Preaching is the Reason

St. Paul tells us he has no choice but to proclaim the gospel.  It is "an obligation laid on me, and woe to me if I do not proclaim the gospel" (1 Corinthians 9:16).

When one is so compelled, he or she will do most anything to fulfill the mission.  Paul said, "I have become all things to all people, that I might by all means save some." (9:22; part of the sanctuary reading for this Sunday: 1 Corinthians 9:16-23).  If you'd like to read a version of the gospel message Paul preached - Acts 13:13-41 is a representative sermon.

It might surprise you, given all the amazing deeds Jesus performed, that preaching is the reason Jesus says he came: Let us go on to the neighboring towns, so that I may proclaim the message there also; for that is what I came out to do (Mark 1:38; part of the reading for The Well - Mark 1:29-39).

That's not how we usually describe the purpose of Jesus' incarnation.  Preaching sometimes carries a negative connotation.  People picture finger-wagging, not life-changing good news.  And, when we think of the purpose of Jesus coming, we tend to think it was to reveal God's love, to heal, and to save us from our sins.  Certainly his works were part of the message he proclaimed, and later in Mark's gospel Jesus will say that he came to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many (Mark 10:45), so our depiction of Jesus coming to save is not off-base at all.

It is notable, however, that his first description of why he came was to preach.  Realizing that, Paul's willingness to do whatever it takes to share the gospel begins to make sense.  There is power in words that we sometimes overlook.  Words don't perform surgery or land airplanes or grow food and, yet, I don't want any surgeon who is unwilling to hear from me or from other medical personnel what we think is going on, and I don't want any pilot who won't listen to air traffic control, and there's even a theory that plants respond to voices (see here).  And none of that even covers the way others' words have helped and hurt our self-esteem through the course of life.

Words are powerful, so the next time you are tempted to let yourself off the hook by saying you'd rather see a sermon than hear one, be grateful for the sermons you've seen that make credible the words you've heard, but also recognize that what we say matters and that it is in giving voice to God's love in Jesus Christ, his life, ministry, death, and resurrection, the freedom from sin he offers and the call to abundant life he issues that many people have come to Jesus.

You know from hurtful and helpful words you've heard in life how much words really do matter.  I encourage you to prayerfully work to put your faith into words.