Shoes of Readiness to Proclaim the Gospel
The Whole Armor of God (Ephesians 6:10-17) #3
Lent III; March 4, 2018
I Peter 3:13-22
Today we had a "hymn Sunday," so the service music was hymns and there was a lot of extra music. Consequently, I kept my speaking to a minimum and included hymns as part of the sermon.
The First Letter of Peter was written to Christians living in a difficult situation. They weren't being persecuted by the government, but they were generally having a hard time getting on. Some of them were members of households where the head of the house was not a Christian; others of them lived in neighborhoods where they were regarded with suspicion. All of them had to deal with being social outcasts, of a sort: often people did not want to do business with Christians and people said scandalous things about Christians. Christians were different; they didn't have the same priorities as the society around them and you know how we human beings can be in the way we treat people who are different.
So Peter wrote to them about how to get along in their situation. One piece of advice he gave them, which I am using to expand on today's theme of "shoes of readiness to proclaim the Gospel," is that they should always be ready to give an account for the hope they had. Have you heard of the notion of the "elevator speech"? You're in an elevator and someone sees your shirt with the words "Presbyterian Church of the Master" on it and asks you, "What is Presbyterian Church of the Master"? Your elevator speech is the ninety-second answer you have prepared; you have only as much time as it takes to get to your floor to answer the question. Peter is telling people to think about the answer to the question, "Why are you Christians hopeful?"
Let's keep that in mind and sing Isaac Watts' setting of Psalm 90, "Our God, Our Help in Ages Past."
Now, your elevator speech about the Gospel of Peace – "Why are you Christians hopeful?" is another way of asking the question "What is the Gospel of Peace?" – cannot be simply a head-game, a series of bullet points. It's a matter of both the head and the heart, both what you think about and what you feel. Peter's odd retelling of the story of Noah makes surprising connections between the Flood and Baptism. It comes from the sort of "Aha!" moments you can have if you let your mind and heart wander over a story, pondering it and making surprising connections. Perhaps Peter was inspired by his own question, "Why are you Christians hopeful?" Anyway, let your own mind and heart wander over the question as you listen to Kristen play, "Jesus Walked this Lonesome Valley."
Your answer to the question, "Why are you Christians hopeful?" will be not simply a recitation of some Bible story; it will be your story. What is the story of Jesus Christ in your life? How has he been born in you? What has he taught you? How do you identify with his suffering? How have you experienced renewed life in him? What's your story? The Bible's story is our story, whether as sophisticated as Peter's connection between Noah and Baptism or as simple as how you have known the love of God in Jesus. The challenge before you and me this week is to be ready to proclaim the Gospel of Peace; that is, to know how to answer the question, "Why are you Christians hopeful?" Let's sing about the readiness to proclaim the Gospel of Peace.
All sang "I Love to Tell the Story."
Robert A. Keefer
Presbyterian Church of the Master