“Word for Today” – 3 John – www.concordialutheranchurch.com

November 16, 2009 at 4:45 am Leave a comment

Dear John Letter 1They used to be called “Dear John” letters.  Now they’re more like “Dear John” emails or texts or even Facebook posts.  An increasing and alarming number of people, not wanting to have difficult face-to-face conversations with a partner, will opt for a less confrontational, even if more devastating, option of breaking up with their partners using electronic means of communication.  The brilliant spirit of American capitalism has even, well, capitalized on this trend.  A boyfriend or girlfriend can pre-record a breakup phone message to be sent to their partner so they don’t have to have an actual conversation through one service.  There is another service known as the “Rejection Hotline,” available in more than eighty area codes.  If, after a first date, someone does not want to give their date their real phone number, they can give them the “Rejection Hotline” phone number, which, when called, explains that they have been rejected.  Then, there are “STD e-cards.”  This debacle of a service allows its users to send anonymous e-cards to past sexual partners if they suspect that they may have given them an STD.  A money maker?  Absolutely.  A pathetic example of sin and deceit at its worst?  Sadly, yes.

There are certain things and situations for which a face-to-face conversation is needed.  Indeed, this is John’s argument in today’s reading from 3 John.  At the end of this very brief letter, the apostle concludes:  “I have much to write you, but I do not want to do so with pen and ink. I hope to see you soon, and we will talk face to face” (verses 13-14).  Apparently, a leader in one of John’s churches in Asia Minor named Diotrephes was gossiping maliciously about John and his fellow ministers seeking to discredit John’s ministry and wreck John’s church (verses 9-10).  In light of this difficult situation, John feels a face-to-face visit, rather than just a letter, is in order with Diotrephes and this congregation.

The letters of the New Testament are the most lengthy and colorful of all the ancient world.  Typically, letters from antiquity are short and without pathos.  One of my favorite examples is this letter, written from Mystarion to Stoetis:

Greetings. I have sent you my Blastus to get forked sticks for my olive gardens.  See that he does not loiter, for you know I need him every hour.  Farewell.

Wow.  How boring.  This letter, however, written in AD 50, is a fine example of standard first century epistolatory fare.  Contrast this with the towering rhetoric of the New Testament epistles, and there is no comparison.  And yet, as towering as their written rhetoric may be, there is still no substitute for verbal, face-to-face communication.  Indeed, this is one of the reasons that the reformers so extolled the value of preaching.  For as wonderful as the written Word of God is, the reformers knew that the written Word of God takes on a unique power when it is spoken.  In one of my favorite quotes from Martin Luther, and one that I take to heart every time I teach and preach, he declares, “The Gospel should not be written, but screamed” (AE Companion Volume 63-34).  People who have heard me know that I have no problem screaming the gospel.

So here is your challenge for today.  With whom can you share a message from God’s Word?  Not just in an email or through a text message or over a Facebook post or via a blog (and yes, I am keenly aware of the irony of that statement), but with your mouth.  With whom can you actually speak about Jesus today?  We are commanded and commissioned to do such speaking and, if need be, even screaming.  So speak with someone about Jesus and his gospel today.  Who knows?  God’s Word, spoken through you, might just change a human heart.  And that’s heaven’s greatest joy.  I hope it’s yours too.

Entry filed under: Word for Today.

“Word for Today” – 2 John – www.concordialutheranchurch.com “Word for Today” – Philippians 1 – www.concordialutheranchurch.com

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