Romans 10:13-17

( [email protected] ) Jun 01, 2004 03:58 PM EDT

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

still suffers.

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