Stan Cunningham’s father Joe died (11-19-2017). Stan and Linda brought him to their home to spend his final days. I watched him slowly dying, getting ready to make his way to the Holy Father as the Lord Jesus Christ did, through suffering. He lay upstairs for more than a month lovingly attended to by these two, with good support at needy times from attentive and kind medical people.
I’ve watched this happening repeatedly in the last couple of months and it reminded me again of the bankrupt nature of religious lecturing that’s so often offered as a substitute for constant gospeling. “Gospely” words spoken in subdued and pious tones close to the end are themselves a judgment on our month after month and year after year lecturing fashion. That judgment remains sharp even when the “gospely”words are sincere.
No one lists the towns of Paul’s missionary journeys under the above conditions. No one wants to explain “the qualifications of deacons” at such a place. And how pathetic and tragic is it when those who ceaselessly offer some version of the “health & wealth now” story whisper their parting words to the sufferer rather than the public “religion of the healthy mind” they peddle.
The throbbing center of the Christian faith, the heart of the Gospel is God Himself. He makes Himself present via the foundational truth of the Bible’s message and the embodiment of that divine presence in lives lived before us. GOD is the Gospel and it is the Gospel that is “able to build us up and give us an inheritance among all those that are sanctified” (Acts 20:32). It isn’t a Bible God gives us! He gives Himself in giving us the truth He tells about Himself! That’s how He makes himself present in us and to us. It isn’t information He wishes to give us—it’s Himself via the transformative information (truth) He gives us. Bible texts are no substitute for an absent God, they are the way GOD makes Himself present.
It’s long past time when we try to “prepare the dear sufferer for his/her death” with some pious words about “the more important matters.” The business of those who are called to minister for GOD is to help prepare us for life and if they purpose to be faithful to that calling and have the wisdom enough to know the difference between “gospel” and the rehearsal of interesting material that we can live and die well without knowing, they will constantly gospel to us from behind pulpits or lecterns.
I don’t say they can do it flawlessly! I don’t expect that they would! But it’s GOD people like me need—not just any old God; the God of the Bible, the God of historical reality, the God and Father of the Lord Jesus Christ, the God who entered, actually and historically, into the human situation as Jesus of Nazareth. We need teachers to take us seriously and speak constantly to us the world creating word of Truth in and through which GOD makes Himself present.
(Holy One, come to our aid that we might come to the aid of others that life might become life, here and now and that then we will understand that those who believe on your Holy Son do not die. John 6:50; 11:26, your truth-filled claim. This prayer in Jesus our Savior.)