People in the West have become insular and separated from the world. We know our neighbors next door, often inviting or being invited over their homes for a barbecue but do we really know them? Are we close enough that we share struggles or just close enough to share a glass of wine or beer? Most people keep a routine; get up have breakfast, get the kids off to school, us off to work, pick up the kids, come home, throw something together for dinner and get ready for bed to start the whole process over again. Saturdays may be different with everyone out mowing the lawn or heading off to a big box store for groceries and other supplies. Sundays, not many are out early to attend church, but you gather the family together, load up the car, truck or minivan, and off to Divine Service you go. The rest of your Cul de Sac is still quiet, cars in the driveway but not a sound or stirring.
How did we become so insulated from our own neighborhood, our Jerusalem (Act 1:8)? The Lutheran Women’s Missionary League emphasizes the need to go out into all the world with the Gospel of Jesus Christ and yet, we are still in our little end of the world, our block (urban) or cul de sac (suburban). First question to ask is this: Do you neighbors know you are a Christian, a Lutheran? Do they wonder where you go early Sunday morning while they are sleeping in hoping for a few more hours of shut-eye before the children wake up and the routine begins again? Have you ever invited them to the Divine Service? How did we end up so insular in a global world?
Global. That’s the term for it. As I was thinking about this article today my mind went to the differences we have in our world than even that world in which we grew up. Now, everyone has the world in the palm of their hands; their cellphone. I can google just about anything and look at the Twitter feed and see what the leader of Poland has to say or what is happening in Venezuela or Australia and even Sri Lanka. It is doubtful that my generation (those 50 and older) ever imagined that a personal computer would lead to the internet highway and then to social media. Information is widely available and yet we don’t know our neighbors. Society lives on social media with posts of places, people, foods (lots of pictures of what people are eating), politics and events. However, do we know if our neighbor is short on food this week? Do we see their needs? The world is in our hands and yet do we hold out our hands to our neighbors? Do we give them a helping hand, an ear to listen and hold out to them the One who is the Savior of the world?
Get out into your Cul de Sac! Get out on your block and into your neighborhood with the greatest news ever to happen to humanity: The death, burial and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. While we all have those cellphones in our hands, put them down and get to know your neighbor and your neighborhood. While we are often busy giving to “missions” you have a mission field right where you live. When you are out mowing your lawn, trimming your rose bushes or picking tomatoes from your garden, do you stop to chat with your neighbor? Do you share something you learned from the Bible that week at mid-week Bible study with your neighbor? Do they even know you are a Christian?
Faith comes by hearing and hearing through the Word of God. That’s what the Apostle Paul told us. The second part is vital: how will they hear unless someone is sent. Too often we might think that is speaking about the Pastor or Missionaries we send out and support financially and with our prayers and other practical ways. But it is not. Who will go to your neighbor to proclaim the forgiveness of sins and the conquering of sin, death and the devil if not you? As Lutherans we know that our vocation is a calling from God; mother, father, administrator, secretary, financial officer, teacher, whatever our task in life is, we understand that it is an honorable estate and position we hold because we have been called by God to fulfill it as if serving Him. We understand that God doesn’t need our good works but our neighbor does, as Gene Edward Veith attributes that quote to Luther. Our vocation is to get out intoyour Cul de Sac and onto the block sharing the Good News of salvation in Jesus Christ.
How will your neighbor hear the true Gospel? I doubt there will be a missionary stationed on your block (unless the Mormons send them in, or other cults visit your neighborhood knocking on doors and ringing bells) so it is up to you to go and tell them Jesus is alive, has conquered death forever and offers forgiveness of sins to them freely. Unless we speak, how will they hear? Do you really want to leave it in the hands of televangelists who have a skewed and often corrupted message; one that is more psycho-babble than Gospel, lies more than truth? No! We must go to our neighbors, we must share with them the hope that is within.
“I’m not comfortable…that’s the pastor’s job…I’m so busy…They’re not interested…Maybe tomorrow…or the next day…or the next…” On and on our excuses rise and our neighbors move away or worse, die without ever hearing the greatest news in the world. It is our responsibility…wait, that’s the wrong term. It is our privilege to tell others about the One who died and forgave our sins and He will do the same for them. The message is not complicated:
Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures (1 Cor. 15:3-4)
That is the message my sisters. So simple and so profound. This is the Gospel.
It still amazed that it takes up just barely two (2) lines of text in my Bible. This is the message of hope which we have: Jesus died for our sins (forgiveness), was buried (proof that he was dead) and raised on the third day (proof His sacrifice was accepted and we have been justified, declared righteous), all in fulfillment of the Old Testament (prophecy come true). That’s it. Simple message. Eternal hope.
We should be encouraging one another to get out amongst our neighbors and speak to them, proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ when sitting with them in the backyard in the cool of the evening or on a warm summer’s day. We should be sharing with them the joy of knowing we are not alone and that our sins and those of our children have been paid for, that forgiveness is offered in His Name. I encourage you to invite them to the Divine Service and weekly Bible study, offer to bring their children to Vacation Bible School and the mom’s to a women’s study. As they hear the message from you first, for this is your Jerusalem (…you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth).Get out into your Cul de Sac and on to your block to fulfill the great commission:
Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. Mark 16:15-16