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For generations, Presbyterians have summed up our reason for existence in what we call the Six Great Ends of the Church. As stated in our Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) Book of Order (F-1.0304), [download the whole thing here for FREE] they being with:
In our culture and time we need to unpack some of the language and words used in this statement as well as in the gospel stories. They’ve either become tired and worn-out, no longer meaning anything; or they mean something that is quite possibly different than their original meaning in the ancient texts.
The word proclaim in Greek means the sharing of news or a tiding in the public square by a known herald or crier. It’s become synonymous with “to preach.” What we forget is that is has a strong connotation of something that is publicly shared with all citizens of a polis (town) in the public square.
The word gospel means good news, tidings or message. It was used to describe the word that a messenger would deliver to the other troops and citizens after a victory in battle. It has come to mean the Gospel, that is the the good news of God’s victory in Jesus of Nazareth. But what is the victory that it’s about? Over whom? and what?
The words salvation comes from the Greek word for saving which means to be save from something, to be delivered, to be healed, redeemed or made whole. It’s much bigger than just the forgiveness of sins, it’s about the liberating transformation of the whole world.
Jesus starts off his ministry exploding into the work of proclaiming the victory of God’s saving power in the world. In 1 Corinthians Paul offers pastoral advice to the ancient church in Corinth, reminding them about the importance of wisdom – which was paramount in their culture rooted in philosophy and the teaching of Socrates that “the unexamined life is not worth living.” Paul talks about how the wisdom of the world sees the wisdom of God as foolish and vice-versa. God’s wisdom is both clear and beyond our understanding, it both makes sense and is completely opposed to what we know and do in our daily life.
So what is it that we are to do and be as the Church, the community of those called to (in part) proclaim the gospel for the salvation of humankind?
Questions for Reflection & Examen:
Download a Study Sheet on today’s scriptures HERE.