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In the church office, we try to help one another and ourselves, by seeking and offering constructive criticism with respect to our sermons. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve consulted with Deacon Mindy to ensure that what I was saying wasn’t too shocking or that it made sense at all. This type of consultation is always helpful.
Two weeks ago, I preached a sermon entitled “No More Excuses” based on a text where Jesus is encountering disciples who, rather than follow right away, are saying, “ok, but first let me....”. Most people received it very well in the spirit in which it was intended, but Pr. Tim pointed out that he “would like to have heard more gospel.” I was completely taken aback. What? I’m so Lutheran, my name is Luther. I live and breathe and eat and speak, “salvation by grace through faith alone!” How is it you can’t hear the gospel? After thinking about it a while, I realized he was absolutely right. Though in my mind, I certainly intended it to undergird the message, I hadn’t said it.
This week, as we reflect on the story of the Good Samaritan, we are going to intentionally focus on how the call to service neither precedes nor precludes the gospel but rather, assumes the gospel. We are Christ’s hands and feet in the world, serving God in the service of God’s people, not to earn brownie points, trying to ‘work our way’ into heaven, but as a response to, and in gratitude for, what Christ has done for us. God graciously puts opportunities to serve right at our feet, and we have the privilege and the capacity to serve only because of God’s grace. And if we achieve anything at all that it is good, it too is a gift of God’s grace. God’s grace is everything, and that grace flows through our service.