Sunday, June 12, 2016, 11 AM, UBC Digby
J G White (Mark 16:9-20; Galatians 1:11-24)
Scottish Pop duo “The Proclaimers” had a big hit in 1993, ‘I’m Gonna Be.’ But I would walk five hundred miles
And I would walk five hundred more
Just to be the man who walked a thousand miles
To fall down at your door
In Christianity, the Spirit calls His people to be ‘proclaimers,’ proclaimers of the Good News. Jesus commissioned His disciples, saying, Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation. (Mark 16:15) Paul testified to the young churches of Galatia, God… was pleased to reveal his Son in me so that I might preach him… (1:15-16)
So, where is our preaching? How is our proclaiming going? So, you would walk five hundred miles?
And you would walk five hundred more
Just to be the one who walked a thousand miles
To preach Christ at some door?
Knocking on the doors of acquaintances or strangers is not going to be our best evangelistic method; and we often think we need to start with The Gospel as Facts and Plans.
Baptists and other evangelical Christians through the past century or more have seemed to be giving out facts and truth, and a plan of action a person must take if they accept the facts about God. The Gospel in five important steps.
Scripture like ‘the Romans Road’ is used:
Romans 3:10 There is no one who is righteous, not even one;
Romans 3:23 since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God;
Romans 5:8 But God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us.
Romans 6:23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Romans 10:9-10 because if you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For one believes with the heart and so is justified, and one confesses with the mouth and so is saved.
Romans 10:13 For, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”
This has undoubtedly helped many a person into saving Faith in Christ. But one could just as easily build a strange series of proof-texts and claim it to be the gospel of Jesus. It would be Biblical, after all. How about this?
Genesis 3:4-5 The serpent led Eve and Adam astray, and they fall from grace.
Genesis 3:15 God curses the serpent, and says, I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will strike your head, and you will strike his heel. Ah, there is the promise of a Saviour who will conquer the evil one. Jesus will strike Satan’s head!
Now, words of Jesus Himself:
John 3:14-16 And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. 16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.
(And, saved believers will also conquer snakes:)
Mark 16:17-18 And these signs will accompany those who believe: …they will pick up snakes in their hands, and if they drink any deadly thing, it will not hurt them…”
A snakey Gospel?! Maybe this scripture method would help reach a few people who work in the reptile show or a zoo, but I’m not recommending it. I just want to make the point that anyone can concoct a series of scriptures for whatever purpose one has – good or bad. You know as well as I that strange things get proclaimed in the name of the Gospel all the time. And what this Good News really is gets confused pretty quickly.
I must give credit to Canadian Ralph Milton for this next bit… (Sermon Seasonings, 1997, p. 154)
Jeff: Step right up folks, salvation in a bottle. Save your eternal soul. $9.99, plus tax, of course.
Peter: What do you mean? You can’t save my soul for $9.99. You can’t sell God’s grace in a bottle.
Jeff: Of course I can. What is God’s grace except feeling good? When you’re feeling good, you know God likes you. When you’re not feeling good, you know God hates you. For $9.99 my bottled salvation will keep you feeling good.
Peter: You mean I don’t have to do anything? No loving my neighbour? No giving to help the poor? No caring for justice?
Jeff: Justice, shmustice. You look after yourself, let the others look after themselves. Salvation is just between you and God. God helps those who help themselves. Take home a bottle of salvation, you’ll feel good about everything, you’ll be set for this life.
Peter: What about the next life?
Jeff: No problem. Jeffrey’s bottled salvation will grease the skids right into heaven for you. If you feel good here, you’re bound to feel good in the hereafter.
Peter: Do you take credit cards?
Jeff: Absolutely. Feel good now, pray later.
Well, we have not had evangelistic campaigns lately, and may feel we are failing. We have not got organized to go door to door in our neighbourhoods with Gospel tracts in hand to give out. We have not stood on street corners singing with signs in hand and preaching Good News.
But this is OK. Our usual methods are likely far better – friendship, inviting people alongside, going slow-and-steady.
We must remember too that The Gospel is a Story.
Tell me the stories of Jesus I love to hear;
Things I would ask Him to tell me if He were here:
(William H. Parker)
The stories about Jesus – and the stories He told – are simply transformative. People are changed, the Holy Spirit reaches the heart and soul, when stories are told.
[Then] Jesus said, “God’s kingdom is like seed thrown on a field by a man who then goes to bed and forgets about it. The seed sprouts and grows—he has no idea how it happens. The earth does it all without his help: first a green stem of grass, then a bud, then the ripened grain. When the grain is fully formed, he reaps—harvest time!
“How can we picture God’s kingdom? What kind of story can we use? It’s like a pine nut. When it lands on the ground it is quite small as seeds go, yet once it is planted it grows into a huge pine tree with thick branches. Eagles nest in it.”
With many stories like these, he presented his message to them, fitting the stories to their experience and maturity. He was never without a story when he spoke. When he was alone with his disciples, he went over everything, sorting out the tangles, untying the knots. (Mark 4: 26-34 – The Message)
I remember a lecture last August at Kingswood University, in which Paul Borden suggested to preachers that we plan our sermons not with an outline, but with a plot. The sermon as a story. I must order the book he recommended, The Homiletical Plot. (Eugene L. Lowry, 2000)
The power of storytelling is great, and I wish I had cultivated more of this myself by now. Yet, I’m only halfway through my preaching career, so there is time.
Not all believers are cut out to be preachers: called to be preachers. But even most non-preachers get to proclaim good news. Do not forget The Gospel as Testimony / as Witness. This is telling your own story. Relating your experience. Saying what you have seen. Paul said of the gospel, I did not receive it from a human source, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ. (Gal 1:12)
Paul famously had his ‘Damascus road’ experience. You and I have our own stories to tell. Our experiences with God.
What did I see? As a child, I saw the warm welcome of adults at a Church in Middleton. From my parents I leaned a pattern of prayer each evening when I went to bed. I learned the stories of Jesus, of Paul, of Daniel and Jonah and Adam and Eve, or Joseph and his brothers. I like the lessons, I liked the music, I liked the people of the Church.
I saw that faith was for all ages, and was all about Jesus. The one who lived, and died, and lived again. The one who taught. The Son of the Creator God who gave us this beautiful world to live in, with all its fascinating details.
Sometime – maybe when I was ten years old or so? – I thought to myself, ‘I’m following Jesus, but I am supposed to pray a prayer to confess and to receive Him.” So, after reading something or other in the Bible – one of the stories about Moses, as I recall – I prayed alone in my room, ‘just in case’ I still needed to do that.
Several years later I almost felt embarrassed finally to be baptized – at long last, I thought – at the ripe old age of 14 ½. I remember that moment of making that commitment, publically confessing my faith through a watery action. I was baptized inside the church building, along with my mother and a number of others, by our Pastor, Don Robertson. And the presence of God seems close and clear.
I have many other stories. And so do you. May the Good News be proclaimed through our lessons, through the stories of scripture, and through our life stories. We also are the Proclaimers. Jesus saves! AMEN.