February 8, 2015
Text: Isaiah 40:21-31
I Corinthians 9;16-23
The Gospel- Pure and Simple
In the gospel lesson for today, we hear Jesus saying to His disciples- and you and I also by the way: “Let us go on to the neighboring towns, so that I may proclaim the message there also; for that is what I came out to do” And He went throughout Judea, proclaiming the message in their synagogues and casting out demons.
What was the message that Jesus had such a passion to proclaim? It was good news of life and hope- it is about redemption and new life; it is about repentance and renewal; it is about the love of God in Jesus Christ and amazing grace. In a world of change-the gospel remains pure and unchanging; unsearchable and powerful, and can be summed up in one simple phrase: Jesus loves me this I know, for the bible tells me so. That is the gospel pure and simple. Pray.
From the gospel lesson from last Sunday, we read that one morning, Jesus entered a synagogue in Capernaum and as was the custom of traveling Rabbis He began to teach. It didn’t take long before people sat up and took notice. He was different from the Scribes who taught only what they had learned – but He taught with authority-as if He Himself was the author!
Today the story continues as Jesus and the disciples leave the synagogue- to do what? Take a nap after spending all morning in church? No- they left the church (synagogue) and immediately began living their faith- sharing with everyone who hadn’t come to church that morning the good news in practical, hands-on ways! People were healed, demons were cast out and people sought Him out.
We have been entrusted with the gospel and sent to share it with the world with clarity and power of the Holy Spirit because, in the words of Jesus “that is what we have been sent to do”. But as we do that, sometimes we unconsciously package the gospel with our traditions and wrappings of our culture. Don’t misunderstand me- traditions and cultures can help us worship God in ways that are meaningful to us, but we need to be very careful that we don’t fall prey to the temptation of elevating tradition to the same level as the gospel.
Anyone remember the old detective tv show Dragnet? In a classic, often repeated scene, as detective Friday interviewed a witness, the witness would began answering question with their own opinions and conclusions- to which detective Friday responded by saying- what? “Just the facts mam, just the facts.”
The apostle Paul, writing to the church in Corinth reminded them: “For what we preach is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus sake.” We need to be careful that what we preach is not our opinions or personal agendas, but the gospel pure and simple- just the facts mam, just the facts.
Can anyone tell me what our mission statement is? “to know, live, and share the gospel.”
To know, live and share the old, old story of Jesus and His love from before the beginning of time and forever.
In love, God created us in His image to have perfect fellowship with Him. But mankind rebelled against God, and broke that covenant relationship by choosing to live our own lives of sin. And that sin of rebellion drove a wedge between us and God and formed a chasm that separated us from Him. But through it all, God never stopped loving us and put into motion a plan to redeem the whole world by doing for us what we could not do ourselves. And this is what God did and why: “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only son- that whoever believes in Him, will not perish, but have everlasting life.”
And on the cross Jesus bore all our sins and diseases and when Jesus died there on the cross, our sins and disease died there too. And on the third day- Jesus rose victorious from the death, defeating sin, death, and the power of the devil once and for all. And because of the finished work of the cross, God offers us salvation by grace through faith as a gift- not because of anything we have done, lest anyone should boast.
Our call of proclaiming that pure and simple gospel is not a call to make others like us in culture and dress, but to call people to Jesus and become like Him. That is what Paul was saying when He said that what we preach is not ourselves, but Christ crucified and risen from the dead.
Writing to the church at Corinth, Paul said: “I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. He who plants and he who waters are equal, and each shall receive his wages according to his labor. For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, God’s building.
Our job is to proclaim God’s word pure and simple- then get out of the way and let God give the growth. That call is at the root of the ministry of the Gideons- people like you and I faithfully stepping out of their comfort zones to proclaim the gospel pure and simple by placing the word of God in the hands of thousands of people when and where they need it.
That is what Jesus came to do- and that is what He has sent us to do- to get the word out into the streets with the good news of the gospel- ministering to people where they are and when they need it. James wrote: “religion that is pure and undefiled before God is this- to visit orphans and widows in their affliction and to keep oneself unstained from the world.”
This past Monday I attended a theological conference in Minneapolis sponsored by the Augustana District of the LCMC. I’m guessing there were between 100 and 150 pastors there from all over the Midwest and even as far away as Texas. I went ready to learn and be challenged, trusting that what would be presented would be faithful to God’s word and the Lutheran confessions. In that sense, I was not disappointed. The lectures and discussions delved deep in thought. Looking around, and listening, I sensed a deep love for God and people from the pastors who had gathered there.
On my way home, I have to admit that I wrestled with why we have to complicate the gospel so much- even though I know that there is certainly a place and a responsibility to learn and discuss and know and be able to put into words an understanding of the gospel- just like it is important for us to have mechanics who have studied the mechanics of cars who have a working knowledge of how a car works so that they can fix them, even though for most of us all we need to know is to simply get in a car and drive it.
This Friday, someone sent me an e-mail containing a story told through the eyes of a man watching a church service on tv one Sunday morning. That morning, the church happened to be honoring one of their retired senior pastors who was now 92. After giving the retired pastor a warm welcome, he was invited to come forward and share some words with the congregation. Slowly he made his way to the pulpit and finally began to speak.
“I was asked to share with you the greatest lesson I have ever learned over my 50 some years in the ministry” he said. “Of all the things I have learned, the greatest and most important lesson can be boiled down to just one thing. It is the one thing that has made the most difference in my life and sustained me through all my trials. It is the one thing that has had the power to comfort me when the tears and heart break and pain and fear and sorrow threatened to paralyze me to not go on. That one thing I want to share with you is simply this: “Jesus loves me this I know- for the bible tells me so.”
It is important to have correct doctrine and theology- it is important and needful to seek understanding and be able to put our faith in words so that we can share it- but thanks be to God that we don’t have to understand God’s love in all it’s depth and height and width before we can know God’s love made known to us in Christ Jesus and receive it as our own. That is the gospel- pure and simple.
In closing, will you please confess with me as we sing? “Jesus loves me this I know- for the bible tells me so. Pray.