The essence of the text is a list, a list of names. Sermonic suicide, right?
I think the list, when you add the stuff around it is more meaningful than that. And it goes right at our problems with evangelism. We grumble, we come up with all kinds of excuses why we can’t, why things are going good. We look at this text and say, “if you gave me those powers.” But that is simply a surface reading. Give is a good read. List out what the tools for the work of mission actually are. And then ask yourselves, are you willing to pick up these tools? That is what the sermon does.
Did I ever tell you how wimpy I think our modern translators are? By wimpy I largely mean they are representatives of their class and training. If the choice is between a gritty word and a noble concept, they reach for the noble concept every time. The example today is Matthew 9:36 in the ESV – “When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” My pushing it translation that I think gets more at what is going on – “When he saw the crowds, his guts were churned for them, because the were flayed and cast away, like sheep without a shepherd.” The point is that the devil, the world and our own sinful nature bleed us dry and throw out the dead bones. We are helpless in the face of these enemies. But that is what Jesus came to change. That is what the Holy Spirit’s indwelling changes. That is what the Father’s compassion changes, sending workers into his fields.
The gospel always comes freely. The question is once we have been freed, are we willing to freely give? Do we accept that our names are written in that lamb’s book right along with those twelve apostles. That Jesus’ mission, their mission, has become our mission.
Worship Note: I left in our opening hymn which I think is one of the few hymns that an update has improved. We sing typically LSB 827, Hark the Voice of Jesus Calling, which is a Starke re-write of the last three verses. He replaces what could often be a moralistic scold toward missions with a moving meditation on some of the parables of our response to the call. It always gets me.