June 28, 2020

Rev. Mark F, Bartels



Old Testament Lesson; Exodus 19:2-8a

Epistle Lesson; Romans5:6-11

Psalm of the Day;  Psalm 100                            

Sermon Text; Matthew 9:35-10:8


The text we will look at today is taken from Matthew chapter nine, verse 35 through chapter ten, verse eight.


Jesus traveled through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the Gospel of the Kingdom, and healing every disease and every sickness.

When He saw the crowds, He was moved with compassion for them, because they were troubled and downcast, like sheep without a shepherd.  Then He said to His disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few.  Therefore pray that the Lord of the harvest will send out workers into His harvest.”
Jesus called His twelve disciples to Himself and gave them authority to drive out unclean spirits and to heal every disease and every sickness.  These are the names of the twelve apostles:  first Simon (who is called Peter) and his brother Andrew; James the son of Zebedee and his brother John, Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; Simon the Zealot and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed Him.

Jesus sent these twelve out and commanded them, “Do not go among the Gentiles, and do not enter any town of the Samaritans.  Go instead to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.  As you go, preach this message:  'The Kingdom of Heaven is near!'  Heal the sick.  Raise the dead.  Cleanse lepers.  Drive out demons.  Freely you have received; freely give.”


These are your words, Heavenly Father.  Lead us in the way of truth.  Your Word is truth.



Some of you are old enough to remember back when the two, big, superpowers in the world were The United States of America, and The Soviet Union, or The USSR.  There was a diametrical opposition between those two superpowers.  The Soviet Union was considered the evil empire.  Partly because of its economic oppression of its people.  But, even more importantly on our part, it was because there was religious oppression in The Soviet Union.  People were persecuted for being Christians, for being believers.  You could be put in to prison, or even put to death, if you spread the Christian faith, or you had Christian literature.

So anyway, way back in the 1950's there was a family who lived in The Soviet Union.  Part of the oppression that was happening there, was this particular family was forced, by The Soviet Union, to move to east Germany, and work in slave labor camps in east Germany.

Well, through an interesting turn of events, somehow that family from The Ukraine, ended up here in The United States of America, in Chicago, as displaced persons.

They had a young son.  This little, young son from The Soviet Union, (Ukraine, to be particular), had a name that was a mouthful -  Jaroslav Petrovich Shepelyavetz.   He grew up going to school in Chicago.  And, on Saturdays he would go to a Ukrainian school, where he would learn Ukrainian language, and culture.  He was also a great soccer player.  When he was old enough, I believe he ended up deciding to go to Bethany Lutheran College to play soccer, because at that time our college, Bethany Lutheran College, had a nationally ranked soccer team. (By the way, his family had changed his name from Jaroslav Petrovich Shepelyavetz, to an American version which was John Shep.)

While he was going to Bethany, he decided he wanted to become a pastor.  So, he went to our seminary.  After going to our seminary, he eventually ended up being a pastor at Western Koshganog Lutheran Church (which is not too far from Holy Cross Lutheran Church, here in Madison, WI).

But, his heart was with his people, back in Ukraine.  At that time it was still illegal to be a Christian in Ukraine.  John Shep figured out a way where he could have (I suppose what you call) an underground ministry to the people of Ukraine.  He figured out a way where he could take a radio broadcast, and broadcast it into Ukraine, secretly.  (This would have been illegal, if you would have listened to it in Ukraine.)  He would preach the Gospel in the Ukrainian language! 

So, in Ukraine there were people, who late at night, in the secrecy of their own homes, would turn on their radios, and find his channel.  Then, they would listen to his Gospel message. 

During his Gospel message, John Shep would offer to send  unmarked packages to their homes with Bibles, and Bible literature.  Over a period of about ten years, he was actually able to smuggle in to Ukraine over a million Bibles, which is pretty stunning.

Anyway, one day, when we were at Pastors' Convention, about thirty five years ago, John Shep (I still vividly remember this), was standing up in front of us pastors.  He was talking about his work of spreading the Gospel Message to these people in Ukraine, where it was still illegal to be a Christian.  He pulled out a letter, and said, “I want to read a letter to you.  This letter is hand written, by a young girl.  I want to read to you what it says.” 

He began to read, and then he said, “Oh by the way, I am known as Uncle Yaraslav.  That is how I broadcast over there.”

“Dear Uncle Yaraslav,

Two weeks ago, my mom and dad received a package from you in the mail.  They opened it up, and it contained a Bible, and Bible stories.  That day my dad took our TV off of the shelf, and put it away.  Now, every night my dad and family get together, and secretly my dad reads Bible stories to us.  I have come to know I am a sinner.  I have come to know God loves me.  And, I have come to know that God came, and died for me.  And, I have come to know my sins are forgiven.  And, I have come to know I have a Savior.”

“It was signed Elaina”

Then he said, “Oh, there is a P.S. at the end.”

“P.S.  Uncle Yaraslav,

I will probably never meet you in this life, but when I get to Heaven, I am going to look for you.  And when I find you, I am going to give you a big kiss!”

When I heard that letter, my heart just melted for that little Elaina.   And, I thought to myself, “How blessed she is that there was some pastor who was willing to reach out to her, and she was able to hear that Gospel message!”

But, here is a question I have for you today.  How many more 'little Elainas' are there out there in the whole world, 'little Elainas' who don't know Jesus, have not heard about Jesus, don't know what He has done for them, and are waiting?  They don't know it, but they are waiting to hear that saving Gospel message.  Our Bible passage for today says,

“When He (Jesus) saw the crowds,

He was moved with compassion for them,

because they were troubled and downcast,

like sheep without a shepherd.” 

And, He calls His disciples together and said,

“The harvest is plentiful,

but the workers are few.”

Now, I want you to consider that plentiful harvest Jesus was talking about, as He looked out over the world.  If He were to look out over the world today, what kind of harvest ('little Elainas') would He see out there?  How many of them are there, 'little Elainas' out there, who don't know Jesus? 

Did you know that the population of the world is estimated to be 7.8 billion people?  Of those 7.8 billion people, 2.3 billion of them claim to be Christians.  That means 5.5 billion people, BILLION people do not!  Just to put that in to perspective, that would be sixteen United States' populations!  The United States, sixteen times!  That is how many people, how many 'little Elaina's' there are out there, waiting to be harvested, who don't know Jesus, don't know their Savior.

So, The Bible tells us, Jesus looked out over those crowds, and He saw all of those people, all of those people who didn't know Him, yet.  The Bible says,

“When He saw the crowds,

He was moved with compassion for them,

because they were troubled and downcast,

like sheep without a shepherd.”

Jesus looked out over the crowds, and He had compassion on them, because they were harassed, and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.  Now, maybe we have never had the experience of seeing a sheep that didn't have a shepherd.  A sheep without a shepherd would not be smart enough to know that if it had a shepherd, it would be protected, and it would be well fed.  If you were to watch that sheep, it would run from place, to place, in terror, and fear.  It would get all cut up by thistles, and thorns.  It would not know where to eat, and what to eat.  It would be pursued by its enemies, and it would be terrified. 

The Bible says Jesus saw these crowds, and He had compassion, because they were harassed, and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.  It is like 'little Elainas' who are harassed, and helpless.  They don't know where they can get their help. 

-It is people who are maybe living in grief, because of something that has happened, and they don't know, they don't know where they can go to get real, ultimate comfort. 

-It is people who are maybe living in isolation, and just don't know where to go to find real, true unity, and fellowship. 

-It's people who are struggling with terribly guilty consciences, and don't know where to go to get their consciences relieved from their guilt.

So, there are all kinds of people like that in the world. 

The Bible tells us this.  Jesus had compassion for them.  Jesus, when He looks out over all of those 'little Elainas' (and in our day, it would be those 5.5 billion people who don't know Him), His heart is moved with absolute compassion.  When Jesus has compassion, it is not just feeling bad for somebody, feeling sorry for somebody.  But, Jesus' compassion always went in to action. 

What did Jesus do?  Consider this.  Think about the compassion Jesus has.  If you take the 7.8 billion people who are alive today, Jesus has so much compassion that He went to the cross, with the sins of 7.8 billion people.  And, that is just the people who are alive, today.  Weighing on His shoulders, He paid the price for every single sin, for every single person, no matter how remotely you live in this world.  That is the compassion He had.

But, here is the problem.  Jesus has died for all, the 7.8 billion people who live today, including the 5.5 billion who don't know Him.  But, the Bible says,

“How can they believe on the One,

of whom they have not heard? 

How can they hear, unless someone preaches to them? 

How can they preach, unless they are sent?”
As the Bible says,

“Blessed are the feet of those who bring tidings of great joy. 

Faith comes from hearing the message,

and the message is heard through the Word of Christ.”

So, Jesus looked out over those crowds, had compassion on them, called His disciples to Him, and here is what He said. 

“The harvest is plentiful...” 

Then, He explained the dilemma. 

“But the workers are few.”  

Imagine having this vast harvest, as a farmer, a vast harvest, and thinking, “Wow!  Look at all I could bring in, but I don't have enough workers to get it all in.”

So, He shares this dilemma. 

“The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few.”  

Immediately after that, then, Jesus sends out these twelve men to preach, and to teach. 

You see, they were 'going to seminary'.  They probably didn't realize it, but they were going to the best seminary that ever existed in the history of the world.  For two years they had been with Jesus. 

-If anybody had heard how to preach a proper sermon, it was these twelve men.  They heard Jesus preach. 

-If anybody had seen how to deal with people who were sad, and suffering, it was these twelve men.  They had witnessed it.  They had seen it, and had been taught it. 

-If anybody knew when to be firm, when to be gentle, and when to be kind, these men saw it.  

They were trained in 'seminary', the seminary of Jesus' school. 

Then, He sent them out to begin to preach, and to teach.  To them He said,

“The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few.”

But now, I want to take us to today.  I am going to show you a picture. 




I don't know if you recognize this place.  Most of you probably have never seen that building.  Most of you will probably never be in that building in your entire life.  It is three hundred miles pretty much straight west of here.  If you started driving today, you would get there in about four, and a half hours.  It is on a quiet, little, dead-end street in Mankato, MN.  This happens to be our seminary, Bethany Lutheran Theological Seminary.  This is where pastors are trained, where workers are trained to go out, and work in the harvest fields.  The men in the picture were in our seminary this past year.



The question I have for you is, “How important, how important is our seminary to you, personally?” 

I really want to impress upon you how critical, how critical our seminary is to you, personally.  Most likely, our next pastor, or your next pastors, are going to come from that place.  That is where they are going to be trained. 

-Maybe it is five, ten, fifteen years from now, and you are in the hospital.  You are going through some terrible, terrible news.  Somebody who has been trained in that building is going to come, and visit you.  We pray they have been taught what to say, how to say it, and how to comfort you from God's Word. 

-Someday, five, ten, fifteen years from now, whoever your pastor is will have come from that building.  And when somebody you love has died, he is going to have that funeral.  We pray he has been well trained to preach, and teach in a way that brings great comfort.  -Someday, five, ten, fifteen years from now, your children, and grandchildren are going to see some guy who was trained in that building, walking in the hallways of our school, teaching Christ-like love to your children, and grandchildren. 

-Somebody from that building is going to stand in the front of this building, and he is going to be your preacher. 

We pray he has been taught, as they told us in the seminary, to do two things. 

        -Number one, to preach the people to Hell.  Preach the Law that shows “I deserve to be in Hell forever”.  That is bad, bad, bad news.          -But then, to preach you to Heaven.  Preach to you that you have a Savior, who died for your sins.  Your sins are forgiven.  Preach that so that you have this love for Christ in your heart. 

That is where your next pastor is going to come from. 

But, I have another question for you.  What if there are not enough to go around?  What if five, ten, fifteen years from now there aren't enough pastors to go around?  You know, that is a real possibility.  Jesus looked over the crowds, and He said,

“The harvest is plentiful,

but the workers are few.” 

Then, Jesus involves you, personally, personally in doing what you can, to see to it that there are workers who devote their lives to preaching, teaching, and spreading that Gospel Message.  Listen to what He says. 

“The harvest is plentiful,

but the workers are few.

Therefore pray that the Lord of the harvest

will send out workers into His harvest.”  

Ask the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest field.  There the Lord personally asks you to take it into your hearts, out of compassion for all of the lost, to pray the Lord would move young men, to want to go, and be pastors, learn how to be a pastor, be trained how to be a pastor.

I think about what Holy Cross has accomplished here these past number of years.  That is not our doing.  That is all by the hand of God.  And, I firmly believe so much of it is due to the ardent prayers of our members, here at Holy Cross.  You know The Bible says the prayer of a righteous man availeth much, or it is powerful and effective. 

I believe the same is true, when it comes to seeing to it that our church body has pastors.  In all seriousness, there could be a shortage of pastors in the years to come.  So, let's get on our knees, let's fold our hands, and let's plead to the Lord, out of compassion, for all the souls to come after us,


Move young men to want to be pastors and bring that saving Gospel Message to others.”

The other day I was reading about a pastor who liked to get the little guys in the congregation together, and say, “Hey, if you were to draw a picture of a pastor, what would the pastor look like?”

They would raise their hands, and say, “He would have big ears, because he would be a good listener.”  “He would have a big heart, because he loves everybody.”  “His hands would be holding The Bible.”

This pastor was always waiting for some little boy, when he would ask, “What does a pastor look like?” for some little boy to raise his hand, and say, “Pastor, he looks like me.”  He was waiting for some little boy to be moved in his heart to say, “I want to be a pastor, someday.”

Jesus asks us, He asks us, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few.  Therefore pray the Lord of the harvest will send out workers in to His harvest.”
How does our seminary make it?  Did you know there are people who are so serious about making sure we have future pastors, that they actually give money to the seminary?  Our seminary just operates on gifts.  That is it.  Whether it is gifts from congregations, or individual gifts, people give, because they know the harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few.  They want to do what they can to make sure, they want to see to it there are workers in the harvest field.

I am going to end with this Bible account.  Do you remember back in Exodus, chapter seventeen?  The Children of Israel were at battle against this group called The Amalekites.  Moses was an old man.  He was the prophet who was standing on top of a mountain.  So long as he had his arms held up, and was holding on to his staff, the Israelites were prevailing in the battle. 

But, he was an old man.  His arms would grow tired, and his arms would go down.  Then, the Israelites would start to lose. 

So, Moses had two helpers who would stand beside him.  One was Aaron, his brother, and the other was a man by the name of Hur.  They held up Moses' hands.  They weren't the prophets.  He was the prophet, but they sure helped him, so God's people could prevail.  When we end this sermon, here is the hymn verse that is going to be sung. 

If you cannot be a watchman,

standing high on Zion's wall,

pointing out the path of Heaven,

offering life, and peace to all

With your prayers, and with your offerings,

You can do what God demands.

You can be like faithful Aaron,

holding up the prophet's hands