Surprising News

[The following is a sermon preached on Sunday October 2, 2016; World Communion Sunday]

Matthew 28:16-20

16 Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. 17 When they saw him, they worshipped him; but some doubted. 18 And Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.’

Last summer I attended Mennonite World Conference in Harrisburg, PA. The event proved to be a very mixed experience for me. I reconnected with old friends and made new ones. I listened to encouraging stories of various women’s groups developing theological associations in South America. I was challenged by the questions of faith expressed by a young adult from Ethiopia. I was concerned and troubling by some missionary practices in Indonesia. I argued theology with a guy from Niverville (out of all the small groups I had to be placed in!).

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When no news is good news and other gospel truths

Acts 16:6-9

They went through the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia. When they had come opposite Mysia, they attempted to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them; so, passing by Mysia, they went down to Troas. During the night Paul had a vision: there stood a man of Macedonia pleading with him and saying, ‘Come over to Macedonia and help us.’

At Jesus’s ascension in the beginning of Acts Jesus tells the disciples that they will be witnesses to the ends of the earth. If this is the case then why keep them from going into Asia?

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Declaring the good news

16 ‘See, I am sending you out like sheep into the midst of wolves; so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. 17 Beware of them, for they will hand you over to councils and flog you in their synagogues; 18 and you will be dragged before governors and kings because of me, as a testimony to them and the Gentiles.19 When they hand you over, do not worry about how you are to speak or what you are to say; for what you are to say will be given to you at that time.’
Matthew 10:16-19

What are we doing as Christians when we declare the gospel, the good news? Typical of historic Christianity has been the assumption that the gospel, as a message, as a relationship, even as the power of God (to put it in the Apostle Paul’s language), is something which moves from the Christian or church to the non-Christian or the world. It is hardly necessary to point out that the mission of the Church has been to declare the gospel throughout the world with either the implicit or explicit assumption that the world is insufficient (to put it mildly) before such a message is declared.

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