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Spain Matters

by Pastor Charles R. Lindquist

Date: April, 26, 2009


This outline corresponds to a PowerPoint presentation that may be downloaded here. In the event you do not have Microsoft PowerPoint installed on you machine and you would like to view this presentation, you can download the free PowerPoint Viewer at FREE VEIWER.

Greetings...

photo of Pastor LindquistThe World Mission Prayer League...

A Lutheran community in the mission of God...

A community gathered around some simple ideas:

  • ...the power of prayer: we believe that prayer is our work
  • ...the value of Christian community: we believe mission belongs to the entire people of God
  • ...the strategic significance of a simplified lifestyle
  • ...the urgent task of proclaiming the good news, in our words and through our lives

Introduction...

I appreciate very much the texts you have chosen for this evening...

They are texts about feet, from the heart of the book of Romans...

In chapter ten we read that the good news is for everyone...

The scripture says...
‘Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved...
’” (10:11,13).

A few verses later we find the verses you have chosen...

Paul offers one of the most famous apologies for Christian mission in all of the Bible...

“But how are they to call on one in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in one of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone to proclaim him? And how are they to proclaim him unless they are sent? As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!’” (10:14-15).

Paul might have had very many things in mind, as he wrote these words to the sisters and brothers in Rome...

“A summary of all Christian doctrine,” said Melancthon...

Paul wrote about sin and fallenness, grace and forgiveness, and so on...

Luther was deeply impressed with the treatment. “This letter is truly the most important piece in the New Testament. It is purest Gospel” (Luther, Preface). He thought the book should serve as an introduction to the Old Testament.

Yet there is something, in a sense, deeper at work in the book of Romans – and maybe more simple, too...

Paul is burdened for the lost... and in particular, the unreached and underserved people groups away off near the end of the world, on the far edge of the Mediterranean Sea, in the Roman province of Spain – as we’ll discover...

Paul is concerned to keep first things first...

He is not writing a summary of Christian doctrine for Melancthon...

He is not writing a preface for Martin Luther...

Paul writes to the sisters and brothers in Rome to enlist their feet – and their help in bringing the good news to Spain...

The book of Romans is a missionary tract...

I am a mission administrator; I can recognize a missionary tract from a mile away...

Every missionary I know produces a tract or a letter of some variety; Paul, too...

Here Paul is presenting his best case for surrender to the mission of God...

It was Martin Kahler who once said pithily, “Mission is the mother of theology.”

It is true for Paul and his letter to the Romans: Paul’s mission “mothers” his theology...

He writes in the spirit of mission, for the sake of mission, in the service of God’s mission – as we’ll see...

[In fact, the further theology drifts from service to the mission of God, the less helpful it becomes...

Good theologians all need a mother...

Good theology always helps us toward mission, to proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ among those who have not heard...]

So permit me to share a few reflections based in the book of Romans...

I have an outline of four items; item one goes like this...

Spain matters...

I do not mean, simply, the home of patatas and Don Quixote on the far end of the Iberian peninsula...

I mean Spain as an emblem of the unreached world...

I mean Spain as the far horizon...

I mean Spain as the borderline between faith and unbelief, between the lost the found, between those who have heard the good news of Jesus Christ and those who have not yet had the opportunity...

Let me submit to you very simply: this is a borderline that matters...

For Paul, at least, and for those who hope to follow him, Spain matters...

We don’t know why, precisely, Paul might have set his sights on the province of Spain in particular...

There were many needy provinces throughout the empire, I am sure...

In 15:19, Paul reports that he has completed his missionary work “from Jerusalem and as far round as Ilyricum” (v.19).

In verse 20, Paul explains that he has made it his ambition “to proclaim the good news, not where Christ has already been named...” (v.20).

So this keeps him moving; he is looking toward the horizon, where Christ has not been named...

The ambition leads him to Spain...

Maybe he is thinking of geometry...

If we were to continue in an arc westward across the northern Mediterranean – “beginning from Jerusalem, round as far as Illyricum,” and onward – we would maybe land in Spain...

Maybe there is some arc of progression in Paul’s mind...

More likely, we find the lost there; Paul’s heart and mind are burdened with the lost...

“And how are they to hear without someone to proclaim him? And how are they to proclaim him unless they are sent?”

Paul doesn’t know Spain personally – but he does know the people of Israel...

And his heart breaks so thoroughly for their sin, for their lostness, that he could wish himself condemned to hell, we read in chapter 9, if somehow it could serve to reach them with the gospel...

Oh yes, for Paul, Spain matters...

Now let me share with you how a Lutheran might put the issue, from a Lutheran point of view, and in a Lutheran sort of way...

Jim Scherer, from the LSTC...

“Mission as applied to the work of the church means the specific intention of bearing witness to the gospel of salvation in Jesus Christ at the borderline between faith and unbelief....” (Scherer:37).

“The entire life of the church has a missionary purpose, to be sure. But the heart of mission is always making the gospel known where it would not be known without a special and costly act of boundary-crossing witness” (Scherer:37).

[Did you ever wonder if Lutherans could say things clearly?]

A Lutheran might put it this way...

Spain matters because there remains a borderline between faith and unbelief...

As long as it does – well, as Luther put it once, Christians get restless, they can’t be restrained, they press on to proclaim the good news where it has not yet arrived...

Do you know that approximately one-third of the world remains unevangelized – today in the first decade of the twenty-first century?

Do you know that this amounts to more than 2 billion men, women and children around the world...

Let me introduce you to a few of them...

The Afar in the Horn of Africa are among the least-reached peoples on the planet...

The Afar number approximately 1.6 million persons...

They are living in deserts of Eritrea, Ethiopia, and Djibouti...

They are 0.00% Christian...

More than 400K live in Eritrea, where the Prayer League is at work...

We pray for these people and hope to reach them with the good news...

The Buryat are a nomadic people in the middle of Asia...

Shamanistic Buddhists by tradition, the Buryats number nearly half a million in Russia, Mongolia, and China...

They are the largest unreached people group in Siberia...

There are 255K in the Republic of Buryatia, along the shores of Lake Baikal...

They are .05% Christian...

The Oraon people are found on the Indian subcontinent...

...approximately 4 million, in India, Nepal, Bhutan, and Bangladesh

Most are found in India – and among them a large Lutheran church is flourishing...

They are organizing and training to reach out to Oraons elsewhere; the Prayer League participates in the effort...

Paul could wish himself abandoned to hell for the sake of people who do not know the Savior...

Spain matters...

Here is a second item...

Rome matters, too...

Have you ever noticed that New Testament saints appear in the plural, when they appear at all?

They are the hagioi...

They are the beloved of God, plural...

They are the royal priesthood, the holy nation...

But a saint in the singular – a St. Peter, a St. Mary – you do not find...

The same is true in Rome...

To paraphrase a medieval map I once saw, there be saints there...

In Rome Paul finds “God’s beloved, called to be saints” (1:7)...

In Rome Paul finds partners in the mission of God...

It is obvious that Paul does not know these Roman Christians personally...

Paul treats them with a certain amount of deference and respect: he has not fathered this church...

Yet among these Roman Christians, Paul finds colleagues in mission...

Rome matters...

So Paul describes the purpose of his missionary tract explicitly, in chapter 15: “I desire, as I have for many years, to come to you when I go to Spain. For I do hope to see you on my journey and to be sent on by you...” (15:23-24)

Do you know: the world is filled with Christians you have never met – who are today your colleagues and partners in mission?

Let me introduce you to a few...

India Missions Association...

Not long ago, while traveling by train out of Calcutta, I picked up a copy of the journal of the India Missions Association...

The lead article was titled, “India – A mission sending nation”

The article reports that India sends more than 44,000 full-time cross-cultural missionaries...

Three are serving within our little fellowship...

The church in India is small, percentage-wise... under 3%...

Yet in a nation of more than a billion persons, this is a church of 30 million sisters and brothers...

And let me tell you: it matters...

In Latin America we find COMIBAM International – the “Colaboración Misionera Iberoamericana,” Iberoamerican Missionary Collaboration...

Here you see its mission statement on the organization’s home page: “To see the Iberoamerican church as a missionary force...”

Approximately 6500 Iberoamerican missionaries are at work around the world today...

And they are at work in some of the most difficult places in the world – including 14% in the so-called “ten forty window”...

Let me tell you: it matters...

In our own little fellowship, we have Asian, African, European, and Latin American missionaries at work today...

Rome matters: it mattered for Paul, it matters today...

We cannot think of mission or practice it appropriately – without factoring in Rome, the global church...

[Let me share with you a recent episode from a coffee shop in Maralal, in the heart of Samburu District, in northern Kenya...

I had shared coffee and a plate of ugali with the chairman of the Samburu New Testament Translation Project – a project that we have been involved in almost from the beginning...

He is an Anglican priest, a man of the Samburu tribe, and pastors an Anglican parish in Maralal town...

After ugali, while sipping coffee, I leaned across the table and thanked him – I wanted to thank him and the entire Anglican community in Kenya – not only for their collaboration in Bible translation – but for their leadership in the worldwide Anglican Communion. They have stood for the Bible. They have advocated faith. They have led ¬– when much of the Communion seems a bit adrift.

In a gesture that I will not soon forget, he leaned over the table himself, put his hand upon my arm, and said, “You are not alone...”

When you advocate faith, you are not alone. The Samburu stand with you. When you lean upon the Bible as the word of God, you are not alone. The church of Africa stands with you.

The Christian church of Africa is fast approaching 400 million members. The Anglican church of Nigeria has more members today than the Anglican church of the United Kingdom...

The man went on to say, “Remember, we are praying for you. You are not in this alone.”

The world church in Rome – I mean the sisters and brothers in Maralal – matter...

Jerusalem matters...

Now, Jerusalem matters, as well...

“...repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem...” (Luke 24:47).

“You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth...” (Acts 1:8).

Jerusalem matters...

By the time Paul writes to the Romans (56 or 57, maybe) “Jerusalem” had become already a kind of geographical short-hand for “church headquarters”...

Paul does not need to refer to “the church in Jerusalem”...

“Jerusalem,” quite simply, will do – as you’ll see in chapter 15...

We still speak in geographical short-hand...

Say “Kirkwood Road” to our friends in LCMS, and they will picture a lovely building in St. Louis also known as the International Center...

Say “Higgins Road” to our friends in the ELCA, and they will picture an elegant high-rise in downtown Chicago...

When Paul says “Jerusalem,” his hearers maybe will roll their eyes – and picture headquarters...

And Jerusalem matters...

Paul is deeply concerned for Jerusalem…

He is raising an offering for their needs – and hopeful that they will receive it…

He is not sure that headquarters will receive his offering – he asks the friends in Rome to pray that they would (ch. 15)…

Jerusalem matters…

But not as much or in quite the way that you thought it did...

Who can forget an incident from Georgetown University, in the spring of 2003...

Cardinal Francis Arinze, Archbishop of Nigeria, was invited to speak at commencement ceremonies at America’s oldest Catholic University. In the spring of 2003, you might remember, Cardinal Arinze was widely thought to be the likely successor to John Paul II.

The Cardinal is an earthy, unpredictable sort of guy – so unapologetically biblical...

At commencement, he stood up for traditional Catholic teachings on the family and sexual morality. “In many parts of the world, the family is under siege. It is opposed by an anti-life mentality as is seen in... abortion, infanticide and euthanasia. It is scorned and banalized by pornography, desecrated by fornication and adultery, mocked by homosexuality, sabotaged by irregular unions and cut in two by divorce.”

“Religion is not something marginal,” he went on to say. We should make our religion “serious;” we should allow our religion to “lead us...”

It didn’t go over well...

People stood right on the platform – and here and there around the auditorium – and walked out...

Let me make a prediction: someday soon the mainline American church will stand in a huff and walk out on their sisters and brothers from Asia and Africa and Latin America alleging that they have become, at last, too conservative, too biblically literalist, too morally old-fashioned...

...they will stand and walk out in a huff, and no one will notice...

You see, at some point, we will no longer share the platform...

Jerusalem matters – but Jerusalem has moved!

It is no longer found in Chicago, or St. Louis, or Minneapolis, or London, or Geneva...

Sometimes, have you noticed, we develop a distorted appreciation of headquarters, of Jerusalem...

Get a load of this map, from 1581...

You could not use it easily for sailing...

But it might help you navigate a kind of cultural terrain...

Asia, Africa, Europe – hanging like petals around headquarters...

Let me share with you a pair of newspaper articles that have recently caught my attention...

The first from the Chicago Tribune, 1942...

The headline speaks for itself...

The second from the NYT, two weeks ago...

The article describes “...a revolution in worldwide Christianity, one that it is quite literally changing its face, as a faith that was once exported by white missionaries from Europe and America comes to draw its strength from the peoples of the Southern Hemisphere.”

“The missionary movements of the 19th century inspired pious adventurers... to Africa.... Today the process is reversing itself...”

The Redeemed Christian Church of God is often cited as a leading example of the movement. “Its leader and guiding force, Pastor Enoch Adeboye, sums up the church’s history this way: ‘Made in heaven, assembled in Nigeria, exported to the world.’”

Pastor Ajayi-Adeniran is the North American Director of the Redeemed Christian Church of God, and is pictured on the cover of the magazine.

“Right now there is moral decadence,” he said. “Things are not the way they used to be. All kinds of things: pollution and watering down of the Gospel — the gospel of convenience, the gospel of tolerance. You want to please people rather than pleasing God. That is one of the purposes, why we are here, to bring sanity to the church.”

Jerusalem matters; but Jerusalem has moved...

We need to learn how to read the Bible again – through believing eyes, and probably from Nigerians...

The Kingdom of God

To conclude, a few words about the Kingdom of God...

For Paul, the Kingdom of God matters, too...

The Book of Romans, as we have said, is a missionary tract...

One of the first things you’ll notice about this little tract is... poor graphics...

Get a load of this...!

(If this had appeared from our publications department, I would have sent it back...)

Punctuation is poor and somewhat run-on...

Font selection is miserable...

There is very little white¬-space in this tract, and not a single four-color separation – not one...

This document works because this document has a story to tell...

It is a story in which the frontier between faith and unbelief matters profoundly...

It is a story in which God’s people are equipped and set apart for God’s missionary purposes in the earth...

It is a story in which God’s favor rests in the word of God’s gospel – “the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes” – and not in Jerusalem, not in institutions, not in hierarchies, not in tradition...

It is a story in which the grace of God matters – and matters for all the tribes, tongues and nations of the world...

This is the story of the kingdom...

The Daily Texts, dating to Zinzendorf and published by Hinderlie...

To paraphrase, “Seek the kingdom – and everything else will come into proper perspective...” (Luke 12:31)...

You’ll get Spain right, when you put the Kingdom first...

You’ll get Rome right, too...

And you’ll come to understand Jerusalem in its proper light and scope...

When we put the kingdom first, we find our place – we are pieces and parts – in the wonderful mission of God...