In his classic word on missions in Romans 10, Paul says: “The word is near you: it is in your mouth and in your heart.”
In our neck of the woods you can barely chuck a rock without hitting a church. You would have to go out of your way to entirely avoid the word of God. Many do go out of their way to avoid it. But it is near.
After gathering manna from the floor of the wilderness for 40 years, the people of Israel no longer saw it for the wonder that it was, as the miraculous token of God’s ungrudging goodness.
So it is too with “the Bread of Life which came down from heaven to give life to the world.” Christ and His gospel have been so near for so long that we assume it will always be there. We are prone to “despise preaching and His word” as Luther put it in the Catechism, simply because it is so familiar, so “near.” Sadly, many then drink the devil’s “Koolaid” that any real revival or renewal in the Church can come only from something “far away.”
So instead of believing what is under their very noses, folks run off on pilgrimages to far-off church-growth seminars to learn the latest secret techniques. Clergy, disillusioned with burning the midnight oil over their Bibles, ascend far-away “mountaintops” to inquire of some self-appointed “guru” on how to breathe the breath of life into God’s people again. Unhappy with the “home-cooking” of Christ, congregations order a dozen quick-fix programs, hoping this junk food will do for them what the meat and potatoes of law and gospel don’t seem to be doing. Or pay large sums to an “expert” consultant (i.e. guy from out of town with power-point) to explain what ails the flock.
But they forget – and we may forget too – that the word has been near us all along in the simple word of the gospel set forth in our pulpits, classrooms, living rooms and mission fields.
The gospel is not a complicated thing. But neither is there any other thing. The greatest heresies have arisen in the Church not when men blatantly denied the gospel, but when they subtly substituted something else in place of the gospel. The gospel may seem as common to us as manna seemed to Israel. But what if we wake up some morning and it is no longer there? We need no new and improved gospel. We need to truly, totally, heartily believe the gospel we have always had – nothing more, nothing less, nothing else!