Monday, July 5, 2010

Behold I am sending you out as lambs into the midst of wolves

“The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few.  Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into this harvest.  Go your way; behold I am sending you out as lambs in the midst of wolves” (Luke 10:1-20). 

In our Holy Gospel today Jesus sends out the disciples as lambs into the midst of the wolves, to speak peace, and proclaim the Kingdom of God.  By our Lord’s admonition here it seems more than clear that the odds are stacked against him.  How can a lambs fare in the midst of wolves, other than being eaten and devoured? 

From our reading we are eager to attribute those wolves to enemies or those outside the church.  We like to think of the wolves as criminals of society.  The gangsters, the murderers, the rich CEO crooks – all those visible predators – the real dangerous ones.  We are quick to think of ourselves rather as the innocent lambs.  We are not gangsters, murderers, or corrupt CEO’s.  We are the innocent ones.  The good ones – the ‘moral majority.’  Yet as soon as we think this way, and howl to one another of our righteousness, our fangs grow greater still – and we look more and more likes wolves.  There is only one Lamb – only One who is innocent.  Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. 

If we truly are the sinners we say we are in our confession this morning we are more akin to ravenous wolves than that of innocent, bleating lambs.  How many times have we sunk our fangs into the juicy meat of that forbidden fruit.  How often have we stalked our prey, plotting the demise or misfortune of a friend or neighbor?  How many times have we violently tore up the reputation of our neighbor with our teeth – speaking false and evil things. 

How many times have we feasted on the tantalizing taste of sexual immorality?  How often have we justified it saying, well everybody does it! – the rest of the pack of wolves does it – so what is the harm?  How often have we hunted for comfort and peace in all the wrong places; alcohol, drugs, and overeating. 
The Lord in His inscrutable mercy comes to the most bloodthirsty wolves – the very worst sinners.  He comes to poor sinners.  He comes to us.  It is for the life of the world that we wolves can feast on the lamb.  It is for the sake of the Kingdom of God that the innocent Son comes into the midst of wolves, to be stalked, hunted, and crucified by those who gnash their teeth, and wag their tongues.  God in His wisdom that confounds the world offers himself as the Lamb.  And lambs sent into the midst of wolves are meant to be eaten. 

For unto our tongues does the Lord make himself known.  From the pierced side of the Lamb is the chalice that calms our burning thirst, and tames are predatory hearts.  In the hearing of His Word and this eating and drinking, we wolves are made into lambs.  Here the prophecy of Isaiah comes true, that “the wolf will dwell with the Lamb” (11:6) and that “the wolf and the Lamb shall graze together” (65:25).  The Lamb of God comes to us wolves giving Himself – sacrificing Himself and offering himself to us.  He places the meat of life into our mouth and pours the sweet drink unto our tongue.  

The Lamb of God – Jesus Christ – loves to feed wolves.  He loves to domestic us ravenous wolves and us carousing sinners.  He loves to give us what we need.  For we need what is His and He lives to feed it to us.  We need His blessedness, His innocence and His righteousness.  We need Him to calm our violent hearts and to make us lie down in peace…He restores our souls.   

In our Gospel today the Lord tells the disciples to preach that the Kingdom of Heaven has come near.  And today the Kingdom of Heaven is near.  Closer than we realize.  For Jesus – the Lamb – is the Kingdom of Heaven.  And he has chosen to lie down and dwell in your ear and in your heart.  He has set a table in the presence of your enemies and has preached to you – and reclaimed your heart.  You are His to live under Him that you may be His own. 

We are called now to live not as wolves but as precious lambs in His Kingdom.  We are called to live in meakness, gentleness, and humility.  We are called to sacrifice ourselves for the well-being of our neighbor and to feed them also with the life-giving gift of the Gospel - the forgiveness of sins, a place with God, and the resurrection of the dead.

When God sees you this morning.  He does not see your old ways.  He does not see your sin and your old wolf ways.  He does not see your sins that terrify you from your youth.  Your sin that keeps you anxious and filled with worry.  He does not see it.  He sees you grazing and resting with his Son.  He sees you listening to His voice.  He sees you baptized and washed in the blood of Christ.  He sees that you are filled with faith.  Not because any merit or worthiness in you.  But because the risen Christ has come to you.  And His merit and worthiness is more than sufficient for you.  He sees you receiving all of his gifts.  And he loves you for it.  By the Gospel of Jesus Christ, He has wrapped you up like a newborn infant.  Wrapped up and bundled in all his innocence, all his blessedness, and all his righteousness.  No stain of sin can be found on you, dear Christian.

Take heart and comfort in these words.  Be comforted that the Lamb has come into your midst.  And rejoice.  Rejoice that wolves have become as innocent as lambs.  Rejoice that sinners have been declared saints.  Rejoice that your sins have been washed away.  And rejoice that your name has been written in Heaven.  In the name of Jesus.  Amen.                 

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