In the name of the Father, the + Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.
Almighty and most merciful God, preserve us from all harm and danger that we, being ready in both body and soul, may cheerfully accomplish what You want done; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
14But how are they to call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? 15And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” 16But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?” 17So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.
Jesus Christ, God the Father’s only begotten Son, came into this world in order to save condemned sinners. That he could save us, he fulfilled all the prophecies of the Law and the Prophets, lived a perfect life in obedience to the 10 Commandments, and was unjustly punished upon the cross where he gave his life, receiving the wrath and judgment our sins deserve. His third day resurrection from the dead is God’s proof that Jesus’ sacrifice was accepted, and assures us that we are forgiven and will rise to eternal life. The Holy Spirit has been sent to the church to preach the gospel to the world that all may come to a knowledge of Christ and be saved. By means of his inspired Word and the Sacraments God places faith into people’s hearts, forgives them, transforms them by sanctifying them, and strengthens them in the face of trials and troubles and finally at the hour of death gives them his peace.
Now if all of that seemed pretty basic to you, good. It is basic stuff. It is the heart and core of what we confess as Christians. It’s the news which the angel shared with the shepherds of Bethlehem the night Jesus was born. You remember the words, don’t you? “Fear not, for I bring you somewhat average news that will be of medium interest to a few people. For unto some of you is born this day in the city of David a very good teacher and all-around nice guy whose name is Jesus.”
Is that the way children tell the story at their Christmas pageants? I hope not!
The angel said that Jesus is good news of great joy, not just an indifferent story! He also said this joy is for all people, not just a few. Likewise, Jesus is not just a teacher or nice guy, he’s the Savior.
Unfortunately, believers who get familiar with this good news can begin to regard it like pretty average news. Worse, we can make it sound average too. That may be too harsh or sound judgmental, but being honest, even I as a pastor can see times when my familiarity with the story lead me to share it with someone in a way that didn’t give it the enthusiasm it deserves. Being saved from sin and death, having the certainty of an eternal life without sickness, sorrow, or evil, should be exciting to talk about every time!
I recently read a story about a gas station that through a computer malfunction posted gasoline for 1 cent a gallon. I bet you can guess what happened. People started telling others and before long the police had come and disperse the cars while the error was corrected. Good news, like cheap gas, is enough to get people talking. Shouldn’t the gift of a good conscience before God and the hope of eternal life get us talking too?
Paul said roughly the same thing in our lesson today when he wrote, “How will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach if they are not sent?”
Paul’s thought is like watching dominoes fall, one thought falls on another leading to an important conclusion. God wants all to be saved. But they won’t be saved if they don’t hear the good news. No one is going to share the message of Jesus if it’s not really good news, but indeed Paul asserts that it is. Therefore, the world needs people preaching and people to be sent to reach the world with this news.
Paul has pastors and missionaries in mind of course. That’s why we support missionaries and seminarians. That’s one way we do our part in sharing the good news with others, but there’s more.
You know there was a time when a household got a new washer and dryer all the other homemakers in the neighborhood would come to watch and see how it worked. There’d be an excited little congregation to watch the spin cycle. I don’t think that happens anymore. Washers and dryers are old news.
It’s easy to get fired up for new news, but old news sometimes becomes too familiar. The gospel, however, is unique, because it is old news that is always new when it is shared. You may have heard it a dozen times in a week, but you need to hear it each time as much as the last. For you need the forgiveness of Jesus Christ. You need to be assured that the bad news you just got at work or at the doctor’s office is not the last word you’ll ever hear. Jesus assures you again and again that you are forgiven and sealed for eternal life with him.
You know people who need that news too. If the familiarity of the old news of the gospel is what is stopping you from introducing others to Jesus think about a few things. First, think where you would be and what your outlook would be if you didn’t have the forgiveness, eternal life, and salvation that Jesus gives you. That helps us appreciate its importance. Secondly, think of others who don’t know Jesus and how they don’t have the peace you enjoy and that in the end they are still under judgment for their sins. They need to hear about Jesus. And finally, a simple thing you can do is invite someone to church. It could be a friend, a family member, a co-worker, a neighbor, whoever. What’s the worst they can say? No or no thank you. Or maybe you want to start simply by sharing online services or handing them a Portals of Prayer. Either way, let us share the good news of great joy which is for all people.
Our Father, who art in heaven
Hallowed be Thy name,
Thy kingdom come,
Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven,
Give us this day our daily bread,
And forgive us our trespasses as we forgiven those who trespass against us,
And lead us not into temptation,
But deliver us from evil.
For Thine is the kingdom, the power, and glory, forever and ever.
The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with us all. Amen.