“Beautiful Feet”

Romans 10:5-15

In the series “Grace is for Everyone”

Have you heard the news?  It’s amazing, exciting news.  Maybe you missed it somehow – I don’t know how anyone could have; people have only been talking about it for at least the last three years and sharing of the story has only increased up to now.  It’s been talked about on TV and radio, printed in the newspaper, blogged about on the internet and discussed in personal conversations.  As a result of the news being shared, lots of people are changing their routines. In some places, schools and businesses are even closing.

Tomorrow, August 21, in the United States, we will be able to observe a solar eclipse. The totality of the eclipse will be visible in a 65-mile-wide path stretching from Oregon to South Carolina.  The last time a total solar eclipse was visible coast-to-coast was in 1918.  The next coast-to-coast eclipse is expected in 2045, though one visible from Texas to the northeast will occur in 2024.

For this event, NASA is sending up planes to view the eclipse. Tourists are flocking to cities and towns in the path of totality; hotels have been booked up for years.  Universities, libraries and museums are offering safe viewing opportunities for the public.  Some businesses have sold special glasses for viewing the eclipse safely or are sponsoring special events.

In Findlay and northwest Ohio, we’ll experience a partial solar eclipse, estimated to be about 82-87%, starting about 1:03 p.m., reaching maximum around 2:27 p.m. and concluding at 3:48 p.m. Experts have stressed that it is unsafe to look at the sun during the partial eclipse without solar filters on cameras or telescopes or proper eyewear. Pinhole projection devices are also safe when used properly.

The eclipse is big news to people, because it happens so infrequently in our area.  So people are talking about it, and I imagine we’ll talk about it, sharing how we viewed it or what we were doing during the eclipse.  But eventually, for most people, the excitement will fade away.

There’s another rare event – a one-time only occurrence – that has the possibility to change lives and the world.  In fact, it changed the way history is reckoned.  That was the Incarnation – when God became flesh to dwell among us in Jesus Christ, to love us enough to offer us eternal life with God that begins here and now through death on a cross and resurrection from the dead, to embrace and empower us through the Holy Spirit living within us.  So why doesn’t the good news of God’s grace available for everyone through Jesus Christ get talked about as much as an event like tomorrow’s eclipse?  The two aren’t on the same scale; they aren’t even comparable at all.

As we continue considering Paul’s letter to the Romans, one of the books of the New Testament, we recall that Paul wrote to Christians he had not yet met, but planned to meet during a future mission trip.  He laid out the human situation of sin and need for God’s grace.  He explained that God met our need in Jesus Christ, and when we believe, our identity is changed – we are children of God – and we experience new life.  In our last message, we heard Paul’s amazing news that there is nothing in all of creation that can separate us from God’s love in Jesus Christ our Lord.

In chapters 9-11, Paul explores his concern for his Jewish sisters and brothers who have not yet believed in Jesus.  As we come to our passage today, he is exploring the idea that they may not have heard the gospel.

He says that seeking a right relationship with God by doing good works of the law won’t work.  We don’t have to reach up to heaven to find Jesus nor go to the grave to find him. Instead, quoting Deuteronomy 10:14, he says that “the word is very near, on your lips and in your heart” (10:8). All it takes to experience the fullness of life in relationship with God through Jesus Christ is faith – believing that Jesus is Lord and God raised him from the dead; putting your trust in God through Christ.  He affirms the promise of scripture from the Old Testament prophet Joel:  “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved” (10:13).

Then Paul uses a series of four rhetorical questions – that is, questions that move the discussion along, because he recognizes his readers know the answers already.

  • “How are they to call on one in whom they have not believed?”  In other words, how can they call on the name of the Lord if they don’t believe?  Answer:  They can’t.
  • “How are they to believe in one of whom they have never heard?” Answer:  They can’t.
  • “How are they to hear without someone to proclaim him?” Answer:  They can’t.
  • “How are they to proclaim unless they are sent?” Here the answer changes.

God has sent people bearing the message. To his generation, Paul knew that God had sent him, as well as others like Peter, Andrew, Mary, Priscilla, Aquila, Timothy and others, including the Roman Christians to whom he is writing.  God was faithful in providing people to carry the message, but Paul sees that many in his generation have not responded.

God continues to be faithful, because that is part of who God is.  God is always faithful; therefore, God not only sent messengers in the past, but continues to send messengers into the world today.  “How are they to proclaim unless they are sent?”  Paul says to us, “You have been sent.”  If we act on that sending and carry the good news of Christ to our families, community and world, then everything changes.  They can hear; they can believe; they can call on the Lord and be saved.  But if we don’t, then they can’t.

But let’s be honest. Most Christians (even pastors) get at least a little nervous when we thinking about “proclaiming the gospel.”  It’s easier and safer to share within these walls, but risky to share out in the real world.  We usually think of people like Billy Graham, who travel the world telling about Jesus.  Compared to evangelists like him, we see our witness as woefully inadequate and not worth sharing.  But God wants each and every one of us to share our faith experiences with others honestly – including how we’re still learning, growing, searching and even questioning.

Talking to someone about your faith today requires that you’ve “earned the right.”  It doesn’t work well simply to walk up to someone you don’t know and start talking to them.

Instead, we need to demonstrate our faith through our willingness to meet people where they are, without judgment and with empathy.  Listen to them and seek to understand.  Let them observe your life.  And be ready, as Peter writes in 2 Peter 3:15, “to make a defense … for the hope that is within you.”

During a break in an adult computer class I was teaching more than 20 years ago, Peg approached me. She was trying to get her life back together and gain skills so she could get a job to support herself and her two special needs children.  Some nights she came to class upset by things that happened that day and needed someone to listen, while also getting her on track.  She asked me a question.  “You are different than the other teachers. You’re calm and peaceful, and I want that. Do you believe in God or something?”

I had never imagined that anyone would notice anything different in my life, and I was not prepared with an answer.  I whispered a quick prayer for God’s help and guidance and went on to tell her briefly that I believed in Jesus and shared what he had done for me.  I don’t remember what else I said, or anything else Peg said, except that she thanked me and went on to break.  I don’t know how she responded to anything I offered or if she ever turned her life over to Christ.

It is important to live our lives so others can see a difference.  But that story reminds me one problem with the idea that we should simply live our lives for others to see.  If we never tell them why we do what we do, they might decide we’re just “nice, good and kind” people.  They don’t know that it’s God’s love and grace in us that inspires us to live and serve as we do.

At last week’s ASP Sunday, if you were here, you heard how our youth and adults experienced God.  Some talked about working together with others; some mentioned accomplishing tasks; others talked about building relationships.  It was great to hear!  I’m also glad that there were team members who were ready to share their faith and explain they were there because of God’s grace and love in their lives.  Because at least one team was willing to share, we also witnessed on video the baptism of a homeowner who had given his life to Christ, the result of a team sharing the good news.

Here’s the thing:  As exciting as he eclipse tomorrow is, it is just a fleeting moment in history that will ultimately matter very little in the whole scheme of life.  It will not transform anyone’s life now or forever.  Yet we spend lots of energy talking about it.

Those of us who believe Jesus and have a relationship with God through Christ have something that is literally life-changing, offering hope, joy, peace, strength and more starting now, transforming lives now into forever.  God can help people deal with questions of meaning and purpose, deal with addictions and guilt, guide marriages and family relationships, and more.  If you needed those things, wouldn’t you want someone to offer you help and hope?  Wouldn’t you be willing to hear?  And if you know someone struggling with the challenges of life, wouldn’t you care enough to share your life and your faith with them so they might have what you have?

The Bible tells us that “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”  But how can they call on Christ unless they believe?  How can they believe unless they hear? And how can they hear unless we proclaim?  And how can we proclaim unless we are sent?

But Jesus has sent us. He goes with us always and his Spirit empowers us.

Today, on your Christian journey, I invite you to consider some questions based on our text to assess where you are.  Do you believe and have you called on God?  If not, then I invite you to talk to God and another person about that.  Honestly share where you are and listen for how God loves you, accepts and forgives you, and is ready to answer.  Then call on the name of the Lord.

Has no one around you heard because you haven’t proclaimed?  If not, why not?  Perhaps fear holds you back, but Paul admits fear and trembling in 1 Corinthians 2 as he shared.  He relied on prayer and God’s power to help him, and so can you.  Pray and then be open to opportunities to share the good news of Jesus with others by the way you live and serve and with your words.

Are you waiting to be sent before you proclaim?  Listen carefully to Jesus’ words:  “You will be my witnesses … to the ends of the world” (Acts 1:8).  Therefore, I tell you, Jesus sends you; he gives you his Spirit, so go in his name to people in the places you live, work, go to school and play.  Go, build a relationship, listen with empathy, be ready and share God’s love.

Paul quotes the prophet Isaiah at the close of our scripture reading:  “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news” (10:15b; Isaiah 52:7).  As God sends you out from here today, may you have “beautiful feet” as you offer the good news of Jesus Christ so that others might have abundant life now and forever.


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