In the Fall 2016 Concordia Journal, Professor Jeff Gibbs talks about the Gospel language that Matthew uses to share the news that Christ has come to save us through his death and resurrection.
In Matthew the good news of Christ is presented in the Gospel language of living under the reign of God. For instance in Matthew 5:3, Matthew records Jesus saying, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
Gibbs points out that if Paul had written that verse, he would have said, “Redeemed are those who are enslaved, for Christ has set them free.” Paul’s gospel language is about freedom from slavery.
If John would have written it, it would have said, “Enlightened are those who were in darkness, for Christ is the light of the world,” because John’s Gospel language is light and darkness.
I find the idea of different Gospel languages interesting because I have found that people often have a favorite type of Gospel language that they are drawn to. For instance, my adopted grandma, Mrs. Graber, always liked Good Shepherd Sunday and loved the hymn, “Children of the Heavenly Father.” Her preferred Gospel language was about being safe and secure in the lovingly arms of a Shepherd or a father.
It might be a good practice for each of us to evaluate what Gospel language has the most meaning and resonance for us personally, and then it is good for us to consider what Gospel language might have the most significance to a friend or family member or someone we are witnessing to.
The sure message of the Gospel is always the same (We are saved from sin, death and the devil by Christ alone), but understanding what way to share the Gospel message to a certain person can be just as important as conveying the Gospel message itself. Something to think about the next time you are talking to someone about Jesus.
Renowned theologian Eugene Peterson reminds us in his book, The Contemplative Pastor, that what a church needs most is a pastor immersed both in God’s life and our own lives. For Peterson, the question on a pastor’s mind should be: “Who are these particular people and how can I be with them in such a way that they can become what God is making them?”
A daunting and humbling question, to be sure. But it got me to thinking about the massive role we have come to expect from our pastors. We want them to be active yet reserved, a visionary but realistic, an authority and yet a friend.
Pastors are human, too, and, therefore, cannot be all things to all people.
So it takes us back to Peterson’s question. Finding a good match between a people and the unique person that a certain pastor is is key.
Each pastor has a different style and approach that may work in some churches, but not in others. So it is about both a church and a potential pastor being honest about strengths and weaknesses and what is a good fit and what is not.
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When I was a kid, during the season of Advent we would always have a little manger scene out with the figures of Mary, Joseph, the baby Jesus, a shepherd and three wise men. It was a child-friendly set, with almost like a Lincoln Log stable and Fisher Price style figures (I know I am dating myself with these references).
I just recently learned that this manger scene was a wedding gift for my parents, who were married 50 years ago on December 27, 1967. What a wonderful wedding gift to give: the story of the birth of Jesus in tangible form to share with future children as part of a family tradition.
My parents still have those figures and they still put them out. And I am again reminded when I see them of the marvelous story of how Christ came to earth to save us.
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