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Eighth Biennial Convention
Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada
Wilfrid Laurier University, Waterloo, Ontario
July 4 - 8, 2001

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A Brief Sermon

For use in congregations

The Fifth Sunday After Pentecost, July 8th, 2001

From Telmor Sartison, Bishop, Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada

 

Grace to you and peace, from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

I greet you this day as a partner in Christ on the journey of our discipleship.
I come in this brief word with a sense of welcome and belonging.
We are sisters and brothers in Christ,
     giving expression to that life of faith,
           through the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada.

Today people from across Canada, members of this church, gather for worship
     on the last day of our convention in Waterloo, Ontario.
We have met under the theme, "In Christ - A Future With Hope."

But today is more than the closing worship for that assembly.
     Today we are joined by Lutherans from the Kitchener-Waterloo area
     and by the Anglicans meeting in their triennial national gathering.
This morning marks the fourth time during the five days of our convention
     that Anglicans and Lutherans have met together:
          we have been together in Bible Study, in banquet, in discussion
          and today in worship.

I preside at this morning's joint service;
My Anglican counterpart, Archbishop Michael Peers, is preacher.

The Gospel reading for this day.
     is again an expression of God's desire for all people.
That desire is that we know him and are at home in the kingdom of God.
This desire of God is expressed most profoundly in the person of Jesus Christ.
He is both Saviour and the one who reigns in this kingdom of God.
In Christ the kingdom is present, available and open to all who will receive.

In this text God's desire is expressed in the imagery of the harvest;
     the harvest is plentiful - there is much to give - but the laborers are few.
This is not a word about the numbers of people.
It is a word about the great gift of God's love given us in Christ Jesus.
It is a word about the gracious availability of this love, in the person of Jesus.
The kingdom is gift but people need to hear about it in order to receive and enter.
The kingdom is a gift given to us by grace in baptism.
It is a way of life and a belonging that we live all of our lives.
It is lived by faith in God who has made us children of God in Christ Jesus.

The Gospel reading for today is also about people like you and me,
     people sent out by Christ to the towns and villages of their everyday life.
Their call and task are simple but demanding. Let me explain.

The task is simple.
They are called to visit, to visit the towns and villages,
     bring the gift of peace,
     stay with hosts who will host them,
     tell the story of Jesus
     and leave in peace.
They are to be thankful to God for those who receive and welcome them.
They are to shake the dust from their feet and get on to the next place
     when they were not received and welcomed.

The task is difficult.
In the first place, they should not expect to be welcomed at every door.
They will experience rejection and hostility.
They will be, in a very real sense, like lambs in the midst of wolves.

In addition, they cannot bring or carry suitcases full of provisions.
It is a go-empty-handed journey
     with mind and spirit full of the message of the kingdom of God.
That kingdom is present in the person of Jesus.
In his name they must go, visit, tell, serve and even perform acts of love and mercy.

There is also a great sense of urgency in this call, this simple task.
     A story has to be told.
     Acts of compassion have to be done.
     All must hear and know that the kingdom of God is at hand,
          for this kingdom is for everyone.
          It is open to anyone who will receive.
Sadly, there are so few who are willing to go and tell the story.
     The harvest is plentiful but the laborers are few.

Jesus, in the text, says to the seventy being sent out;
"Leave it all behind.
Take nothing!
You don't need that stuff.
You don't need all the right words in advance.
Go! Tell the story. Live the story.
Visit, speak, heal, help, strengthen, encourage, do miracles in my name.
Take nothing so that nothing gets in the way.
Trust me.
Depend on me."

There are several problems here for me in this story from Luke.
Maybe you can identify with some of them.

Number one, when I travel I have a collection of things I take.
There is a list of things that go with me on every trip.
I'm ill at ease without them.
Can I travel so light as this? Take nothing with you?

In the second place, when I travel I like to choose my lodgings.
I would like to stay where I would like to stay.
I like some privacy and a fair amount of independence.
I want some say and I want some choice.

In the third place, I like to set my own agenda.
Let me decide where and when and with whom I will go.
Don't hand me instructions. I've a life of my own to live.
I don't have a need to go to all those other people -
     to the neighbour next door or the neighbour countries away.
There are enough agendas being set for me.
Leave me alone Jesus.

     It is like daily life itself.
     I bring to every day of my life a trunk full of expectations, hopes, dreams,
          prejudices, desires, wants, demands and purpose.
     Some of these are of no earthly use to my happiness and peace that day..
     Some are in the way of my witness to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
     Some drag me away from even wanting to serve Christ.
     Some just lead to fear or self-centeredness.
     The trunk is there every day, full of stuff to side-track God's purpose for me.

Does what I am saying sound familiar to you?
Maybe you are different; maybe you have no trunk of things to get in the way..

I do not pretend to know what your life and your call is all about.
But I know you are called.
The baptized - the people of God in Christ Jesus - are called.
It is as simple and as complicated as that.
Jesus words then and now hold the same meaning and impact:
     "The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few.
     Go on your way - in your own way - with your gifts - into the harvest.
     I send you."

Like Naaman in the first lesson, we follow the call given us by God.
You know what that word is for you at this time in your life.
I urge you - follow!
Follow the word given you.
Follow the call.
There is a harvest beyond you awaiting your presence.
Go with your gifts!
Go just as you are, nothing more. That is the best there is.
Tell the story and do your thing in the kingdom as child of God through Christ Jesus.
You will return as did the seventy - "with joy."

What is true for you and I as individuals is true also for the whole church.
So Anglicans and Lutherans today celebrate our life in the kingdom,
     our unity in Christ and the challenge of the harvest.
We will work together where and when we come face to face with the harvest.
We will honour and respect one another as expressions of life in the kingdom.
And who knows, this for us may just be the beginning of a movement in the Church:
     the beginning of a movement from isolation to cooperation,
          from opposition to unity in Christ,
          from working as independent units
               to living and serving together as children of God.

God's desire that all be saved and come know Jesus.
The harvest is plentiful - there is grace upon grace available.
Needed are messengers - messengers like you and me,
     messengers where we are placed in life.
For some that may be a call to become a pastor,
For most of us it is a call to tell the story and live the faith in other careers and places.
One way or the other - it is our life.

May the Holy Spirit empower us for this living.
Amen.

Blessing:

Now may the peace of Christ who calls us,
     a peace that passes all understanding,
keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Amen.

Collect for the Day for July 8

Loving Source of all creation, in Jesus Christ, you have united heaven and earth. Grant that we who share in the first fruits of that union may work for its fulfilment in the power of the Holy Spirit. We ask this in the name of the Incarnate Word, who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns now and for ever. Amen.

 

 

 

In full communion with The Anglican Church of Canada
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