By The Rev. David Lui
Jesus said, “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.”
Jesus did a wonderful thing in the house of Simon’s mother-in-law. And the news must have spread like wildfire throughout the town. For by evening, all the neighboring folks were coming to him for healing, especially those who were possessed by demons. Eventually, the whole city was gathered around the door. And they all got cured.
The next morning, Jesus disappeared, and the disciples searched for him. When they found him, they said to him, “Everyone is searching for you!” Jesus told them, “Let’s get out of here and go to the neighboring towns and continue preaching the Gospel. That’s why I started all this. That’s why we’re here.”
And this is the Gospel, the Good News of Jesus the Christ: that the Son Of God came to us and died for us, so that we could return to God’s realm, to his protection and his peace. We were all lost and condemned. But having accepted the Gospel, we are saved from Hell and welcomed into Heaven. And that is Good News indeed!
Every Christian is commissioned by Jesus to proclaim his Good News. We are asked to follow his example by spreading the message wherever we go, for the rest of our lives. And it’s not just the clergy who are asked to do this; lay people are called to share the Good News as well. After all, salvation is not limited to the clergy, or to monks and nuns, but is available to regular folk just like you!
Today, we will sit down together after the service to conduct our annual meeting. Not too long ago, our senior warden said that he hoped to introduce better business management procedures to the church, so that the parish might eventually be more financially successful. And indeed, we will be more successful!
St. Paul seems to have known that we were going to have our annual meeting today, for in today’s reading from his First Letter to the Corinthians, he reminds us that we, like him, are obliged to continue proclaiming the Good News of Jesus Christ to everyone without exception. And he shares with us a something about his tactics and his attitude.
First of all, he proclaims the Gospel not so that he can arrogantly boast about his accomplishments, but because he was commissioned to this task, and he would be in deep trouble if he didn’t do it.
Secondly, St. Paul tells us that the Gospel should cost nothing, but be free of charge to one and all. In other words, the Gospel must be so accessible that hearing it takes virtually no effort on the part of the hearer. Today, this dream would seem to be a reality on the Internet. You can find video clips on YouTube on every subject, from cookery to astronomy. And in a single click, at absolutely no charge, the information comes streaming to your computer screen. Even so, it’s still not accessible to everyone. After all, you need a computer and Internet access and some knowledge about computers to access these YouTube videos.
St. Paul is trying to share the Good News of Jesus Christ to others in the most accessible way possible. And he is willing to deliver it door to door if that’s what it takes. He not only goes out among strangers, but he actually becomes one of them. The Gospel is offered to them with no effort at all on their part. They don’t even have to click a computer mouse!
Paul wanted to the spread the Gospel, and to do it he became a part of each group he evangelized. To Jews who lived under the Law of Moses, he acted as one under the Law, so as to win them over to Christ. To those outside the Jewish Law, he acted as one outside the Law, in order to save their souls.
“I have become all things to all people,” he said. “I am joyful with those who are joyful and mourn with those who are sad.” This was Paul’s attitude. And evangelizing was his mission. To Paul, church growth, parish pledges, and budgets all would have been considered as secondary. He never mentioned any such things in his letters. Instead, in his day, Christians willingly gave whatever they had in order to support their local church and the church in Jerusalem, and the church grew and grew.
Now, if you look in the agenda for today’s annual meeting, you will find mention of church growth, parish pledges, and budgets. They represent real needs, and God knows our needs. But God’s first concern is not that we balance our budget, but that we put our trust in him, that we trust that he will provide. Then, we can let go of our anxiety and turn to our mission, spreading the Good News of Jesus Christ. If we ask first for God’s Kingdom, the rest will be given us also. At least, that’s how St. Paul lived his life.
Undoubtedly, it takes courage to say with St. Paul, “I have become all things to all people.” But we must become Chinese to the Chinese, Russian to the Russians, and Japanese to the Japanese. (This is why clergy are encouraged to be bilingual.) I once encountered a Chinese man in a bar in Hong Kong drinking beer and shouting foul language. And believe it or not, the man was a Christian preacher! The man explained, “You have to gain their trust. They’ll only listen to you if you speak their language and speak it the way they do.” This is the truth that St. Paul was getting at.
Unfortunately, most of us would rather that people learn to act and speak like us, instead of the other way around. As a result, our society and our church are divided into “us” and “them.” And that’s why the church doesn’t grow! If we want to grow, we need an attitude adjustment. We are the ones who need to change. We need to be like “them.” We need to learn to speak like “them,” to play like “them,” to eat like “them.” If we are to make the Gospel of Jesus Christ truly accessible, truly free of charge, then we need to change.
May God’s Spirit empower us to change ourselves, as did St. Paul. And may we always keep in mind the words of Jesus: “Let us go and proclaim the message, for that is what we’re here for.” Amen.
© 2015 by David Lui. All rights reserved. Used by permission.