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Each Friday, Dr. Daniel Hagmaier posts his weekly newsletter. Catch up on what's happening and plan ahead.

MARK 9:42-50 | I’VE GOT GOOD NEWS, AND I’VE GOT BAD NEWS

I’VE GOT GOOD NEWS,

AND I’VE GOT BAD NEWS

MARK 9:42-50

SEPTEMBER 27, 2015

“I’VE GOT GOOD NEWS, AND I’VE GOT BAD NEWS,” SOMEONE WILL SAY TO US, “WHICH DO YOU WANT FIRST?”

 

I DON’T KNOW FOR SURE IF THIS IS A SORT OF GLASS-HALF-FULL, GLASS HALF-EMPTY PROPOSITION, WITH SOME OF US WANTING THE BAD NEWS FIRST, AND OTHERS OF US WANTING THE GOOD NEW FIRST…

 

OR IF PEOPLE ALWAYS ANSWER BAD NEWS FIRST OR GOOD NEWS FIRST.

 

I KNOW – LET’S TAKE A POLL!

 

SHOW OF HANDS – HOW MANY OF YOU PREFER THE GOOD NEWS FIRST?

OKAY, HOW MANY OF YOU PREFER THE BAD NEWS FIRST?

 

SEE, I WASN’T SURE EXACTLY WHAT TO WRITE IN MY SERMON NEXT, BECAUSE I WASN’T SURE HOW THE POLL WOULD TURN OUT, SO I’M JUST GOING TO PAUSE HERE FOR A MOMENT AND SAY, “INTERESTING…”

 

HOWEVER, WHEN IT COMES TO THE GOSPEL, THE GOOD GOOD NEWS, IT IS ALWAYS THE BAD NEWS FIRST.

 

IN A MINUTE WE’LL LOOK AT OUR PASSAGE FOR THIS MORNING WHICH IS REALLY, REALLY BAD NEWS ALMOST UP TO THE VERY END OF IT, BEFORE IT BECOMES GOOD NEWS.

 

BUT BECAUSE THE GOSPEL IS BAD NEWS BEFORE IT IS GOOD NEWS, LET ME TELL YOU WHAT WE AS BELIEVERS HAVE TO GUARD AGAINST – AND BOTH OF THESE ARE REALLY THE SAME THING, JUST IN TWO DIFFERENT WAYS.

 

I’LL START WITH US PREACHER TYPES AND TELL YOU WHAT WE HAVE TO GUARD AGAINST, WHAT WE HAVE A PROBLEM WITH SOMETIMES;

 

IT IS WHAT MY WORSHIP AND PREACHING PROFESSOR, MY MENTOR IN SEMINARY, DR. WADE HUIE CALLED DIVE-BOMB PREACHING.

 

DIVE-BOMB PREACHING CONSISTS OF THE MINISTER SPENDING, OH SAY, 20 – 25 MINUTES (OR IN SOME CHURCHES, 50 – 55 MINUTES, TELLING EVERYONE HOW EVIL THE WORLD IS; HOW SINFUL THEY ALL ARE; HOW TOTALLY DEPRAVED HUMANKIND IS – OFTEN WITH A LOT OF SCREAMING AND SHOUTING, AND WAILING AND GNASHING OF TEETH;

 

USUALLY WITH LOTS OF WORLDLY EXAMPLES OF HOW BAD THINGS ARE;

AND SOMETIMES WITH THREATS ABOUT HELL FIRE AND DAMNATION!

 

SO THE SERMON, NOT TO MENTION EVERYONE’S ATTITUDES, FEELINGS DEMEANOR, EMOTIONS, ETC. GO LIKE THIS (DIVE-BOMBING SOUND AND HAND).

 

THEN, AT THE VERY LAST MOMENT, JUST BEFORE EVERYONE IS ABOUT TO BE UNMERCIFULLY CRASHED HEAD FIRST INTO THE GROUND…

 

THE PREACHER PULLS UP – GIVING 5 MINUTES OF GOOD NEWS, OF GOD TALK, RIGHT AT THE END.

 

TWENTY TO TWENTY-FIVE (50 TO 55 MINUTES) OF THIS (MAKE THE DIVE-BOMBING SOUND AND GESTURE) AND FIVE MINUTES OF GOOD NEWS ABOUT HOW WONDERFUL GOD IS, FULL OF GRACE AND MERCY, FORGIVING AND LOVING US.

 

DIVE-BOMB PREACHING, DR. HUIE WARNED, OUGHT TO BE SOMETHING THAT WE PREACHERS SHOULD AVOID AT ALL COSTS.

 

NOW SIMILAR TO THIS, BUT SORT OF AT THE OTHER END OF THE SPECTRUM, IS WHAT WE OFTEN EXPERIENCE WHEN PEOPLE GIVE THEIR TESTIMONIES, ESPECIALLY WHEN THEY ARE NEW BELIEVERS;

 

BUT ALSO, SOMETIMES WITH NOT-SO-NEW BELIEVERS WHO JUST LIKE TO GIVE THEIR TESTIMONY OVER AND OVER AGAIN.

 

HERE’S THE TEMPTATION ON THE PART OF BOTH THE TELLERS AND THE HEARERS:

 

THEY’LL SPEND 20 – 25 MINUTES (50 – 55 MINUTES) TELLING US THE STORY OF WHAT A WRETCH THEY’VE BEEN – USUALLY IN VERY VIVID, SALACIOUS, LASCIVIOUS, LUSCIOUS DETAIL – THERE’S ALMOST SOMETHING VOYEURISTIC ABOUT IT – PEOPLE SITTING ON THE EDGE OF THEIR PEWS TAKING IT ALL IN…

 

AND THEN, MIRACLE OF MIRACLES, FIVE MINUTES ABOUT THE GOODNESS OF GOD’S FORGIVENESS, AND HOW IT HAS MADE ALL THE DIFFERENCE IN THEM AND IN THEIR LIVES.

 

NOW DON’T GET ME WRONG – ANY TIME THE PRODIGAL SON OR DAUGHTER COMES HOME; ANY TIME THE ONE LOST SHEEP IS REJOINED TO THE 99 FAITHFUL ONES; ANY TIME ONE LOST SOUL IS FOUND – IT IS WONDERFULLY GOOD NEWS, AND WORTH TELLING ABOUT, AND WORTH LISTENING TO.

 

BUT HERE’S THE PROBLEM, WE’VE GOT IT ALL BACKWARDS; OUR RATIOS ARE ALL OUT OF PROPORTION;

PREACHERS SHOULD SPEND ONLY ABOUT FIVE MINUTES, IF THAT, TALKING ABOUT THE BAD NEWS AND 20 – 25 MINUTES TALKING ABOUT THE GOOD NEWS (AND HARDLY EVER 50 – 55 MINUTES, BY THE WAY!)

 

TESTIMONIES SHOULD TAKE FIVE MINUTES TO TELL WHERE THE PERSON HAS COME FROM IN THEIR LIVES, AND 20 – 25 MINUTES (AND AGAIN, NEVER 50 – 55 MINUTES!) ABOUT WHERE GOD HAS BROUGHT THEM TO, AND HOW GOD IS LEADING THEM IN THEIR LIVES TODAY.

 

AS I MENTIONED EARLIER, OUR PASSAGE FOR THIS MORNING IS ALMOST OF NO HELP – IT’S ALMOST ALL BAD NEWS – FOR WAY TOO LONG – BEFORE IT FINALLY GETS AROUND TO ANY GOOD NEWS.

 

FIRST, OUR PASSAGE IS ABOUT HOW ANYONE WHO LEADS A CHILD ASTRAY OUGHT TO HAVE A HUGE MILLSTONE FASTENED ABOUT THEIR NECK AND BE TOSSED INTO THE SEA.

 

IF YOU’VE EVER BEEN TO AN OLD GRIST MILL, WHERE CORN OR WHEAT IS GROUND INTO MEAL OR FLOUR, YOU KNOW HOW HUGE OLD MILLSTONES ARE; SOME OF THEM WOULD BE AS BIG AROUND AS THIS ENTIRE ALTAR AREA.

 

NOW IMAGINE FASTENING ONE OF THOSE AROUND THE NECK OF SAY, A CHILD ABUSER, A CHILD SEX OFFENDER, A CHILD ABDUCTOR OR TRAFFICKER, AND YOU BEGIN TO GET THE PICTURE JESUS SETS FORTH IN THIS PASSAGE;

 

A FITTING PUNISHMENT FOR TERRIBLE CRIMES, MOST OF US WOULD AGREE;

 

AND ONE OF THE WAYS OVER THE YEARS THAT THIS PASSAGE FROM THE GOSPEL OF MARK HAS BEEN USED TO TALK ABOUT THE BAD NEWS OF THIS OLD WORLD OF OURS.

 

BUT THEN JESUS GOES FROM PREACHING TO MEDDLING, AND THE PASSAGE GETS PERSONAL:

 

IF OUR HAND CAUSES US TO SIN, CUT IT OFF; IF OUR FOOT CAUSES US TO SIN, CUT IT OFF; AND IF OUR EYE CAUSES US TO SIN, PLUCK IT OUT;

 

THIS IS DEFINITELY BAD NEWS!

 

AND THEN THERE’S LOTS OF TALK ABOUT HELL, AND UNQUENCHABLE FIRE, AND WORMS THAT NEVER DIE, AND MORE FIRE – AND IT’S ALL PRETTY BAD, PRETTY BLEAK NEWS AS FAR AS WE’RE CONCERNED.

 

AND THIS IS THE SECOND WAY THIS PASSAGE HAS BEEN USED OVER THE YEARS, AS A DETERRENT TO BAD BEHAVIOR ON OUR PART.  A WARNING OF PUNISHMENTS BEFITTING THE CRIMES.  VERY LITTLE GOOD NEWS HERE.

BY THE WAY, THIS PASSAGE HAS ALSO BEEN USED TO ARGUE AGAINST THOSE WHO CLAIM THEY TAKE THE BIBLE LITERALLY – EVERY WORD OF IT!

 

THE FACT THAT YOU HARDLY EVER SEE ANY OF THOSE WHO CLAIM TO BELIEVE THIS – MISSING A HAND, OR A FOOT, OR AN EYE, BEGS THE QUESTION OF HOW LITERALLY THEY OR ANY OF THE REST OF US REALLY TAKE IT!

 

TRUTH BE KNOWN, IF WE WERE TO TAKE THIS PASSAGE LITERALLY, THERE WOULD BE A LONG PROCESSION OF ONE HANDED, ONE FOOTED, ONE EYED PERISHABLE PEOPLE LIMPING OUR WAY INTO THE KINGDOM OF GOD.

 

BAD NEWS AND MORE BAD NEWS.

 

BUT YOU KNOW WHAT?!  YOU KNOW WHAT WE DID HERE THIS MORNING BY BAPTIZING LITTLE JACK!

 

WE SAID, AND WE ARE STILL SAYING: HERE IS THE GOOD NEWS OF THE GOSPEL!

HERE IS THE GREAT NEWS OF THE GOSPEL!

 

BECAUSE EVEN BEFORE LITTLE JACK KNOWS ENOUGH TO UNDERSTAND WHAT HAPPENED HERE THIS MORNING…

 

AND BEFORE HE IS EVEN OLD ENOUGH TO AGREE TO IT, THOUGH THEY’LL COME A TIME WHEN HE WILL HAVE THE OPPORTUNITY TO RESPOND TO THE GOOD NEWS OF GOD BY MAKING HIS OWN PROFESSION OF FAITH…

 

WE’VE ALREADY GIVEN HIM THE GOOD NEWS! – THAT GOD LOVES HIM; THAT HE BELONGS TO GOD; THAT HE IS PART OF GOD’S COVENANT COMMUNITY!

 

THAT HIS PARENTS AND GRANDPARENTS, HIS AUNTS AND UNCLES, HIS GODPARENTS, AND ALL OF THE REST OF HIS FAMILY…

 

AND BY THE WAY, ALL OF YOU, REPRESENTING THE WHOLE CHURCH OF JESUS CHRIST, HAVE JUST PROMISED THAT YOU WILL BE THERE FOR HIM;

 

YOU WILL HELP RAISE HIM UP; YOU WILL TEACH HIM, NURTURE HIM, CARE FOR HIM, AND LOVE HIM!

 

YOU WILL SURROUND THIS LITTLE FAMILY – JACK AND MATT AND DANIELLE, WITH YOUR LOVE AND SUPPORT AND HELP;

 

AND AGAIN, THAT REPRESENTING THE WHOLE OF CHRIST’S CHURCH, YOU WILL BE WITH THEM, SIDE BY SIDE, AS THEY RAISE THEIR SON TO ADULTHOOD.

 

IT IS THE SAME PROMISE WE MAKE EVERY TIME WE BAPTIZE ONE OF THESE LITTLE ONES WHO ARE LOVED BY GOD.

AND THAT – MY FRIENDS – IS EXCEEDINGLY, EXTRAORDINARILY, GOOD NEWS, AND HARDLY ANY BAD!

 

IT TAKES OUR PASSAGE FOR THIS MORNING ALMOST EVERY WORD TO FINALLY GET AROUND TO THE GOOD NEWS – THAT WE ARE TO HAVE SALT IN OUR LIVES, AND THAT WE ARE TO BE AT PEACE WITH ONE ANOTHER.

 

IT COMES, ALMOST TOO LATE, BUT IT FINALLY ARRIVES.

 

ASK ANYONE WHO’S BEEN PUT ON A SALT FREE DIET WHAT’S MISSING AND THEY WILL TELL YOU TASTE!

 

SALT PROVIDES FLAVOR.  SALT PRESERVES THAT WHICH IS SALTED.

 

WHEN THE ANCIENTS SPOKE OF HAVING SALT IN OUR LIVES THEY INTENDED IT TO BE THAT WHICH BRINGS FLAVOR TO LIFE; THAT WHICH PRESERVES LIFE;

 

AND FOR CHRIST, THAT WAS THE WORD OF GOD; THE GOOD NEWS OF THE GOSPEL; THAT WHICH GIVES FLAVOR, BRINGS MEANING, AND PRESERVES OUR LIVES FOREVER.

 

“HAVE SALT IN YOURSELVES (THE GOOD NEWS OF THE GOSPEL) AND BE AT PEACE WITH ONE ANOTHER;” OUR PASSAGE FOR THIS MORNING SAYS.

 

THIS IS WHY, ELSEWHERE, CHRIST CALLS US TO BE “THE SALT OF LIFE” SO AS TO ADD SAVOR TO THE WORLD, AND BE WITNESSES TO OUR FAITH IN HIM.

 

OUR FAITH – OUR LIVES – ARE INTENDED TO DWELL NOT ON THE BAD NEWS, BUT ON THE GOOD NEWS, AND FOR MORE THAN JUST 20 – 25 MINUTES, OR EVEN 50 – 55 MINUTES; BUT ALL THE TIME, AND FOR ALL OF LIFE!

 

ONCE IN A CHURCH GROUP PEOPLE WERE ASKED TO TALK ABOUT TIMES WHEN GOD WAS CLOSE AND REAL.  ONE OF THE GROUP WAS A YOUNG WOMAN WHO WAS A DANCER IN A PROFESSIONAL BALLET COMPANY.  WHEN IT CAME TIME FOR HER TO SPEAK, IT WAS CLEAR THAT SHE WAS MORE COMFORTABLE AS A DANCER THAN AS A SPEAKER.  SHE SPOKE HESITANTLY, HALTINGLY.

 

SHE REMINDED THE GROUP THAT SHE HAD BEEN RAISED IN THAT CHURCH.  SHE DESCRIBED THE SANCTUARY, INCLUDING THE BAPTISMAL FONT, AND SHE SAID SHE HAD BEEN BAPTIZED AS AN INFANT RIGHT AT THAT VERY FONT.

 

SHE DID NOT REMEMBER ANY OF THIS, OF COURSE, BUT SHE TOLD HOW HER FATHER WAS VERY PROUD OF THAT MOMENT AND THAT WHEN SHE WAS A LITTLE GIRL, HE WOULD OFTEN TELL HER OF THE SUNDAY SHE WAS BAPTIZED.

 

HE WOULD DESCRIBE THE BAPTISMAL DRESS SHE WORE, HE WOULD REMEMBER THE HYMNS THAT WERE SUNG AND WHAT THE MINISTER HAD SAID IN THE SERMON, AND HE ALWAYS ENDED THE STORY BY CLAPPING HIS HANDS TOGETHER AND EXCLAIMING, “OH, SWEETHEART, THE HOLY SPIRIT WAS IN THE CHURCH THAT DAY!”

 

SHE THEN SAID THAT AS A CHILD, SHE WOULD GO TO WORSHIP ON SUNDAY WITH HER PARENTS AND WOULD WONDER, “WHERE IS THE HOLY SPIRIT IN THIS CHURCH?”  SHE WOULD LOOK AT THE BRASS ORGAN PIPES, AT THE RAFTERS IN THE CEILING, AND AT THE STAINED-GLASS WINDOWS, AND SHE WOULD WONDER, “IS THAT WHERE THE HOLY SPIRIT IS IN THIS CHURCH?”

 

THEN SHE PAUSED FOR A MOMENT, AND EVERYBODY IN THE ROOM LEANED FORWARD TO HEAR WHAT SHE WOULD SAY NEXT.

 

“AS MANY OF YOU KNOW,” SHE CONTINUED, “I LOST BOTH PARENTS TO CANCER IN THE SAME WEEK, LAST WINTER.  DURING THAT AWFUL WEEK, ON A DARK WEDNESDAY AFTERNOON, I WAS DRIVING HOME FROM VISITING MY PARENTS IN THE HOSPITAL, AND I WAS PASSING BY THE CHURCH.

 

I FELT AN INTENSE NEED TO PRAY, AND SO I CAME INTO THE CHURCH AND SAT IN ONE OF THE BACK PEWS AND BEGAN TO PRAY.  THE CHURCH WAS DARK, AND IN THE SHADOWS, I PRAYED AND POURED OUT MY GRIEF TO GOD, AND CRIED FROM THE BOTTOM OF MY HEART.

 

A MEMBER OF THE CHURCH,” AND HERE SHE NAMED HER, “WAS IN THE KITCHEN PREPARING A MEAL FOR A CHURCH MEETING, AND SHE SAW ME PRAYING AND KNEW WHAT WAS HAPPENING IN MY LIFE.  SHE TOOK OFF HER APRON, CAME AND SAT BESIDE ME IN THE PEW, HELD MY HAND, AND PRAYED WITH ME.

 

IT WAS THEN,” THE YOUNG WOMAN SAID, “THAT I KNEW WHERE THE HOLY SPIRIT WAS IN THE CHURCH.”

 

“DO YOU, THE MEMBERS OF THIS CONGREGATION, IN THE NAME OF THE WHOLE CHURCH OF JESUS CHRIST, UNDERTAKE WITH THESE PARENTS THE CHRISTIAN NURTURE OF THIS CHILD, SO THAT IN DUE TIME HE/SHE MAY CONFESS FAITH IN JESUS CHRIST AS LORD AND SAVIOR?”

 

“WE DO.”

 

AND THAT, MY FRIENDS, IS THE EXCEEDINGLY, EXTRAORDINARILY GOOD NEWS OF THE GOSPEL OF JESUS CHRIST!

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Pastor Daniel writes and posts a weekly newsletter that keeps members and friends of the congregation up-to-date. His earlier newsletters are also online, so if you missed something, check those past editions.

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