Summary: Whenever someone speaks from the Bible it is as if Jesus himself speaks to us. Listen!
What makes for a good movie? Heart-stopping chase scenes with big explosions? Is it action like this that makes for a good movie? Well no, not by itself. You also need a good plot to go along with the action. And you can’t move a plot along very well if no one speaks in the movie. That’s why the last silent movie made by Hollywood was filmed in 1935, almost 80 years ago. I’ve never watched a silent movie from beginning to end, but I’m pretty sure I’m not missing much. In fact I’d be willing to guess that your best-loved movie scenes are favorites because of the spoken dialogue not because of the action. Let me put it this way. When’s the last time you acted out a scene from a movie? Perhaps never, but I bet you have memorized a half a dozen movie lines that you like to spout at dinner parties, much to the embarrassment of your family. Yes, it’s the dialogue, the spoken word that makes or breaks a movie.
In the same way it is the spoken Word that is one of the highlights of our worship service. What we’ll be reminded of today in our continuing sermon series on Lutheran Worship is that the Word that is shared from the pulpit may come out of the mouth of a man, but it has been put there by the voice of God and so we’ll want to pay attention to it. Let’s get right to the heart of the matter as we consider the words of Jesus from Luke 10.
About six months before his crucifixion, Jesus commissioned 72 of his followers to serve as missionaries throughout Israel. Before sending them he told them that they were going out as lambs among wolves. Don’t you suppose more than a few gulped at that description? Lambs among wolves? What chance would they have to succeed in their mission? Wouldn’t it have been better for Jesus to say that his evangelists would be the wolves among the lambs? Then they would have been more apt to stride forth boldly on their mission. But they weren’t to be fierce like wolves. They were to be meek like lambs. Jesus’ point was that his disciples would not accomplish their mission by force or fear tactics. They weren’t supposed to strong-arm people into heaven. They would instead simply speak the words Jesus had given them. But not everyone would listen to these disciples and they weren’t to take this personally, for Jesus said: “He who listens to you listens to me; he who rejects you rejects me; but he who rejects me rejects him who sent me” (Luke 10:16).
2,000 years have passed since Jesus sent out those 72 disciples, but the voice of missionaries, staff ministers, and pastors sent out by Jesus can still be heard today. You’re listening to one such small voice right now. But Jesus wants you to know that it’s not just Dan Habben’s voice you perceive, you’re also hearing the voice of Jesus, for whenever anyone speaks from the Bible it is Jesus himself who speaks.
That makes my calling as a pastor an easy one in one regard. My role as Sunday preacher is not to come up with new material. I haven’t been called by Jesus to entertain his flock, but to feed it. That’s why you receive a steady diet of the two main teachings of the Bible: law and gospel. Do you remember what the purpose of the law is? God’s commands, his “thou shalts” and “thou shalt nots” don’t show us how to get to heaven but reveal just how far we are from heaven. God’s law is like a GPS-enabled phone. It simply tells you where you are but doesn’t actually help you physically get to where you want to be. Therefore the law ought to crush any pride we have in ourselves the way a pinprick will quickly deflate a balloon. The law makes it clear that we are not the holy and pious people many others may think we are. So when I make you squirm in your seat because I’m touching on a command you’re struggling to keep, don’t tune me out. Remember who it is speaking to you: not just your pastor, but your God. Don’t brush off the demands of the law because to reject the Word I share with you is to reject Jesus himself.