Based On: Ephesians 3:2-12
Imagine going to a place where you did not know the language. Not only did you struggle to understand and be understood, but they did things differently too and you didn’t understand why. When someone agreed to meet with you it seemed like they were always late. When people talked to you they stood too close to you and put their hand on your shoulder. You felt very uncomfortable.
A missionary explained it to me this way. Each culture has its own set of unwritten rules. They are the behaviors you learn as you grow up in that culture. To the newcomer they may not make any sense, but to the person who grew up in that culture they, of course, make perfect sense.
To not know the little secrets about how to act or what to say can make you feel like you are on the outside looking in? It can make you feel very alone. If only someone would reveal the mystery to you so that you would know what was going on, then you could be part of the group.
There is a group that we want to be a part of even more than a particular cultural group. In order to be a part of this group we need to know God’s secret. God has a secret. He has revealed it to us. We can share it with others.
What is this secret of God? Actually, Paul calls it a mystery – the mystery of Christ. It is not a mystery in the sense that it is something unclear or vague. It is a mystery because there is no way for you to know it unless someone reveals the mystery to you. Once it is revealed it is clear and makes sense.
This mystery is “that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus.” This mystery that Paul has the privilege of revealing is that Jesus is the Savior not only for the Jews but also for th Gentiles – those who are not Jews.
Paul considered it a special gift from God that he could tell people about Jesus, especially that he could spread this good news to others who were not Israelites. For centuries God had a special relationship with Israel as his chosen people because the Messiah would come from the Israelite people. Many people thought the Messiah was coming for the Israelite people alone. Paul had the privilege of revealing to the rest of the world that God planned all along to send Jesus as their Savior too.
That also means Jesus is your Savior. And we certainly need a Savior. If we go all the way back to the Garden of Eden we see that Adam and Eve wanted to be part of a certain group. Satan told them if they would only eat the fruit they would be like God and know good and evil. They felt like God had been keeping a secret from them and they wanted to be part of that special group that was like God. They wanted to be let in on that mystery. So they ignored what God had said and they believed Satan. Instead of becoming like God they became dead to God and deserving of hell. We take after our first parents and so we need a Savior.
The mystery that has been revealed to us by faith is that Jesus did not die just for the Jews, but he also rescued us from our sin. The mystery that has been revealed to us is that Jesus was not only thinking of the Jews as he allowed the nails to hold him to the cross, but he stayed on the cross because he was thinking of the name “Kevin Draper” and he was thinking of your name and the names of your family members and neighbors and all of your fellow Sleepy Eye residents and everyone else in the world.
Just as this Savior is not just a Savior for the Jews he is also not just a Savior for the members of St. John’s Lutheran Church in Sleepy Eye, MN. We also have the privilege of revealing the mystery to those around us. The mystery that they would not know unless someone told them – Jesus died for them.
This may involve crossing cultural barriers just as it did for Paul. Just imagine what it was like for Paul. He was a Jew used to eating certain foods, wearing certain clothes, and carrying out certain rituals. There certainly must have been challenges when he tried to preach to Gentiles who lived a very different lifestyle.
The challenges will come for us too when we reach out to our community. There will be mistakes and miscommunication, but it will also be rewarding. Sharing the Gospel has been compared to giving away billions of dollars. There really is no comparison between eternal life and any amount of money, but you can understand how sharing the Gospel can bring joy to both the one giving and the one receiving.
This is not just the job of the outreach committee. Every Christian has this privilege. Even if you do not take an active part in outreach you are still involved as a member of this congregation. When a visitor comes through those doors you can either support or destroy the work your fellow Christians have done to reveal the mystery of Christ to others. How do you show the love of Christ to that person? What do you say or not say to that person? How do you participate in worship? Is it obvious that you are here to worship your risen Lord or are you just going through the motions? Those things are a part of sharing the Gospel and of including others in our group.
This Tuesday at 7PM Pastor Flunker will talk to us about cross-cultural outreach – things to expect, things to look out for. This is not just for those who will be doing outreach. This is open to the whole congregation because it will affect the whole congregation.
We have an important and life-saving message to share. We are forgiven. We are going to live forever in a perfect place called heaven. There are people on the outside that don’t even know that we have this great mystery to share with them. Let’s tell them.