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Sermon for February 5, 2017

1 Corinthians 2:1-8 (Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany—Series A/Lutheran Hour Ministries Sunday)

“Bringing Christ to the Nations”

Lutheran Church of Our Redeemer, Enfield, CT

February 5, 2017

 

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Our text is from today’s Epistle lesson recorded in 1 Corinthians 2:

1And I, when I came to you, brothers, I came not proclaiming to you the mystery of God with superiority of word or wisdom. 2For I decided not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified. 3And I was with you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling, 4and my word and my proclamation was not with wise persuasive words but with (confirmatory) evidence of the Spirit and of power, 5in order that your faith should not be in the wisdom of people but in the power of God. 6Now we speak wisdom among the mature, but not a wisdom of this age nor of the rulers of this age who are being brought to nothing. 7But we speak the wisdom of God which stands hidden in a mystery, which God decided beforehand, before the ages, for our glory, 8which none of the rulers of this age have come to know. For if they had learned it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.

 

          A hundred years is a long time, a century of history. Most people don’t live to see their centennial. Many groups and organizations don’t continue in existence for a hundred years. Today, however, we celebrate one that has—Lutheran Hour Ministries. “In 1917, a group of 12 men attending a convention of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod in Milwaukee met to settle a $100,000 debt incurred by the church body. They accomplished that goal, and in the process formed the Lutheran Laymen’s League. The LLL next raised more than $2.7 million to fund a pension plan for professional church workers.”

          “In 1930, the LLL made a commitment to fund one year of broadcasting a weekly national radio program to be called The Lutheran Hour. The first program was broadcast October 2, 1930, and continues on the air today, making it the world’s oldest continually broadcast Christ-centered radio program. From the show’s early years to today, speakers . . . have shared God’s changeless Word and offered comfort and hope to millions.

          “In 1940, the international thrust of the LLL ministry began with The Lutheran Hour being broadcast by Dr. Andrew Melendez in Spanish. In 1940, the LLL opened its first international ministry center in the Philippines. Five years later, it opened a ministry center in Australia. Today, the International LLL has ministry centers located in 31 countries throughout the world, staffed almost entirely by nationals of the countries where it operates.”

          “In 1992, due to the popularity of The Lutheran Hour radio program, the International Lutheran Laymen’s League chose Lutheran Hour Ministries as the overall identity for its media outreach programs. . . . Lutheran Hour Ministries continues to explore new media and to expand its use of others to serve congregations as a partner in God’s mission. Today, through ministry programs such as The Lutheran HourInternational MinistriesMen’s NetWork, MISSION U and others, Lutheran Hour Ministries is calling our communities, our country, and our world back to God.” Lutheran Hour Ministries brings a message of rescue, restoration, and renewal in Jesus Christ to millions of people who desperately need to hear it.[1]

          The message of Lutheran Hour Ministries is the same message that Paul brought to the Corinthians. It is the same message that the Christian Church on earth continues to bring to people today—a message or rescue, restoration, and renewal in Jesus Christ. The message is the Gospel! You have received this Good News and have been gifted saving faith and the forgiveness of sins through the crucified and risen Lord Jesus. You are called to offer to people this same Good News each and every day as faithful disciples of Jesus.

          Now the minute someone starts talking about sharing the Gospel with others a panic sometimes sets in. Sometimes it is sheer fear to think about sharing what you believe with someone else. In this day and age of “everything is relative” and “there is no truth but my own,” telling someone about Jesus might seem like a complete waste of time and a good way to get on somebody’s “I don’t like you” list. People today seem to walk around on eggshells for fear that they might offend someone’s sensitives. Granted, Christians don’t want to give offense and cause someone to stumble into sin by reason of their weakness, but Christians will offend, and we should be prepared to do so because the message of the Gospel needs to be heard so that people might be saved from sin, death, and the power of the devil.

          Last week in the Epistle reading we heard about how the Gospel of Jesus Christ and Him crucified offends people. Paul said, “We preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles” (1 Cor. 1:23 ESV). The word “stumbling block” is where we get our word “scandal” from. It means something that gives offense or causes revulsion. Jesus said at the conclusion to the Beatitudes, “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account” (Matt. 5:11 ESV). The Gospel of Jesus Christ arouses opposition. It becomes the object of anger or disapproval. The Gospel is scandalous to many!

Now, did the fact that the Gospel offends stop Paul and the other apostles and disciples of Jesus from telling the Good News of Jesus Christ crucified and risen from the dead? Not at all. Paul says that “We preach Christ crucified,” knowing full well the ramifications of doing so, that people will be offended by that message and see it only as foolishness.

          In our Epistle this morning, Paul lets us know that proclaiming the Good News of Jesus is not easy. Paul tells the Corinthians that he was with them “in weakness and in fear and in much trembling.” Maybe we could say that Paul was kind of “freaking out.” Why? He had such vivid memories of what had happened to him recently in Philippi—the beatings and the imprisonment. There was the rioting and the nighttime escape from Thessalonica followed by another hasty withdrawal from Berea. He was met with cool indifference in Athens. Naturally, he came to Corinth scared about what would face him as he continued to preach Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, the One who was crucified and is risen from the dead to save the world from sin, death, and the power of the devil. Despite the offense that the Gospel causes, despite his fear and trembling, Paul did proclaim the Good News about Jesus. In fact, he says, “I decided not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.”

          Now even if we step out in faith and overcome our fear of sharing the Gospel in the power and strength of the Holy Spirit, what happens if we don’t do it right? What if we don’t say things correctly? What happens if we are not eloquent? Paul undoubtedly asked those questions, too. Paul likely wasn’t the greatest public speaker on the planet. To his critics, Paul came across as a poor speaker. They said, “His letters are weighty and strong, but his bodily presence is weak, and his speech contemptible” (2 Cor. 10:10). Paul seems to concede the point, “And I, when I came to you, brothers, I came not proclaiming to you the mystery of God with superiority of word or wisdom.” He wasn’t the epitome of eloquence. His focus was on sharing Jesus simply, not using wise persuasive words, but letting the Holy Spirit use the simple words about Jesus who suffered, died, and rose again to save the world from sin and death. Remember, the Gospel IS the power of God unto salvation (Rom 1:16). No matter how simple and modest the words, when they tell of Jesus, they are powerful.

          In his ministry, Paul directed people away from himself to the Savior, Jesus. By the power and grace of the Holy Spirit, he allowed nothing to overshadow or distract from that Gospel. He simply shared the message, the story, of what God has done to save all people from sin and death. In a nutshell, as we say, God so loved the world that He gave His One-of-a-kind Son, that whoever should believe in Him will not perish but have eternal life. God sent Jesus in order that all people might be saved by grace through faith in Christ, having received the gifts of the forgiveness of sins and eternal life (John 3:16-17).

Lutheran Hour Ministries, following Paul’s example, preaches on Jesus Christ and Him crucified. They know the offense that the Gospel gives. They know that it seems so foolish to so many. But they also know that Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God. They believe, teach, and confess that the Gospel is the power of God unto salvation and that people must hear the Gospel because “faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ” (Rom. 10:17 ESV). It’s not about using 5-sylable theological words that mesmerize audiences. It’s about clearly pointing to Jesus Christ who died and rose again to save you and me from sin and death. That’s the wisdom of God and the power of God to save. Yes, it offends some. Some reject the Good News. Some react with hatred. But many do hear and come to faith by the power of the Holy Spirit working by means of that Word of Christ.

          These are the same reasons should encourage your ministry of sharing the Gospel of Christ with others. The Good News that you share with your words will offend and they will save. The Holy Spirit will use your words about Jesus as you share faithfully that you believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God who died and rose again to save you from your sins. They are wisdom and power and the Spirit will use them to create saving faith when and where He wills it. Nothing fancy, nothing dramatic. Simply show people Jesus Christ and Him crucified. That Gospel brings Christ to people. That Gospel brings forgiveness and eternal life to people. That Gospel saves people from death and hell.

          The Gospel of Jesus Christ has already done that for you. In your Baptism, God the Holy Spirit by means of the Gospel Word and water has created saving faith in your hearts, faith that trusts in Jesus Christ alone for the forgiveness of sins. You have eternal life now, your present possession, even as you look forward to being with the Lord in body and soul forever in the new creation. You hear the proclaimed Gospel of Christ crucified and risen from this pulpit. You receive Holy Absolution from this altar. You eat and drink the true Body and blood of Christ with bread and wine according to His Gospel Word of Institution. It is here at the font, the pulpit and the altar that the Lord gives you forgiveness, life, salvation, and the strengthening of your most holy faith through the Gospel.

It is with strengthened faith that you proclaim the Gospel, that you share the story of salvation. As people hear the Good News of Jesus from you, the Holy Spirit works to create saving faith in them, delivering to them the very forgiveness which Jesus won on the cross for all people.

For a hundred years, Lutheran Hour Ministries has been sharing the Gospel—“Bringing Christ to the Nations and the Nations to the Church!” You also get to do that every day as you bring Christ to people with your words and action. And that most certainly is worth celebrating, giving all the glory to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! Amen.

[1] “Our Heritage: 1917-Present,” accessed January 31, 2017, https://www.lhm.org/about/ourhistory.asp


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