For, "Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved." But how are they to call on one in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in one of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone to proclaim him? And how are they to proclaim him unless they are sent? As it is written, "How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!" But not all have obeyed the good news; for Isaiah says, "Lord, who has believed our message?" So faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes through the word of Christ. (Romans 10:13-17)
This week I want to explore what it means, from a Christian
context, to carry the message to others.
I am a great admirer of Alcoholics Anonymous. Both of my
parents are sober due to this movement of God through people
coming together around the twelve steps. While there is much I
could say about my admiration, today I am struck by the simple
wisdom of the mission of the program. The purpose of AA is to
encourage people to continue to do that which brought them to
sobriety and to carry the message of recovery to the alcoholic who
It is no coincidence that the purpose of the church is the same.
To claim, celebrate and practice that which nourishes our
relationship with God and to carry the message to those who
haven't heard, haven't believed.
What separates the two is the clarity of the task of carrying the
message. In AA, every recovery veteran in the room fully
understands they are one drink away from the hell hole they used
to live within. They understand that their willingness to carry the
message to another alcoholic is a two way street - such efforts
maintain sobriety in the carrier while opening the possibility of
sobriety for the hearer.
In the church we seem far less inclined to grasp how crucial it is
that we carry the faith to others. We see that as an option, even a
program, but not at the heart of our faith journey, our calling from
God. Carrying the message to others is what the pastor does,
what a few folks do, but seldom do we claim the truth that it is
what all who believe in are called to do. That, in fact, to not carry
the faith is to not fully know the faith.
It is far easier for us to become self satisfied, complacent and
smug. Which is why congregations can begin to act like they exist
only to please and serve themselves.
Faith is as mysterious - and illusive - as God. Why, in the same
family, can some be believers and others agnostic? Why, in the
same congregation, can some be joyfully seeking Christian
maturity while others don't seem to get it, and don't know they
don't get it? Why do some believe while others don't? I suppose
there are as many reasons as there are people.
But to all of us, Paul reminds us that we carry the faith in the same
way as we receive the faith - through actions and through words.
We use words to tell what Jesus has done for us and through
those words, God claims us. God's Word comes to us through
what is heard and faith happens. Faith is the consequence of
having been claimed by God. Faith is a gift, not a possession or a
state of being. Faith is the journey, not the destination.
Once an alcoholic reaches the place in recovery where they are
ready to be helpful to others, and once they understand that the
maintenance of their own recovery is tied to their continuing to
practice the principles of AA, of meeting together, and of carrying
the message to others, they don't have to be scolded to do so.
They do it because they want to. They do it in a spirit of
thanksgiving as a response to the gift God has given them. And
they remind themselves regularly, whenever they meet, that
carrying the message to others is their purpose.
We in the church could learn a lesson from that.
Let us pray: Gracious Lord, soften our hearts to those who do not
yet believe. Inspire us to carry the message of your love to others.
Guide us as we seek to learn more about what that means and
how it happens. In Jesus' name. Amen.
Source: Covenant Lutheran