I am fond of bluegrass music. We are very lucky in this part of the country to have the premier bluegrass radio station, WAMU, just down the road in Washington DC. Now their signal is not strong enough to carry the 75-80 miles across 2 mountains to my home. So they have a system which are called boosters and repeaters. In other words, there are electronic that pick up the signal they send out of Washington, boost the signal and send it on to those of us who live in the country. Were it not for the boosters and repeaters we could not pick up that station.
Now I’m sure it’s not the best analogy I could come up with, but I think it fits–you and I are the boosters and repeaters for the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Two thousand years ago Christ did His work on this earth, He bore upon His holy shoulders the penalty for the sins we commit. His followers, the Apostles and their associates spread that news throughout the Mediterranean world. They told what they had seen and heard with their own senses. But all of them died and what we have left are their written witness.
Not everyone reads the written witness of these men on their own. In fact, St. Paul goes so far as to tell us that we come to believe because of what we hear. It is the living witness of living people to other living people that spread the Gospel throughout the world today. And we should do that, not by giving our opinions or our takes on things, but by repeating what the Apostles themselves told us .
As witnesses to the Good News of Christ’s sacrifice for us we have nothing new to tell anyone. What we have is the tried and true message that, as Jude says, was handed down once for all. So rather than trying to find new ways to pass on what we know, changing or omitting or adding things to make them “relevant” we would do much better to stick to the ways that we have inherited from the giants upon whose shoulders we now perch.
I’ve been following a dispute that has broken out among some of our Calvinist brethren about the definition of the relationship between the 3 persons of the Trinity. It’s kind of technical, so I won’t bother to deal with it here–there probably aren’t too many people who would find it much more interesting than watching paint dry.
But the dispute made me think about the variations and varieties of Christian theology and what that means for those of us who are followers of Jesus. I am a Lutheran. I am a Lutheran because I believe that the Lutheran Church has the purest expression of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, crucified and risen for you. But I also recognize the many commonalities between Lutheran theology and Calvinist theology. Indeed–I go so far as to say that John Calvin was Martin Luther’s best student. Still, we do have differences.
And then there are our brothers and sisters who have an Arminian theology–the Methodists, Wesleyans, Nazarenes, etc. I have more areas of disagreement with them. And don’t start on the Roman Catholics, the Eastern Orthodox, Coptic and Assyrian Churches. And yet, we are all indeed brethren if we confess with our mouths that Jesus is Lord and believe in our hearts that God raised Him from the dead, for we are then saved. (Romans 10:9)
You see, friends, when Jesus is in the mix, those things that separate us from one another cease to seem very important. Just look at the Lord’s disciples. We have Matthew, a tax collector for Herod whose operation encouraged gouging as many people as possible. And then there is Simon the Zealot. The Zealots were a radical group opposed to Roman rule and to everyone who collaborated with the Romans. Yet here they were, following the same Lord, trusting the same Savior. And Simon didn’t even try to stick a knife in Matthew’s back. There’s something about Jesus that changes us, isn’t there.
I sometimes tell my congregation that American Christians have more in common with a Christian in Tanzania who lives in a mud hut than with the unbeliever who lives next door. When the Lord comes again and the world is remade that guy from Tanzania might very well be your next door neighbor.
In the presence of Jesus everything is different. Everything is better. Everything is forever.