2 Epiphany, A
A man went up to a workman at a construction site and asked, "What are you doing?" The man replied, "What does it look like I'm doing? I'm laying bricks." The man went to the man next to him and asked, "What are you doing?" The man replied, "I'm putting up a wall." He went down to the next man and asked, "What are you doing?" The man replied, "I'm helping build a cathedral to the glory of God." Three men, all doing the same task but one of them could see beyond the bricks and mortar. He is the kind of workman employers want - a worker who "thinks big". If a bricklayer can see himself building a cathedral to God's glory, then surely that church which is built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone will also want to think big - to think of all that the church, empowered and strengthened by the Holy Spirit, can do to the glory of God.
God Wants His church to 'think big'. In these Epiphany days we remember that the Lord of Glory has burst into our world in human flesh and blood, to make known His salvation. God's plans and purposes encompass nothing less than the salvation of the whole world. John points to Jesus as the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. Isaiah speaks of the Servant of the Lord, who will bring salvation to the ends of the earth. And God has entrusted His church with the responsibility of making make His salvation known to a lost and dying world, as He empowers us by His Spirit to bring His light of life to the nations.
Our text today is sometimes referred to as the Great Commission of the Old Testament. God wants to reveal His love, His grace and His salvation to the whole of lost and dying humanity. From the very foundation of the world, God had planned the salvation of all who would believe. It was never just about Adam and Eve, who are the first to receive the promise of a Saviour from sin. It was never just about Abraham, with whom God made His covenant. It was never just about Israel as the chosen people. And all this is never just about you and me. God's purpose is far greater than that. Through the prophet Isaiah, the Lord speaks to His Servant - or perhaps it would be better to say that the Lord speaks of His Servant, for the only One who can live up to the call and expectation of our text is the Messiah, Jesus Christ. In His grace and mercy, the Lord of All reaches out to all, saying to His Servant: "It is too small a thing for you to be my servant to restore the tribes of Jacob and bring back those of Israel I have kept I will also make you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring my salvation to the ends of the earth."
How blessed we are that God thinks big! We hear John say it again: "Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world?" God's plan involves not just a few people, but all people. Jesus comes to proclaim the good news of the Kingdom to the people of Israel but He also reaches out beyond the borders of Israel. He offers living water to a Samaritan woman of questionable reputation. He heals the servant of a Roman centurion and commends the centurion for his faith. He casts a demon out of the daughter of a Canaanite woman and praises her faith, too. When the loving arms of Christ are outstretched on the cross, it is for you, for me and for all people. Through His death and resurrection, Christ is God's salvation of the earth. He is the light of life for Jew, for Gentile, for all who believe in Him.
The need for that light is as great as it ever was. There are many still lost in the darkness of sin and death. The turmoil and uncertainty of this world continually remind us of the terrible power of sin at work in the hearts of people everywhere. The struggles we see in our own lives remind us that we, too, are still affected by sin's power at work in us. Only God's forgiveness brings light to the darkened heart.
Thankfully, the Servant who is the life of all continues His light-giving ministry through His church. Peter reminds us: But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light We are charged with His commission: Think big! Bigger than you do, bigger than you ever have! Bring My light to the very ends of the earth. What an awesome responsibility God has given to us! Unfortunately, it often seems to be more of an impossible goal. For most of us the idea of sharing our faith with the people around us seems overwhelming. How can even begin to think about making Jesus Christ and His salvation known to the whole world?
God never asks His people for anything He has not first provided to us. He has blessed us as individuals with the gifts that we use together in His Church. We have the opportunity within our own circle of friends and family to bring light to those around us. But God thinks bigger. He calls us together as congregations, that we may use the gifts He has given to individuals to build up one another. As a congregation we work to reach out to the community around us. Perhaps we even send a missionary or three to another place. But how can one person or one congregation, for that matter, ever hope to bring the light of God's truth to the whole world?
This is why our congregations come together in Lutheran Church Canada. Walking together, we are able to do more than we can alone. Working together, we are able to support mission work in our districts and throughout the world. Sharing together, we are able to think big. Far bigger than we could ever be alone. It is too small a thing to confine our efforts to Winnipeg, Kitchener, or the Georgian Triangle. It is too small a thing to focus only on Canada. Empowered by His Spirit, we can think big and be His light to the nations, bringing His salvation to the ends of the earth.
Paul reminds us that God, who has called you into fellowship with His Son Jesus Christ our Lord, is faithful. And He will grant success to His church; the Church which thinks big and which goes forth in His name and in His stead to bring His salvation in Jesus Christ to the very ends of the earth.