In light of one of this summer’s blockbuster movies, Jurassic World Dominion, where the people in the movie have to try to manage living a life where dinosaurs are living amongst them, which needless to say is not an ideal setting, I came across a quote from Mark Gungor which says, “If done properly, being a pastor is a walk in the park. Jurassic Park, but a park.” With all the changes happening in the world, I can’t begin to tell you how many retired pastors have told me over the course of my short ministry that in a way, they are glad they are retired, they’re glad they don’t have to deal with the various struggles of ministry today.
But it isn’t just within the Church world where we find the struggles. Whether you watch the news or not, whether you listen to it on the radio, through the internet or through podcasts … unless you have your head buried in the sand and just ignore everything … you know there are challenges in the world. In the midst of the chaos and darkness of the world, we can easily change Mark Gungor’s quote to say, “If done properly, being a Christian is a walk in the park. Jurassic Park, but a park.” It’s not an easy time to be a Christian, to be a witness to Christ in our world. But you don’t need me to tell you that, we’re all living in these challenging times together.
The thing is though, the challenging time we face is nothing new. On this Independence Day weekend, we could take time and look back at the time leading up to the birth of our nation. We could take the time and look at the different reason why some people left Europe, boarded a ship, and headed to an unknown world, but we don’t really need to. We don’t need to because even though the reasons have slightly different names, the setting is still the same. Even then, 400 years ago when the pilgrims first stepped foot here, it was not an easy time to be a Christian, to be a witness to Christ in the world.
But let’s go back even further. Let’s go back 2,000 plus years ago to the time of our Gospel reading from Luke 10. Jesus appointed seventy-two additional people to the twelve disciples and sent them out two by two ahead of him to every town and place where he was about to go. Jesus gathers these all together and gives them little pep-talk. Imagine for a moment being one of these seventy-two who are being sent out.
Jesus gathers you and the others together, he looks you straight in the eye and says to you, “The harvest is great, but the workers are few. So pray to the Lord who is in charge of the harvest; ask him to send more workers into his fields. Now go, and remember that I am sending out as lambs among wolves. Don’t take any money with you, nor a traveler’s bag, nor an extra pair of sandals. And don’t stop to greet anyone on the road” (Luke 10:2-4 NLT).
You’re like … “Uh, hold on a second Jesus. Are you sure there are enough of us? If the harvest is so great, can’t we get a few more workers? No? This is it huh? So we’re going to be understaffed and we just need to be able to figure it out as we go? Okay, I guess.”
“Oh, Jesus! What was that you said about lambs and wolves? Oh! We’re the lambs and you’re sending us out into a hostile environment where we are going to be vulnerable and may get devoured. Uh … okay, I guess.”
“Uh, one more question Jesus … how are we supposed to do all the work you have for us to do without any money, a traveler’s bag, or an extra pair of sandals? How am I supposed to arrange all this for you without stopping and talking to others along the way? … Wait, what? You have more you want to tell us. Okay, what is it?”
“Anyone who accepts your message is also accepting me. And anyone who rejects you is rejecting me. And anyone who rejects me is rejecting God, who sent me” (Luke 10:26 NLT).
“So what you’re saying Jesus is that people are going to turn me away and reject me? I don’t know if I can handle all of this. It seems like telling others about you is not going to easy. Isn’t there something else I can do for you? No? You want me to go now? Okay, pray for me please.”
What a pep-talk huh? Tell the seventy-two all about how hard it is going to be in making more disciples, more followers of Christ and then gather them together, have them put their hands in the middle and hear Jesus say, “Now go get ‘em! ‘Make disciples’ on three. 1, 2, 3 ‘Make disciples!’”
But you know, despite the very real obstacles these seventy-two faced, despite all the difficulties … this entire scene that Luke gives to us is filled with God’s gracious work. Notice in verse one, Jesus appoints, Jesus chose these individuals and he is the one who sends them out. In verse two, Jesus centers the entire mission on God. God is the Lord of the harvest and God is the one who sends out laborers in His harvest. Those who are sent out, they don’t need to worry about the lack of provisions or where they are going to stay or what they are going to say because God will see to it that they are provided for. Though some, many perhaps, will reject the offer of peace, some, many perhaps, will actually receive it and receive the one who sent them, receive God. And even when the ones who are sent are turned away, they don’t need to take it personally and let it get them down because Christ is the one who bear the rejection.
Christ, like a lamb among wolves, will bear the rejection of those who reject him ultimately when he is devoured by their words; beaten, battered, bloodied by their whips; and suspended in the air for all to see, for all to ridicule and shame Him as He is nailed to the cross. And if being despised and rejected by those for whom He is sent to, Jesus is forsaken and abandoned by His own Heavenly Father.
These seventy-two, when they come back to Jesus, the return with an overwhelming sense of joy. Even with all the challenges, even with the rejections … they experienced what one prayer describes as “sufficient success.” Jesus takes this joy they’re experiencing and affirms it, He embraces it as He tells them how He saw Satan fall like lightening from heaven (Luke 10:18). Jesus takes the joy they are experiencing from their labors and He redirects it back to God, back to the One who writes their names in heaven, the Lord of the harvest.
And despite the Jurassic like world we live in today, Jesus continues to call, equip, and send out His people to prepare for His coming. And this isn’t just for pastors and other church workers. Jesus calls you. Jesus calls you, equips you with exactly what you need, and He sends you out as lambs among the wolves, or dinosaurs if you like the Jurassic Park analogy.
Even amongst the obstacles, amongst rejection … God’s work is still being done. The work you do for your Savior is not done in vain. Remember, what God says in Isaiah 55, ““For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it” (55:10-11 ESV). The work you are doing, the welcoming of people to worship and our church like family, the serving of meals and helping with the food pantry, the serving on mission trips, the making of prayer shawls, the sharing of Jesus at VBS, through the Pregnancy Care Clinic and all other things you are doing personally … God’s work is being done. Through the pronouncement that your sins are forgiven, through the washing of baptism and the feeding of the Lord’s Supper, through the teaching of young and old, through the preaching of Jesus throughout the Church … God’s work is being done.
Despite the rejection, despite the difficulty it is in being a Christian today, despite Satan’s petty and temporary victories … Jesus through His ultimate victory gives to you and me and all who believe in Him as their savior the eternal victory, our names written in heaven and a place within His glorious kingdom.
As we go out into the harvest field and serve our Savior right where He places us, we don’t do this precious work to bring attention to ourselves and what we do. No, instead we serve to bring the glory and honor to God alone, for our God, the Father of our living Savior is still and always will be the Lord of the harvest. Amen.
Let us pray.
O Lord, without whom labor is but lost, and with whom Your little ones go forth as the mighty; be present to all works in Your Church which are undertaken according to Your will, and to Your laborers a pure intention, patient faith, sufficient success upon earth, and the bless of serving You in Heaven; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.