Psalm 61:3

Hear my cry, O God, listen to my prayer; for You have been my refuge, a strong tower against the enemy.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

A New Song to Sing

What is hidden will be revealed.  What is said in the dark will be spoken in the light.  What is whispered…shall be proclaimed from the rooftops!

                In the Gospel lesson Jesus is sending his 12 disciples out as missionaries, as apostles, ambassadors, to carry his message throughout all the towns of Israel.  After warning them about the viscous opposition that they will face, Jesus goes on to comfort them, to embolden their witness, with His promises. 
                Praise and thanks be to God that He did, for if He had not, we would not be here.  We would be tree-worshipping pagans, slaves to lawlessness, impurity, sin, and death.  Without the sending of the Apostles, there is no Christian Church, there is no salvation, there is no hope.

                Jesus sends His apostles out as sheep amidst the wolves, but He does not send them unarmed, or unprotected.  He equips them with an intrepid faith that will allow them to stand and speak where others would run or remain silent.

                First, Jesus warns them about the opposition.  This is not to scare them, but to prepare them.  They will not be caught off guard when other hate or revile them.  They will not be found unawares when others try to kill them for the words that they speak.

                Armed with a knowledge of what is to come, Jesus then promises that these trials and persecutions are not signs of God’s wrath, but rather birthmarks handed down from one generation to the next.  Jesus was tortured and executed.  He was the most despised human on the planet.  His disciples should not despair when they receive the same treatment.  Rather, they should see it as a mark that they are of the household of Jesus Christ.  They are Jesus’ students, His servants, His brothers.

                Fortified with the promise that they are of the household of God, the Apostles are then told to have no fear of the world.  But it is not because the world is not dangerous.  The world can kill the body!

                Yet God is more powerful than all the combined evil of the world.  The only person they really need to fear is God, who can kill both body and soul.  Yet He will not.  The only person they need to fear is the one person upon whom they can completely depend for help and protection.  He is their heavenly Father.  If He cares for the cheaply bought and sold sparrows, how much more will He care for men made in His image and called into His household?

                Shielded as they now are from the assaults of fear and persecution the Apostles are ready to confess Jesus Christ before men.  They are prepared to acknowledge Jesus, to profess Him as the Savior of the world from sin and death.

                And this is all before Good Friday and Easter Sunday.  If they were ready to face hardship and persecution based on these simple promises, how much more was their faith confirmed, emboldened, galvanized in their hearts knowing full well that death had been taken out of the equation?!  

Following the resurrection of Jesus and the day of Pentecost the Apostles were armed and ready to carry the Gospel of Jesus, not only to the lost sheep of Israel, but to the ends of the earth.  They set out, undaunted by the threats of lawless men and satanic foes, and proclaimed from the rooftops that Jesus Christ is risen from the dead!   

And thank God that it is so.  For now the story turns to us, and we are pulled in.  We are not the Apostles, but the men and women to whom they speak.  We are the receivers of their testimony, the beneficiaries of their bold proclamation.

We are not the missionaries tasked with spreading the Gospel in a foreign land.  We are the foreigners and strangers whom the words of the Apostles call to acknowledge Jesus before the world.  

The Apostles had a heavy hand in every page of the New Testament.  They either wrote or powerfully influenced each letter, each story, each glimpse of God’s grace.  Jesus chose these men, He fortified their faith, He sent them out, so that God’s Word, the very Word of Christ, could change dead hearts from denial to acknowledgement, from rejection to confession.  That is exactly what we need.

It is easy for us to think of ourselves as “Christian people” because the vast majority of us have been raised in the Church.  We were baptized at a young age.  We have never known life outside the influence of the congregation.

But each of us must admit that within, often hidden from the eyes of the world, perhaps restrained by the threat of punishment or embarrassment, lurks a pagan, a tree-worshiping, blood-drinking barbarian who has completely rejected the Christ who suffered and died for him.

Hidden from the good Christian people all around us is the denial of Christ that is our many sins that we keep stashed away, that we do in the dark, that we only dare to whisper about to a certain few, if that.

This is why the message of the Apostles was centered on and grounded in repentance and forgiveness through the death and resurrection of Jesus.  The denial of the barbaric pagan is called out of us, seen for what it is, and replaced.  There is forgiveness for our denial at the foot of the cross.  

And there Jesus places a new song in our hearts and on our lips.  It is the song of faith, the song of trust, the song of confession and acknowledgement of the new life that is ours in Him, the new and never ending life.  

"Lord, gives us lips to sing Thy glory, tongues Thy mercy to proclaim, throats that shout the hope that fills us, mouths to speak Thy holy name!"   

Jesus Christ chose Apostles and sent them to the ends of the earth, fortified with His word and promise, empowered by faith in His resurrection to trounce the denial of our hearts and to replace it with proclamation.  

He has gone to great lengths to ensure that the message they proclaimed would be preserved in the New Testament, so that generation after generation may be filled with this new song.  And when we forget the lyrics, His word reminds us.  

The message of the Apostles gives us the words to acknowledge Jesus as the Christ, the Son of the living God.  It opens our mouths to confess the wonder and power of His empty tomb.

Jesus instructed His 12 Apostles and sent them out to the lost sheep of Israel, then to the ends of the earth, to find you and me, to rid us of our pagan influence and barbaric denial, and to put the song of salvation in our hearts.  May His Spirit fill us to sing it without end. 

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