Proper 25 Year A 10/29/2023
Leviticus 19:1-2,15-18; Psalm 1; I Thessalonians 2:1-8; Matthew 22:34-46
Rev. Mark A. Lafler
Ten years ago, a time-honored tradition went away…
The Orlando Peabody Hotel was sold and became the Hyatt Regency Orlando…
Prior to the sale, for 25 years the Peabody Hotel hosted a duck march twice a day… You heard that right… a duck march… marching ducks.
I just watched a YouTube video of it last evening.
They rolled out red carpet for them to march on…
Well-known pastor Charles Swindoll tells a story of his visit to the Peabody in Orlando many years ago.
With John Phillip Sousa’s march, “Stars and Stripes Forever,” playing in the background, ducks come from everywhere and muster at the fountain on the main floor and red carpet is unrolled.
They march, without a quack as they go from the fountain back to the curtain. I couldn’t believe it.
And I thought as I watched it, there has to be a reason.
These little things waddle on the carpet and then leave while everybody around is applauding this nonsense.
So I decided one afternoon I would do what no one else in the big group that had gathered was doing.
I would follow them behind the curtain.
So I did, not on the carpet, obviously, but off to the side.
I walked all the way to the curtain and while the march dwindled down to silence and the crowd began to leave, I looked behind the curtain. Now I know why those ducks do that.
Back behind the curtain there is no order at all.
There is duck food everywhere.
There are quacks and sounds and all kinds of other things back there behind the curtain.
That’s why they do it!
I could tell by looking at them when they were marching that they were doing it, but they didn’t have their heart in it at the time.
Their heart, their mind, was on the food at the end of the parade.
Motivation is a powerful force… (food is powerful too).
And it was the motivation behind St. Paul’s preaching to the church in Thessalonica that was being questioned in our reading today…
from 1 Thessalonians 2.
One of the undercurrents of what was going on in the background of this letter is related to some false teachers.
After St. Paul and his group left, some false teachers rose up and questioned the motivations of Paul.
Saying his motives were not pure…
That he wanted to exploit them.
In our text… in our reading today…
Paul is addressing these accusations.
Paul declares that he presented the gospel of Jesus not with selfish motives.
In fact, he writes:
On the contrary, we speak as those approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel. (v. 4)
In all of this, one of the things we are able to outline is the importance of how we share the gospel of Jesus…
The good news of Jesus Christ.
Just as Paul was a steward of the Gospel…
He was entrusted with the good news…
So are we.
God has given all of us, as followers of Jesus Christ, the mission to share the good new of God in Christ.
He has entrusted us…
As his ambassadors to proclaim Jesus in this world.
What this gospel is and how we proclaim it… is very important.
So, to be clear…
The Gospel of Jesus Christ is the message that Jesus has defeated sin and death and that he is Lord of all.
He defeated sin and death by coming to earth,
With the purpose that he died for the sins of the world,
and he rose to life on the third day in victory.
And because of this victorious work,
we who believe in Jesus and in what he has done,
can be free from the penalty of our sins,
and repent and live faithfully in him through the Holy Spirit,
even after our earthly life is over.
It is a gospel of grace through faith in Christ.
The gospel is all about Jesus Christ and what he has done.
This is the message that we are entrusted with and proclaim in this world.
To be clear again, the gospel is not to love God and to love others.
That is the law.
In fact, Jesus called this the summary of the law.
The law brings the judgment of sin and death…
The law shows us that we cannot live up to the standards of God.
The Gospel brings the good news that Christ has fulfilled the law.
And we are made righteous in him alone.
So, this is what we declare…
What we proclaim…
What we share in word and deed.
And how we do it matters.
Our reading tells us:
Three ways we should not declare the gospel of Jesus.
Two ways we should declare the gospel of Jesus.
And the one thing that should be our motivation.
So let’s look at these.
First, three ways we shouldn’t share the gospel.
Number one, not with trickery or deceit.
St. Paul writes in verse 3:
For the appeal we make does not spring from error or impure motives, nor are we trying to trick you.
Never ever, should we try to manipulate someone into belief in Jesus.
Whether it is emotional manipulation or tricking someone into making some sort of commitment…
Such as, if you purchase this special oil today,
you too can receive the blessings of God and become his special servant.
The gospel we proclaim should be clear and transparent.
Leaving the decision to become a follow of Christ Jesus in the providence of God.
Number two, the gospel shouldn’t be shared to please people.
St. Paul writes in verses 4 and 6:
We are not trying to please people but God, who tests our hearts….
We were not looking for praise from people,
not from you or anyone else…
The gospel isn’t proclaimed so that we look good in front of people.
Even today, the good news of the Gospel can be changed and tweaked, adjusted and misappropriated so that a person may gain influence and stature among others.
The gospel of Jesus is not the path toward fame, but a walk of humility.
Number three, the gospel is not a means to grow wealth.
St. Paul writes in verse 5:
You know we never used flattery,
nor did we put on a mask to cover up greed…
The good news of Jesus Christ in this world should never be the path toward great amounts of wealth… actually that is called greed.
We probably don’t have to look too far in our North American culture to find examples of so-called ministers who have become multi-millionaires because of their misuse of the gospel.
Unfortunately, there are far too many living examples in the church today and in the last 50 plus years.
I caution you to avoid the disease of the health and wealth gospels.
We want to avoid sharing the gospel with trickery,
Nor share it in order to please people,
Nor share it with a greedy motivation.
So how should we share the good news of Jesus?
Paul gives us two ways:
He writes in verse 7 and 8:
Instead (of these three ways), we were gentle among you.
Just as a nursing mother cares for her children,
so we cared for you.
When we share the gospel of Jesus Christ, we should proclaim it with gentleness and with care for the people we are giving it to.
We should not be jerks…
We should not be swindlers…
We should not come with gimmicks…
We come in gentleness…
With good intentions of care and well-being.
Paul gives the analogy of a nursing baby in the arms of the mother.
Our proclamation of the Gospel should be motherly…
Caring and gentle.
For it is the kindness of God that leads us to repentance. (Romans 2.4)
God does not call us to beat people over the head with the good news of Jesus.
Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. (Mark 16.15)
He did not say go into all the world and argue with them,
winning quarrels, so that they will turn and not burn.
He said proclaim the gospel…
And we do it in the power of the Holy Spirit…
In gentleness and with care for the people we are ministering to.
Finally, Paul gives the motivation for this.
He writes in verse 8:
Because we loved you so much,
we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God
but our lives as well.
The motivation is love.
It is affection.
We love because God first loved us…
And God shows us how to truly love.
He gave himself up for us as a sacrifice so that we might become children of God. (Ephesians 5.1-2)
The motivation for us to share the gospel in this world is sacrificial love…
And that is found in Christ Jesus.
May we go into the world…
Sharing the good news of God in Christ Jesus…
with gentleness and care…
With a true motivation of love…
That comes from an ever-deepening relationship…
With our Lord and Savior…
 Charles R. Swindoll, Swindoll’s Ultimate Book of Illustrations & Quotes (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1998), 402.