that.
Harassed and helpless. Yea, I’ve been there, as I know some of you have too, with the trouble and trial that have come your way in this sin sick world. Sickness, depression, grief, cancer, arthritis, old age, yes, they can all bring us there, as can the normal demands of every day life. Work, school, home, trying to juggle it all, children crying in the middle of the night, assignments needing to be done, exams on the horizon, work demanding that we make ever more bricks with ever less straw, never -ending home chores, laundry piling up, figuring out supper - too much to do and too little time to do it in.
Harrassed and helpless. If you’re there, I’ve got to tell you, I get it, more and more with each new thing that comes my way in this sin sick world. I didn’t think that I could have gotten it any more after going through the stroke and the post stroke anxiety that followed it but, yes, Covid 19 and all that’s gone along with it has helped me to know harassed and helpless in new and wonderful ways. Which truly is all gift from God to make me an even more Christ-like servant. You see, our Lord’s compassion, as we so beautifully hear about today, is not a compassion that simply looks on from afar and has mercy on our suffering and struggle, sorrow and trial.
No, His compassion flows from the profound empathy that lives in His Divine heart, that came to beat with us, as it walked down our hard and often difficult road. As Christ looks out over the crowd today, as He looks out over us, His compassion flows from His heart that will be sorrowful even unto death for us, His heart that will be harassed and helpless to the utter depths for us. The Shepherd who looks out over us today, is the Shepherd who knows and understands the life of His sheep because He has come to be a lamb for the slaughter for them.
Compassion, yes, Christ has compassion, compassion for us, in all of our worries and cares, our anxieties and fears. He has compassion for us in our weakness and need. And so He reaches out to us through the Holy Apostles that He sent out to speak His Word, so that He could place His wounded hand on our shoulder and tell us that He is there for us, that we are not helpless sheep because we have a Shepherd, a good one, we have Him.
He reaches out to us through that blessed Word, that has come down to us through the ministry of the Gospel, through the men sent out to proclaim that Apostolic Word - men like me. As He also reaches out His hand through anyone who picks up that Word to speak it, husbands, wives, parents, grandparents, friends, neighbours - people like you. Christ in empathy, with the greatest compassion is here for you today in His Holy Word as He reaches out to you in His body and blood to place His wounded hand on your shoulder that you might know His peace.
Helpless and harassed. Like sheep without a shepherd, yes that’s what we would be, that’s what I would be, without Christ’s holy Word that brings our Good shepherd to us, that He might be our peace, that He might be our help. “I don’t know what people do without Jesus.” I’ve heard it said many a time over the years, as I have learned to say it more and more myself with each passing year in this world. Walking through the cemetery from the oldest front section to the newest graves at the back, I look over the crowd that Jesus saw there so long ago and I rejoice in His compassion that sent out His Word to them to help them and see them safely through this world into His fold in His Father’s house.
Each stone stands as a witness to Christ’s compassion … Christ’s empathy that walked their path with them through to the door into eternal life. As I walk among the stones with this Gospel sounding in my heart and mind, my Shepherd’s wounded hand rests on my shoulder, that this harassed and helpless feeling sheep might know that He is with me and that I might be made ready as His under-shepherd to bring this Word to you.
The Kingdom of Heaven is at hand, beloved. See here what God has done to sin, death and hell for you! See how He has delivered you from them! See how on the wings of His Christ He has brought you to Himself! Harassed and helpless? Yes. We may feel that way at times and the old evil foe wants us to believe it. But we are not, because we do have a Shepherd, the Son of God who out of the greatest compassion was made man to be with us, to defend and help us. Jesus, yes, we have Jesus.
Generations before you, the generations that lie sleeping in Christ’s peace outside our windows prayed to the Lord of the Harvest that workers might be sent to you - that I might be sent to you, so that you might have this good Word and know it’s truth. Now it is our turn, beloved, for the sake of all those poor people around us who have to go through their trials and struggles without Christ and for the sake of those who will come after us, it is our turn to pray to the Lord of the Harvest to send out the labourers that they need. It is our turn to pray and He will answer, indeed He will, out of the deepest empathy with greatest compassion, He will answer. Amen.