Philip's Comfort?
Thursday in Pentecost 18
12 October 2017
Often Christians feel uncomfortable about sharing with others the good news about Christ's forgiveness for sinners. They presume that they have neither the ability nor the knowledge to speak of Christ to those who need to hear of God's mercy, "Oh, I could never tell others about Jesus. My pastor takes care of all of that." If we wait until we know "enough" about the Bible and Christ, we will never know enough to share Christ. I have a secret for you: no one graduating from seminary knows "enough" either. When I graduated from Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne, Indiana, I felt I had only begun to skim the surface, the deeper I swam the deeper the pool got. The mysteries of God are beyond fathoming. That's true for pastors and lay people alike.
 
If we wait to be comfortable enough to share the gospel we will never get there. The gospel is not a "comfortable" message to deliver. My mouth would rather not have to speak the foolishness of God revealed by the cross and death of Christ (1Co 1:18-25). The world will always mock me for my lack of erudition and the unreasonable nature of this proclamation; that a dying man has saved the world. However, the comfort of the gospel is not for the speaker but the hearer. True mission work has the need of the other at heart. It must not be about our comfort, but theirs. Our proclamation of the gospel means that we must be crucified with Christ, filling up in our bodies His sufferings (Col 1:24). Those who bring the cross, must do so by bearing it. You cannot offer what you will not bear.
 
Christ asks us to suffer that others might be comforted. The gospel is for those who suffer and are afflicted and need to know that they have a gracious God. Just as God's own plan to save the world involves Him giving up Himself and His dearest treasure for the sake of those who were afflicted by their sin, so our mission from Him to evangelize the world means that we are to give ourselves up to their urgent need. If we were standing at the side of an Olympic-sized pool watching someone drowning in the middle, and decline to dive in and save the person because, while we can swim, we could not perform a flawless breast stroke, we would be culpable and indeed quite wicked. The Lord has handed us the cross and gospel, why wouldn't we dive right into the need of the fallen and dying world drowning in its own sin? Could we really be that hard-hearted? Could we really excuse letting those around us die unnecessarily?
 
Christ has called you into His marvelous light and made you a priest in His kingdom, not so that you could dither about waiting to know everything, but that you might take the message of Christ and share it. You have His Word. Just tell others. Yes, we still need pastors and teachers. Yes, they must be appropriately trained. And no, that does not mean that you can't share your faith with others. The deacons of the early church, such as Stephen and Philip, whom Luther considered laymen, proclaimed the gospel when and where it was needed, though they had not been sent by the apostles. Perhaps later Philip became a pastor, but when the eunuch of Queen Candace needed instruction, he offered it. He didn't wait until the pastor showed up. The need for the saving Word drove the sharing of the Word. It was for the eunuch's comfort, not Philip's. 


Rev. Dr. Scott R. Murray
Memorial Lutheran Church

Martin Luther

"A Christian congregation neither should nor could exist without God's Word. It clearly follows that it nevertheless must have teachers and preachers who administer the word. And since in these last accursed times the bishops and the false spiritual government neither are nor wish to be teachers-moreover, they want neither to provide nor to tolerate any, and God should not be tempted to send new preachers from heaven-we must act according to Scripture and call and institute from among ourselves those who are found to be qualified and whom God has enlightened with reason and endowed with gifts to do so.
 
"For no one can deny that every Christian possesses the Word of God and is taught and anointed by God to be a priest, as Christ says, 'T hey will all be taught by God, ' (Jn 6:45) and the Psalmist, ' God, your God, has anointed you with the oil of gladness beyond your companions' (Ps 45:7). These companions are the Christians, Christ's brethren, who with him are consecrated priests, as Peter says too, 'Y ou are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light' (1Pt 2:9).
 
"But if it is true that they have God's word and are anointed by him, then it is their duty to confess, to teach, and to spread His Word, as Paul says, 'W e have the same spirit of faith according to what has been written, "I believed, and so I spoke," we also believe, and so we also speak' (2Co 4:13), and the prophet says, 'I believed, therefore I spoke' (Ps 116:10). And God says of all Christians, ' I will teach transgressors your ways, and sinners will return to you ' (Ps 51:13). Here again it is certain that a Christian not only has the right and power to teach God's word but has the duty to do so on pain of losing his soul and of God's disfavor.
 
"If you say, 'How can this be? If he is not called to do so he may indeed not preach, as you yourself have frequently taught,' I answer that here you should put the Christian into two places. First, if he is in a place where there are no Christians he needs no other call than to be a Christian, called and anointed by God from within. Here it is his duty to preach and to teach the gospel to erring heathen or non-Christians, because of the duty of brotherly love, even though no man calls him to do so. This is what Stephen did (Acts 6-7), even though he had not been ordered into any office by the apostles. Yet he still preached and did great signs among the people. Again, Philip, the deacon and Stephen's comrade (Acts 8:5) did the same thing even though the office of preaching was not commanded to him either. Again, Apollos also did so (Acts 18:25). In such a case, a Christian looks with brotherly love at the need of the poor and perishing souls and does not wait until he is given a command or letter from a prince or bishop. For need breaks all laws and has none. Thus, it is the duty of love to help if there is no one else who could or should help." 

Martin Luther, That a Christian Assembly or Congregation Has the Right and Power to Judge All Teaching and to Call, Appoint, and Dismiss Teachers, Established and Proven by Scripture
Acts 8:26-40
 
Now an angel of the Lord said to Philip, "Rise and go toward the south to the road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza." This is a desert place. And he rose and went. And there was an Ethiopian, a eunuch, a court official of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, who was in charge of all her treasure. He had come to Jerusalem to worship and was returning, seated in his chariot, and he was reading the prophet Isaiah. And the Spirit said to Philip, "Go over and join this chariot." So Philip ran to him and heard him reading Isaiah the prophet and asked, "Do you understand what you are reading?" And he said, "How can I, unless someone guides me?" And he invited Philip to come up and sit with him. Now the passage of the Scripture that he was reading was this: "Like a sheep he was led to the slaughter and like a lamb before its shearer is silent, so he opens not his mouth. In his humiliation justice was denied him. Who can describe his generation? For his life is taken away from the earth." And the eunuch said to Philip, "About whom, I ask you, does the prophet say this, about himself or about someone else?" Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning with this Scripture he told him the good news about Jesus. And as they were going along the road they came to some water, and the eunuch said, "See, here is water! What prevents me from being baptized?"  And he commanded the chariot to stop, and they both went down into the water, Philip and the eunuch, and he baptized him. And when they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord carried Philip away, and the eunuch saw him no more, and went on his way rejoicing. But Philip found himself at Azotus, and as he passed through he preached the gospel to all the towns until he came to Caesarea. (ESV)
Prayer
Lord Christ, give me courage to say what You want said. Fill my heart with a burning desire for those for whom You died, that I might tell of your mercy and grace to all who do not yet know You as their Savior. Amen.
 
For all persons estranged from the grace of Christ, that the Holy Spirit might use the voices of His people to share the comforting Word of God with them
 
For all the troops deployed to Afghanistan, that they would be kept safe and be faithful in the fulfillment of their duties
 
For Pastor Ian Pacey, that he would be strengthened in body and soul for the work of the ministry
Art: Albrecht DURER, The Adoration of the Trinity (1511)
Memorial Lutheran Church
smurray@mlchouston.org
http://www.mlchouston.org
©  Scott Murray 2017