The Flaw In Our Gospel

Jyn Erso died so that the Rebellion might live.

Jyn’s tale of sacrifice and redemption is powerful. The plans she sacrifices her life to get were transferred to the Tantive IV where the diplomatic envoy on board could use their ties to Alderaan to get the plans into the hands of the people who could do the most good with it – the strikeforce gathering on Yavin IV.  The leader of that diplomatic envoy? Princess Leia Organa.  And as Paul Harvey used to say on his famous radio show, “Now you know…the rest of the story.”[1]  Eventually, Luke, Leia and Han Solo would see the plans to the Death Star delivered in time so that the Empire’s massive battlestation could be destroyed.  But Jyn’s story ends on Scarif along with the lives of her fellow Rebels. The film, Rogue One, tells Jyn’s tale and by itself is one of the best Star Wars film ever made.  But it is not the end of the story.  It is one tale in a much larger tapestry that unfolds, and even though it is a good film all by itself, it’s so much more meaningful because of that larger story it is a part of.  From tiny connections to future films like the appearance of Walrus Man to much larger and more significant connections like the creation of the Death Star, it’s story is tied to a bigger story.

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story..Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones) in foreground, Bodhi Rook (Riz Ahmed) in background..Ph: Film Frame..Copyright 2016 Industrial Light & Magic, a division of Lucasfilm Entertainment Company Ltd., All Rights Reserved

So much of Christianity today is focused on personal salvation.

If we can just get people to say the “Sinner’s Prayer.”  If we can just convince people to say this set of magic words, to confess their sins and say they believe in Jesus as Lord and Savior.  If we can just do that, then our job is done.  But Jesus didn’t tell us to go and make converts of all nations.  He told us, “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:16-20).”  The cross was just the beginning.  It wasn’t the end.  I love how pastor and author Ken Wytsma put it.  He said, “If all we have is Good Friday, then we are missing Easter.”[2] Ken wrote an eye-opening article in Outreach magazine about how the flaw in our Gospel story today is we focus so much on conversion that we fail to see the larger picture.  He wrote in part, “Personal salvation for the individual took the spotlight (in how we convey the Gospel) rather than Christ’s redeeming work for the many.  There was an overemphasis on salvation for me…”  Jesus didn’t turn to his followers and say, “Oh, good.  Now that you believe in me, my work is done.”  He told them “…you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the Earth (Acts 1:8).”

Since last time I showed a pic of me and Emma, this is a pic of me and Cassie the following year at the Disneyland 5K. We look pretty awake right?

The cross is the beginning of our journey and not the end.

When I did my first Disneyland 5K, I was shocked at how early we had to be at the starting line.  It was literally the crack of dawn.  The sun wouldn’t be out for another hour when we were set to report to the corrals.  And it was cold.  And I was tired. I didn’t even bother to take a shower.  I mean why bother when all I’m about to do is get sweaty?  So at 4:30 in the morning, I rolled out of bed, woke up Emma, got my clothes on for the run, brushed my teeth and hair (not with the same brush), and headed to the start.  We didn’t get there and say, “Okay, I’ve done my part, let’s go back.”  Getting there was just the beginning.  Now the race would truly begin.  Getting to the cross IS important, but where you go from there is at least as important if not more so.  Do you let your faith go fallow?  Or do you take on the challenge and do something with it?  There is a reason Jesus emphasizes discipleship and not conversion.  Conversion is a moment in time, but discipleship is a lifelong process.  It becomes part of our character.  It defines who we are.

Faith is not a solo journey.

We are meant to travel this road together.  Jesus sent his disciples out into the world two-by-two.  He told us that where two or more are gathered, there he would be.  Even in the Old Testament, we read in the book of Ecclesiastes, “Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: 10 If either of them falls down, one can help the other up.  But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up.” Our faith is meant to be developed in a community.  Not only do we gather strength in numbers, we also are able to test our belief, aid each other, and be a stronger witness for Jesus in the world.  We are not meant to huddle away with our faith like a squirrel hoarding nuts for the winter.  We are meant to share it with the world.

14 “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.

The Gospel was meant to shine!

It wasn’t meant to be hidden away.  It was meant to be shared with all the world so that they could enjoy it, too.  Do you have a favorite place to eat?  Do you have a favorite vacation spot?  Do you have a favorite sports team?  Have you told anyone about it or have you kept it a secret?  Most of the time, when we are excited about something, when we have good news to share, when we find something that gives us joy, we want to tell the world!  One of our favorite places to eat in all the world is Lawry’s Prime Rib.  I’ve told everyone I know about Lawry’s.  I’ve taken quite a few people there for dinner.  We often meet friends for a meal at this place because it is just SO GOOD.  I am not ashamed at all to tell people about Lawry’s because I want them to enjoy it, too.  Now, maybe they won’t like it as much as I do.  Maybe they’ll find it too expensive or too far out of the way.  But this place is too good not to share.  I’m not worried that they’ll run out of prime rib if I tell people about it.  I’m not worried that it’ll spoil it if too many know that this place is great.  I just want other people to share in my joy.  Why should our love for Christ be any different?

We are meant to be a light unto the world, not hidden under a bowl

Jesus challenges us not to hide our light.

If you really believe in Christ and love him, you will not be afraid to show it.  HOW you show it is completely up to you.  We all have different ways of expressing ourselves so my way may not be your way, but it’s like your favorite place to eat or your favorite sports team or your favorite vacation spot.  You’ll find your own way to share how Jesus has impacted your life with others.  If you’re shy, you may not go door-to-door and invite people to church, but maybe you’ll write a book about your faith or compose a song that reflects your love of Jesus or anonymously do kind acts for others and leave a card behind simply saying that you are hoping to show Christ’s love.  But the last thing we should do is take our light and hide it under a bowl.  That goes against everything Jesus was trying to inspire in his disciples.  When I was serving at Roswell UMC in Atlanta, GA, there was a monthly street fair during the summer near our church, and if you’ve ever been to Georgia in the summer you know how hot it gets.  So we would take part in the street fair by handing out cold bottled water to people passing by and we’d give out little cards inviting people to church.  One of our members quit the church because of it.  I remember calling her on the phone when she transferred her membership to find out what happened.  Maybe we had done something wrong without realizing it.  When I called she told me it wasn’t anything we did to her.  She didn’t want to belong to a church that evangelized in public.  Keep in mind this wasn’t a requirement for the church and about 99% of our members did not participate.  It was just a handful of people who wanted to do something tangible to show the love of Christ.  The woman who left our church said she didn’t think it was right.  I was really confused what wasn’t “right” about it so I asked her and she responded, “I just think faith is a personal thing.”  And she’s right.  I agree 100%.  But like I’ve said before, faith is personal, not private.

Each person’s story is unique and extremely personal.

How Jesus has touched your life is almost for sure different from how Jesus has touched mine.  We may have many similarities, but our stories are often unique to us.  But that doesn’t mean we should hide our faith.  Instead we should do just the opposite.  If we have no problem telling our friends, family, and complete strangers about our favorite restaurant or favorite sports team or favorite vacation spot, why would we hesitate about something that is so much more important?  Faith is personal, but it is not meant to be private.  Now I’m not telling you to go out and be an overbearing jerk about it.  I’m telling you to find your own unique voice for Christ and use it so that others may know what you know and hopefully it will change their life, too.

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story..L to R: Cassian Andor (Diego Luna), Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones), and Baze Malbus (Jiang Wen)..Ph: Giles Keyte..© 2016 Lucasfilm Ltd. All Rights Reserved.

Jyn’s story is only a part of the Star Wars saga.

It isn’t the whole story by itself.  It’s a vital part that helps us understand all that comes after it, but it isn’t complete without the hope and redemption that follows as a result.  The Gospel story isn’t meant to be a shelter from the storm.  It isn’t a safe haven from the world we live in.  The Gospel story is the armor and shield God gives us to have the strength to go out into the world and share his message of hope and redemption to a world that needs it now more than ever.  As Ken wrote in his article, “The gospel isn’t simply good news we hear – it’s good news we become.  We aren’t simply recipients of grace, but agents of grace as well.”[3] If all there was to the story of Jesus is the cross, there would be no Christianity.  It’s what happened after that changed the world. Be a part of the story.  Help to change the world. In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

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[1] Paul Harvey was a radio host for a show he created called “The Rest of the Story” which ran for decades.  He was known for offering an unknown glimpse into the past of someone famous that revealed something or just enlightened the audience about someone.  Many of his stories are archived on a non-profit organization seeking to preserve internet knowledge – a library for the Internet.

[2] “Why Race Belongs In Our Gospel Conversations,” Ken Wytsma, Outlook Magazine, Vol. 17, No. 1 (Outreach, Inc. Colorado), p. 60

[3] Ibid, p.64

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