THE WORD: The Man - The Book - The Message we share.
[This short sermon was given at St. Aldates Student Night to prompt discussion for pastorate groups. The following week was the beginning of the OICCU (Oxford Inter-Collegiate Christ Union) mission involving talks by Tim Keller of NY Redeemer Presbyterian Church - a church which by God's good grace has spread the Gospel of King Jesus to literally thousands of people. Two weeks after this mission was the Oxford Brookes Mission. This talk was to encourage and exhort people to look at their own lives, ask what they and the Bible are really about and promote courage and discussion when it comes to spreading the message recorded in the book about the God-Man Jesus the King who is the Word of God.]
As you have probably already heard the OICCU mission is next week and the Brookes mission begins on the 18th. So now is a great time to go back to basics, to the very core of what Christians believe. Whether you have been a Christian so long that your first memory is being read Bible stories on your auntie's knee or you don't really know what it is all about, the simple fact is that you never graduate from the Gospel.
There are many here who probably can't wait to get their exams over next term and then graduate into new and greater, and bigger things. But with Jesus there is no exam besides turning up in faith and there is no graduating from the Good News He came to bring us - forgiveness and eternal life. During the mission weeks this term Christians from across this city will be taking time out to spread the 'Word' the Good News of Jesus.
But what is this Good News, this 'Message' Jesus came to share? All too often Christians have a habit of using that bizzaire secret Christian jargon-babble language full of long words like 'atonement' or 'justification.' But who knows what these even mean? Take the confusing example of 'The Word' - something Christians are often fond of speaking about. For example after a reading in Church we often say "This is the Word of the Lord" or before preaching the minister says "Let's hear the Word Peter has to share with us." or even the good old "Oh - my - Word"
For Christians the Word is at the very heart of everything we believe and do. And 'The Word' does not just mean the Bible - we don't read in John Chapter one "In the Beginning was the Bible, and the Bible was with God and the Bible was God!" Rather the Bible is about the Word of God - Jesus the King. In Genesis the Word - Jesus - speaks the universe into existing, and in Revelation it is the Word of God - Jesus - who rides the white warhorse and judges the world. Jesus is the Word of God, Jesus is God come to earth to reveal God to us. For that is what words do - they describe and change and build and show and reveal. Jesus reveals to us God Almighty. God comes to earth and saves us by becoming one of us and dying for us in our place.
And we know about Jesus, about God, and about the things He has done throughout all time for His people because it is accurately written down in 'The Book'. In the Bible we have God's direct speech to His prophets, we have God turning up in Jesus on earth and acting to chage history, and we have the records of the things Jesus did during His life in Galilee and what the Holy Spirit did in the early church as it spread the message of Jesus.
And it is the spreading of this message we find in the Bible, about Jesus the Word, that all Christians are called to take part in. In this passage we just heard we see the sower sowing the seed - the Word of God, that is both Jesus and the conviction that in Him alone is truth - into the whole world, and in some it never even takes root as Satan, the Devil, steals it away, in others it grows quickly but then dies as it doesn't take root, in others it is strangeled to death by worldly fears and worries, and in others it takes deep roots and grows and bears fruit. The message is for all people but only some choose to believe - as we saw in the life of Jesus where many followed Him before it came to crunch time and then they turned on Him and crucified Him.
This parable holds a lesson for everyone here - it is a call to ask ourselves if we are willing to accept the Word sown in our lives, and - like a seed - grow into a mighty oak, grafted into the Kingdom of God through Jesus who gives us the water and light and strength to grow. You don't graduate from the Gospel, you don't graduate from Jesus hanging on the Cross, because once you accept it there is nothing greater. For those who know this, the call is to bear fruit and to spread the seed around to all whom we see and know that it may, by God's will, take root and grow.
Only by believing in Jesus as God come to earth for us and dying for us can people know the freedom God offers us and the eternal life He promises, and this is why as the mission weeks approach we should take a long hard look in the mirror at our own lives and ask just what is it that sustains us and what is it that keeps us, what is it that causes us to grow and flourish, who or what do we truly worship and spend our time and energy and money on, what effect has the Word had on us and in our lives, and what does this mean for us, and what does it mean for others and how we live our lives in relation and fellowship to them. What is your watch-Word, what is the Word on your lips, and what is the Word you live your life by?