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Sunday, April 19, 2015

04192015 2nd Sunday After Easter - "Are you ashamed of the Gospel?"

Gospel Audio
Sermon Audio

April 19, 2015
Are you ashamed of the Gospel?
One of the traditions that Michele and I, as parents have had as a family with Sarah is to read to her.  All parents do this in some form or fashion, whether the board books that are short, reading signs along the interstate as one travels or even the menu when eating out like Gambino’s or McDonald’s.  What is special for Sarah is what we read every night.  We have called it “Story and Song”.

As a Pastor, you probably surmise I take down the Holy Bible, the King James Version and read long passages and use this time to ‘preach to Sarah’ at a minimum of 20 minutes up to an hour, to insure she learns the stories from the Bible.  Honestly, in seminary that idea would have been interesting to entertain, but since Sarah has come along, I have become a realist.  I know the attention span of a now six year old is short to say the least.  Getting her to talk on the phone or even Skype with her for even a minute is a challenge and has been for her entire life.  But this week during our “Story and Song” time, we read from one of the children’s Bible Story books that we have a chapter from the Bible I have heard many times.  Matter of fact what we read is something I was taught and was etched into my mind by my Father many years ago growing up in Virginia.  It is the story told in Psalm 23, which ironically is our Psalm for today.  Yes, this is the most famous Psalm of the Bible written by King David.  Psalm 23 is the best loved Psalm because everyone not only loves the imagery, but especially how God is our great Shepherd.

When I read the text to Sarah, I stumbled, yes, believe it or not, I ‘the Pastor of Emmanuel’ stumbled on a Bible text.  Not because the story is unfamiliar, but because it wasn’t what I learned sitting on my Father’s knee, the good King James Version, with the “thee’s” and “thou’s”.  What really hit home for me as I read to Sarah was the weakness shown by the person David writes about in that short Psalm.  It wasn’t a weakness of character, but how David the Psalmist clearly shows the need of the individual to fully rely upon God and how God will take care of the person in the Psalm, but also how that promise is made to and for each and every one of us gathered here today on this Second Sunday After Easter.

During this Easter season, we have heard the celebratory nature of the victory that Jesus Christ proclaimed with His resurrection to the disciples.  Jesus Christ was coming back as He had promised and telling and fulfilling in the disciples sight what He had previously prophesied about, His own death, but also and more so His victory over both death and the grave.  What is applicable here for us today is that Jesus Christ is taking care of His disciples, He is being the Great shepherd for those whom God had entrusted to Him.  Jesus in between Easter and His ascension is not only comforting them, but repeating the stories and lessons He had told them and revealing Himself as the fulfillment of the Psalm as the Good Shepherd.

Jesus is not only the Good Shepherd, He is the Great Shepherd Who gathers His sheep into His protective fold.  Jesus is making this offer for and to all of mankind out of His great love for us.  Yet, Jesus is also seeking helpers.  Jesus time on earth after His resurrection is short, remember only 40 days.  So Jesus has the mission to call His disciples to seek out the lost.  And today in our hearing, Jesus is seeking our help to bring others into His fold, to hear the Gospel of Salvation and especially to feel His presence in our lives.  Granted there are times where we do feel alone, like no one cares and even doubting we have gifts that God can use.  But Jesus Christ see’s each of us differently and wants to use our individual gifts that He has given each of us for His glory and the spread of the Gospel message.

Daniel Lancaster wrote a book entitled, “Making Radical Disciples”.  In his book, he states that “Jesus’ strategy to reach the nations involved five steps: grow strong in the Lord, share the Gospel, make disciples, start groups that lead to churches, and develop leaders.” (Location 204)  Jesus strategy was perfect and He could see the outcome even before He started. 

We who gather here today on the other hand don’t know how we will be received if we speak about the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  We doubt we will have any affect upon anybody we talk to, even those who either have never heard the Gospel or even our friends that we have coffee with, sit at ballgames with or even have invited into our homes to have dinner.  So before we even have left our lazy boy recliner, the seat in the combine or the truck when we are checking wells, we stop ourselves because we don’t want to embarrass ourselves in front of our friends that we have to see every day.  We then fall victim to not making any difference in anybody’s life because fear has overcome us and paralyzed us.  Franklin Delano Roosevelt once said, “We have nothing to fear but fear itself” and Jesus is trying to inspire our action and overcome the fear that prevents us from even living in freedom and not fear.

For those of us that love Psalm 23, God says, we should not fear, for God is with us.  God will use us for His Glory to be revealed.  All we need to do is be a good farmer, plant the seed of the Gospel and let God water it and make it grow.  For God is the one Who will see and harvest when the time is right.  We have only to step out in faith and not fear that we won’t have the right words or that we will embarrass ourselves.  For God will use each and every one of us to spread His message of the Gospel.

Derwin Gray, former NFL football player and Pastor of a church outside Charlotte, NC posits a question for us to consider in light of our understanding ourselves as a farmer of the Gospel.  Derwin asked of his congregation “Are you ashamed of the Gospel?”  He asked this question of his congregation in Charlotte because of the spiritual bankruptcy he sees with individual members of his congregation and society in general.  I ask it today as well, not because Emmanuel is like Derwin’s church, we are definitely not like his suburban flock.  Nor do I ask this question because we are bad people, we aren’t.  I ask the question, “Are you ashamed of the Gospel?” because we should not act in fear, but in faith like the farmers who will be planting the Spring Corn here in the next few weeks. 


God is clearly calling each of us to plant the Gospel, in our daily lives, where we work, when we play, but especially in our homes, our families, and our relationships with our spouse and children.  We have the responsibility and opportunity to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  The question we need to face head on is, “Are you ashamed of the Gospel?”  Our answer clearly should be, “We shouldn’t be”, for “God doesn’t call the equipped, He equips the called.”  And we who gather here today at Emmanuel are God’s called, equipped and redeemed children through the blood of Jesus Christ our Good Shepherd.  We are loved by God and called and equipped through the promise He made to us in our baptism that we are baptized into and reminded of today with the last verse of Psalm 23.  “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”  AMEN.

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