PASS THE GOSPEL TO THE NEXT GENERATION
Dear Christian friends,
According to the U.S. Department of Labor, 65% of today’s elementary school kids will end up at a job that hasn't been invented yet. If that is true, it seems logical that educators, academic institutions, and policy makers to prepare them for tomorrow’s challenges.
What those jobs that haven’t been invented yet? I saw a list of fifty five. Don’t worry! I am not going to name them all. Here is a sampling. Your child or grandchild might be an Augmented Reality Architect. This is the description: “Much like the paint we put on houses and the flavorings we add to food, the future will seem boring if our reality hasn’t been augmented in some way.” Sounds like a Boredom Terminator! Other jobs – An Alternative Currency Banker! Nations are turning away from the dollar internationally since our government has devalued it so much, so other currencies will be used instead of dollars. Who knows we might go back to bartering system somewhere along the line. A Waste Data Manager – You computer geeks can probably understand this one. “To insure data integrity in today’s fast evolving information storage industry, multiple redundancies have been built into the system. Achieving more streamline data storage in the future will require de-duplication specialists who can rid our data centers of needless copies and frivolous clutter.” There are many more. Google and read more.
While I have seen how computers have become part of church life, our God hasn’t given an alternative way to pass along the Good News of Jesus Christ. It works best person to person. Today this is our subject “Pass the Gospel on to the Next Generation.”
First, there is a need. I don’t know if you know this, but today is our annual Chili Cook-off here at Messiah. This has gone on a few years, and it has evolved. Someone told me a couple of years ago that everyone who participates needs to “bring their ‘a’ game.” I have to say that some of the chili that is brought is really good. I hope, particularly if you have your own recipe, that it is written down somewhere so others can copy it…even the next generation for posterity’s sake.
This Scripture from Matthew expresses the real need we have to pass something far more important than a chili recipe to the next generation. That’s the good news of Jesus.
We have talked a lot about John the Baptist before Christmas and now after Christmas. His God-given job was to prepare the world for Jesus. Yet, it appears he didn’t have a lot of time to do that. He preached and baptized at the Jordan River, but before long he was imprisoned because he pointed out the adulterous relationship of King Herod and his brother’s wife. Herod had him imprisoned to keep him quiet so these embarrassing accusations would not be heard. John was never released. Eventually he was martyred.
That says something about preachers, doesn’t it? Yeah, sometimes we get into trouble for speaking the truth. But all preachers only have a short time to do the preaching. We all die one way or another. That means others need to take our places. In fact, more needs to be said. If we are going to just keep pace with the number we have, we need to replace. But aren’t we trying to reach more people. Don’t we need more than replacements?
The apostles had to prepare people before their own martyrdom. Among many that Paul trained were Timothy and Titus. He wrote letters to them – two to Timothy and one to Titus to teach them what they needed to know how to conduct themselves as pastors. At our Seminary we studied those letters and they served as our text books for a class called Pastoral Theology. It was good two thousand years ago and is good now, coming from the master pastor, the apostle Paul. That training is being passed along.
As you know my oldest brother went to heaven a couple of weeks ago. He had a retail business that he operated from a storefront since 1989. He and my sister in law had four children – two sons and two daughters. The four are settled into life and their lives are going in a different direction. His shop was called ZCheeze where he sold many things but most of all good Wisconsin cheese. But it is no longer. The next generation was not in a position in some cases or simply didn’t want to take it over.
Now the Lord has promised that no such thing will ever happen to his church – it will never go out of existence. He has promised that “The gates of hell will not prevail against it.” Yet there is a need for the next generation to have people who will pass it on.
In Messiah Lutheran Church’s history there have not been any young men to enter the ministry. But, Pastor, what about Ben? Actually three congregations can claim that. He spent the least time here. Even if Messiah does lay claim, he only replaces his dad. Replacing doesn’t address the need for expansion. My point is, parents, the solution rests on you and your children. There is need. Will God use yours?
What needs to be passed along? The familiar but the-never-gets-old-message of repentance and faith in Jesus!
Jesus grew up in Nazareth but adopted Capernaum along the Sea of Galilee as his home base. Why? For one, to fulfill Scripture! Matthew writes, “Leaving Nazareth, he went and lived in Capernaum, which was by the lake in the area of Zebulun and Naphtali— to fulfill what was said through the prophet Isaiah: “Land of Zebulun and land of Naphtali, the Way of the Sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles— the people living in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.” When you go to California, it doesn’t take long to see that a lot of people from Far Eastern Asia have settled there. In the southwest Hispanics have settle there. That makes sense since people who immigrated settled in the land that was nearest to them. If you go to Florida WELS churches thrive more easily on the western side of Florida than the eastern side. Midwesterners move to Florida and settle in Tampa/Clearwater and areas north of Tampa. There are more Lutheran’s among them. On the Eastern side more northeasterners move and they tend to live there. Their religion tends to be Catholic and Jewish people live there. Our churches have a harder time growing where being a Lutheran is less known.
The land of Zebulun and Naptali, two sons of Jacob, inherited the land in the north of the land of Canaan. That’s exactly where people from foreign lands and their pagan practices settled after endlessly invading the land. Paganism brought darkness. Yet this was the land that living in darkness where Messiah would set up shop. That’s why Jesus moved there. Jesus the light of the world would shine upon them. They needed it.
Do you remember the sixty Chilean miners who were trapped underground for sixty plus days? That was four years ago. Can you imagine what that must have been like for them? Two thousand feet below the earth’s surface and no light except for the flashlights they had that would run out of energy in a short time. For seventeen of those days there was no contact with people above. After they were found alive, they had to wait for the drills to get them out another 43 days. Ninety degree environment with no light and limited air! I would have gone crazy. That kind of darkness leads to helplessness, hopelessness and slow death. It gives me the woolies just thinking about it.
I had a discussion with someone this week about newspapers. My friend said that their family doesn’t get a newspaper anymore. I said that I don’t either; I read all things on line. The reason my friend said that there are no newspapers is because there is nothing but bad news. Then the person said something that I thought was cool. Newspapers prove that everyone needs to hear the Good News of Jesus. I said I liked that and want to use that in the sermon.
Imagine what the miners thought when suddenly the drill bit broke through the ceiling and they could see light. In a spiritual way, the light we have is Jesus. Because of him a better day is coming and already here. We are part of his family where there is hope and forgiveness. That’s what Jesus brought to the land of Zebulun and Naphtali. That’s what Jesus brings to us.
Matthew writes, “From that time on Jesus began to preach, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” What John the Baptist preached, Jesus preached too. That ought to be no surprise for the people of God. The message has been consistent since Eden.
Let me give you a little insight from the original Greek to help us understand what Jesus is saying. First is the word “repent.” The tense of the verb indicates that it is an ongoing action. It isn’t a one time deal. We sin every day; daily we need to repent. Daily we need to look with all honesty at our lives and come to the same conclusion again and again. We have fallen short of what pleases God. Daily we need his forgiveness. Daily our Lord assures us “his mercies are new every morning.”
There is also the phrase that “his kingdom is at hand” or “his kingdom is near.” It sounds like something that is in the future. The tense of the verb says that God’s kingdom is here now and into the future. That’s Jesus. He was present already at his incarnation. He came to live and die to bring all who believe in him an incomprehensible future. That’s the message of the Gospel. That’s what needs to be shared. That’s the good news everyone needs to hear.
That leads us to the final thought today. When we talk about the Passing on the Gospel to the Next Generation, there is a sacrifice. I am not talking about the sacrifice of Jesus. I already spoke about that. But the sacrifice is that of giving up on other careers that might be more lucrative in terms of creature comforts. Now don’t get me wrong; Peter and Andrew and James and John were fishermen. That wasn’t exactly an elite Jewish life. But to become a fisher of men? Jesus didn’t even talk to them about salary and benefits. There was no contract. When it comes to God’s kingdom work, it is all about a call and not a contract. The Lord takes care of the details. Those who enter it simply trust God.
There is also the sacrifice of family. “Going on from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John. They were in a boat with their father Zebedee, preparing their nets. Jesus called them, and immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him.” Zebedee, the father of James and John, was there when his sons left to work for Jesus instead of dad. There was no one to carry on the family business.
I can’t speak for others but I can speak for my family. My parents had five sons. Two of us went into the ministry; a third started. Two of our daughters went into the teaching ministry. It wasn’t easy to see one go to Colorado and the other to California when we lived on the east coast of our country. Our son was called to work in a floundering church that I knew a bit about. From a human perspective, it wasn’t my choice for him to go. Yet the Lord has used him mightily.
That’s what is important in the end. God uses people to do his work. To the kids here and the wonderful families they come from, think about it. Consider it. Pray about it. Through your children and grandchildren Jesus will be passed to the next generations.