Preached by Tripp Koon on Sept. 9, 2019 at St. Alban’s Anglican Chapel
In the summer of 1944, my grandfather landed on the beaches of Normandy with a rucksack and one five gallon can of gasoline. He told me several stories from World War II. Now for those who did not get to the back of the book in High School history class, World War II was fought because the tyrannical regime of Adolph Hitler had taken over most of continental Europe. Americans landed in France in the summer of 1944 and would begin a slow march to Berlin, Germany. They would finally defeat Hitler in 1945. My grandfather was part of an outfit of Engineers that would build bridges and clear runways, among other projects.
As his outfit was moving through France, he recalled an instance of observing starving people in a French village. I imagine the famine, caused by the oppression of Nazi rule, seemed particularly bad in this place. The officers, against orders, would take the leftovers from the soldier’s mess to the village and distribute the food by night. Word spread in the outfit and soldiers began to eat less or not eat at all so that there would be more food left over to be distributed. It was an act of heroism. If you’re a student of history, you’ll know that there are countless tales like this from war. It’s ironic that events most certainly caused by the wickedness of men, such as World War, often lead to circumstances that bring out the best in humanity.
In our text today we see Jesus walking into a similar scene. The people are diseased, harassed and helpless. Jesus is proclaiming good news in a place where it might be hard for someone to imagine anything good. Not unlike the tyranny of Nazi Germany, the period in which Jesus walked was characterized by political and spiritual power and authority in the hands of a few. God had set up the Jewish nation under the authority of Kings and Priests. Priests would govern the spiritual affairs of the people and the Kings would govern their physical wellbeing. It was very clear in the Old testament that these leaders were to shepherd the people. In other words, it was God’s intention that these leaders care for the people and use their power for the well-being of everyone in society. That’s not what they did. The leaders of this day were incredibly defensive about losing power, and proactive in preserving power. They oppressed the people they ruled. Matthew records in our text today that the people were ‘harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.’ He is pointing out indirectly that the Kings and Priests of the day had shirked their duties. Instead of caring for the nation, they were oppressing and taking advantage of the nation for personal gain.
In the text we also see Jesus proclaiming a Kingdom that supersedes the oppressive regimes of this world.
How many of you know that this type of tyranny is nothing new? We’re fortunate to live in a country where our system limits the negative effects of ruthless people oppressing the masses. But throughout the world and throughout history, this is, unfortunately, very common. It was true of Hitler’s regime in 1944, and it is true today. One might even go so far as to say that the abuse of authority is a fundamental element of the human condition. You don’t need to be a Christian to see this. I bet, if we were all honest, we can point to times in our life where we have abused authority. I know I have.
We see this sinful human oppression of others every time a ruthless dictator murders people to preserve political power, we see it when corporations abuse and underpay employees in the name of shareholder profits, we see it when insecure pastors and preachers manipulate and cajole people to do things against their will, we see it when worthless fathers refuse to say, ‘I love you’ and ‘I’m proud of you’ to their children. And yes, we see it when knobs are unfairly dressed down in front of their peers to feed the ego of upperclassmen.
Jesus sees the imminent problem of our time and every time as a lack of benevolent leadership. He says that the people are without a shepherd. The shepherds have abandoned the flock, they have feasted without regard for the health of the flock. They have taken up honor in temples and at feasts. They have built up heavy packs for men to carry and have not used a finger to lift the load themselves. They are evil men, the worst kind of men. To use Jesus words, they are twice as fit for hell.
The human sinful condition is on full display all around us. The oppression of this world should not seem surprising to us. It’s self-evident that something on earth has gone terribly wrong. Whether through disease, famine, bitterness, fighting, rivalries, endless cravings & war itself. The human sinful condition is on full display both in the text today and in our time. We follow kings and kingdoms that lead us into the worst sorts of circumstances there are. We chase money, honor, accolades, sex, and many other things. That’s the bad news.
But the good news is that Jesus came to proclaim a different sort of Kingdom with a different sort of King. A good, wholesome, perfectly benevolent, Shepherd King that instead of feasting on the flock, gives everything he has for the well-being of the sheep. The Shepherd King holds nothing back. He offers love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control, without price and without measure.
Jesus sees the solution to the problem very clearly. In the text today, He says ‘pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.’ You see the Shepherd King is ready to bring in the flock, he’s ready to call people out of darkness and into light, but he desires to use laborers to do this.
Who are the laborers?
That’s right, we are. We are the laborers; we are those who he is calling out to make a difference; armed with the very power of Almighty God to bring righteousness and justice to this fallen world. There is a cycle of trust demonstrated here in our text today. Jesus calls us to trust him and his word. We trust him for the harvest, we trust him for forgiveness where we’ve contributed to the brokenness of the world around us. We trust him to incorporate us into his flock, into his Holy Family, where we can be encouraged, and nurtured in the things of God. We trust him to fill us with his Holy Spirit, so we can live life to its very fullness, and accomplish the unimaginable.
When that happens, Christ trusts us. He entrusts us with the gospel message, he trusts us to demonstrate the goodness of the Shepherd King to everyone around us, he entrusts us to do the work necessary to bring in the harvest of souls unlike the world has ever seen. That’s his goal. That is his mission. That is our mission. That is your mission.
General James Mattis, former commander of CENTCOM and Secretary of Defense illustrates this point when he says in his recent book, “Coach and encourage, don’t berate, least of all in public, Public humiliation does not change our friends behavior, operations occur at the speed of trust.”
General Mattis understands what it means to shepherd those under his command. That is why he progressed to the highest level of military leadership, second only to the president himself. He knows that commanders must trust their soldiers, and soldiers must trust their commanders. It’s important here for me to mention that this trust is not built by compromising the standard. No, the good shepherd equips those under him to meet the standard. General Mattis wouldn’t have gone very far by allowing those under his leadership to skate by on their duty.
Jesus operates in our lives in a similar way. He holds up a standard that only he can meet. He calls us to meet that standard also and supernaturally empowers us to do it. He has entrusted us with the very words of life for an oppressed world. We trust Christ to give us everything we need to accomplish the mission. We only need to answer the call and step forward. Will you trust him? Operations move at the speed of trust.
Maybe you’re here and you say, yes. I want to trust him. I want in. I believe that Jesus alone has the words of life and I want to bring this to the world around me. What do I do?
I want to offer you three practical steps to living out God’s mission on earth.
- Experience the God of Holy Scripture through the power of the Holy Spirit.
The pages of this book are Holy Ground. This book will take you places and cause you to experience things beyond your imagination. You see it’s not enough to merely learn about God. That was the great mistake of the leaders during Jesus’ time. They knew more about God than anyone, but they didn’t know God. To live out the mission on earth, you need to know God and the primary way you do that is through his Word, the Bible. It’s in the pages of this book that you will see the darkness of our sin, you will see God’s remedy, you will see his incredible love for you and the world around you, you will see his plan to make you into sons and daughters that make war against the tyrannical powers of this world. The Bible is truly an amazing thing. I invite you to experience a real relationship with God through the pages of Scripture.
You will also need the Holy Spirit to accomplish this. It’s God himself that enables us to know his principles, to know the marching orders of the mission. You will also need your brothers and sisters with you.
I know that we have several opportunities for bible study groups here through St Albans and the other ministries on campus. I pray that Spirit-lead, student-lead bible studies will break out on this campus like wildfire. God has promised to give the Holy Spirit to everyone who asks. So ask him. Ask to experience the God of Holy Scripture through the power of the Holy Spirit and see what happens.
- Listen to your neighbor.
Of the many attributes of God, we know that God is a God who listens. The bible says that he inclines his ear to us. He listens. The Book of James says that we also are to be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to anger. It is a fundamental requirement to accomplish God’s mission on earth that we listen to the world around us. Unless we hear others, where they are, understand their needs, how will we ever be able to speak God’s truth in a helpful way? Listening is very important. On this campus there are stories of pain and heartache that are difficult to hear. I know, I have heard some of them. But God would have us hear them. God would have us hear so that we might offer a response that can change hearts, heal hurts and speak life, which brings me to the final point.
- Build up each other.
After we’ve experienced the God of Scripture and listened to the world around us. It’s then that we are ready to respond. We respond by building up. Most everything you do will be for one of two reasons. You will act to build up someone else or you will act to build up yourself. The Shepherd King gives us an incredible example of what it means to live to build up other people. He gives his life for the sheep. So to we should live our lives for those around us. The soldiers in my grandfather’s outfit found no personal gain by going without food for starving people in France in 1944. It was a selfless act. Our mission in the earth operates in a similar fashion. The mission is not without cost. It will cost you time, money, the respect of others, it may even cost you your life. We pray in the Cadet Prayer, suffer if need be. God alone knows what he will ask us to give in the name of his Kingdom but of one thing you can be certain, whatever he asks of us, it will be worth it. The value of what he gives is worth many times over any sacrifice we can make.
In the reading today it says that God gave the disciples “authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every disease and every affliction.” Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. If you’ve done that, if you’ve called on his name then Jesus Christ has also bestowed that same authority on you. He has commissioned you and gifted you for the mission.
When you call on his name what you will realize is that it’s Christ that first called your name. The final portion of our text says that Christ called the disciples. They are then listed by name. Peter, Andrew, James, John, Philip, Bartholomew, Thomas Matthew, James, Thaddeus, Simon the Zealot, and Judas who would betray him. These men evangelized the known world in less than 30 years. What will those who God is calling here at the Citadel be able to accomplish in the next 30 years? What could you all accomplish for the Kingdom in the next 30 years? In this room I believe there are people with gifts of healing, of administration, of hospitality, gifts of prophecy, gifts of wisdom, gifts of pastoring, of preaching, and gifts of discernment. Maybe that sounds strange, maybe you have no idea what I’m talking about. Well that’s for another day and another sermon. But even if you don’t know what I’m talking about, know this, you are gifted. You are called. You are loved by Jesus Christ.
Let’s respond to that love by overthrowing the wicked kingdoms of this world with the Kingdom of God. Let’s pray.