Text: Matthew 9:35—10:8
Date: Pentecost II (Proper 6a) + 6/18/17
On this day we begin the long green season of the time of the Church, the Sundays after Pentecost. Here we begin to retrace the words and acts of our Lord Jesus but not as an historical narrative as in the Lord’s or Festival Half of the Church Year, but now to discover the pure doctrine and teaching of the Christian faith. We continue to rejoice in the Good News of the salvation of the world, our salvation, through the merits of Jesus Christ, crucified and risen from the dead. Now it is our prayer as St. Paul put it to the Ephesians, “that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ Jesus when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come.” Then he concludes, saying, “And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all” (Eph 1:17-22). So today we are saying that a person comes to this saving faith through the church.
Many may ask, “what is the church” or “but which church?” speaking only of the outward objects and rites, so-called denominations and appearances, as other governments. To this question the Word before us today says, as in today’s Collect, that it is only through the Word of the apostles and prophets, the Scriptures, that we can receive faith to believe God’s promises and receive eternal salvation. And so we define the Church not as an external organization but as “the congregation of saints,” a “fellowship of faith and the Holy Spirit in hearts.” It is “the body of Christ” as we heard St. Paul say. This true Church “has outward marks so that it can be recognized, namely, the pure doctrine of the Gospel, and the administration of the Sacraments in accordance with the Gospel of Christ”
But how do we know pure doctrine? For there seem to be so many contradictions in religious teaching all around us of different churches and preachers using the same Bible.
In his letter to the Romans St. Paul writes in a brilliant way of the way people come to saving faith. “For,” he begins, “‘everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’ How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? [They can’t.] And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? [Impossible!] And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent?” Then he quotes the prophet Isaiah, saying, “As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!’”
I personally don’t think of beauty when I think of people’s feet. But here the thought is that the church brings the saving Gospel to people through people using their feet to come to people throughout the world to speak the Gospel of peace.
Today we heard, first, of Moses whom God called to be His prophet, to whom God spoke and communicated His commands to be taught to the people He formed for His own “treasured possession among all peoples” (Ex 19:5). You will recall how, as that divine call came to Moses through a burning bush, he was commanded to take his sandals off his feet, “for the place on which you are standing is holy ground” (Ex 3:5). It is with his own feet that he led people out of Egyptian slavery and now into the wilderness of Sinai. With his feet Moses went up to God and God gave him His word and command and promises to be communicated to His people. As their journey ended the Lord said, “I have led you forty years in the wilderness. Your clothes have not worn out on you, and your sandals have not worn off your feet” (Dt 29:5).
And so it is through the long line of Old Testament prophets. “After the death of Moses, the servant of the Lord, the Lord said to Joshua the son of Nun, Moses’ assistant, ‘Moses my servant is dead. Now therefore arise, go over this Jordan, you and all this people, into the land that I am giving to them, to the people of Israel” (Josh 1:1-2).
There were certain Biblical writers early on that are anonymous to us. But then things get more personal. “The words of the Preacher, the son of David, king in Jerusalem,” namely, Solomon (Eccl 1:1). Isaiah: “In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple…. And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, ‘Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?’ Then I said, ‘Here am I Send me’” (Is 6:1, 8). “The words of Jeremiah…to whom the word of the Lord came” (Jer 1:1-2). “The word of the Lord came to Ezekiel the priest…and the hand of the Lord was upon him” (Ezek 1:3). So it was with Daniel, Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Micah, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi. Sixteen men not counting the anonymous authors.
On the cover of your Ordo you see an icon of the twelve Apostles who Matthew lists by name in today’s Gospel. We heard how Mathias eventually was called to replace Judas Iscariot who betrayed Jesus. Only three of these would become authors of the New Testament scriptures to which God added Mark (based on the preaching of Peter), Luke the physician, Paul, the author of the letter to the Hebrews, James and Jude. As the explanation of the Small Catechism teaches us, “The Bible is the ‘Holy Scripture’ because God the Holy Spirit gave to His chosen writers the thoughts that they expressed and the words that they wrote. Therefore, the Bible is God’s own Word and truth, without error.” As St. Paul wrote to Timothy, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness” (2 Tim 3:16).
This is why the Church, the body of Christ, is the only place a person can hear and believe with certainty the very word of God, because He inspired and sent His Word through the prophets and apostles. It is not in any form of organization, not in any of the latest fads, programs or spiritual tricks, not in any of the outward forms themselves, anything created or devised by men out of a conviction of unbelief, that is, that God’s Word isn’t quite powerful or reliable enough to cause conversion and saving faith, that can enlighten the eyes of the heart, that we can know, trust and believe in God’s power to save us. But only through God’s own, inspired, inerrant, prophetic and apostolic Word does the Holy Spirit of God operate.
God keep you faithful to His means of grace in His Holy Church, “that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you.”