Try It

The Rev. Joseph Winston September 27, 2009

Sermon
Grace and peace are gifts for you from God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.1 Advertisers definitely know the power of having consumers “try” a product. Walk into almost any supermarket and you soon will see what I mean. Carefully placed promotions block the normal flow of traffic from one side of the store to the other. These different displays with their bright colors call out to you, “Do not go anywhere else. I am what you want. Put me in your cart.” Down almost every aisle of the grocery store, coupons literally leap out from the shelves enticing you to try something new. Smells from freshly prepared food drift through the store. They make you hungry for the wares they have to offer. Not a single one of these approaches found in the stores of this world works if you stay away. You must be willing to come in and see what they have to offer.
Romans 1:7, 1 Corinthians 1:3, 2 Corinthians 1:2, Galatians 1:3, Ephesians 1:2, Philippians 1:2, 2 Thessalonians 1:2, Philemon 1:3.
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Retailers know this basic fact. They work hard at making you walk in the door. Sometimes a simple approach is the best. Look at this amazing quilt in the window. This sowing machine made it. Take it home and soon you will be making beautiful items like this. Others industries like being loud. Banners and signs all over the city are shouting. All 2009 models must go. The 2010 cars and trucks are arriving. Come in today and make the best deal of the year. Appeals to your pocket book also work. First time home buyers save eight thousand dollars. Let me tell you how to apply for this money. The idea behind all these promotions is simply this. When you try something, you are very likely to return again for another item. Add up all these different transactions and then you have a successful business. Probably the most famous example of this way of thinking is from Lay’s Potato Chips. For over forty years, they kept telling us that “no one can eat just one.” On the television and in print, through songs and words, they kept repeating this basic message. Try it and you will like it. How many of these advertisements do you remember after all these years? Here is one I recall: He tried, but he couldn’t do it. He tried, but he couldn’t do it. He tried, but he couldn’t do it. No one can eat just one. He loves those Lay’s potato chips, Lay’s potato chips, fresh, crunchy, 2

and oh so light. He loves those Lay’s potato chips, Lay’s potato chips, no one can eat just one. This approach worked. People tried Lay’s. People bought Lay’s. The company prospered. Certainly, the idea that positive experiences win someone over is not new. People have known that for years. Maybe you heard your parents say, “You can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.” You know what that phrase means. Be nice and people will respond. We pass this same message down to our children and grandchildren. We remind them, “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.” We teach this behavior on the sports field. We want players to be good sports. The Bible contains examples of this practical way of winning people over to your side and today’s lessons are no exception. Moses tells Joshua not to worry about the prophecies of Eldad and Medad. Why? Moses knows the following. If everyone listened to God as carefully as the prophets did, then we would not have any problems. The exact same theme continues in the psalm for the day. Try the Law says the psalmist. You will learn that it is far better than gold and sweeter than honey. You will not go back to anything else. The author of James picks up the story without missing a beat. Pray and see what happens. The Lord answers. It might seem that this idea about experiencing the Lord is missing in the Gospel Lesson. But it is there. 3

Our lesson for the day begins with John complaining that some unnamed individual is out healing the sick (Mark 9:38).2 The alleged crime seems to be that this person is not from the inner circle of the disciples.3 It is so horrible in John’s eyes that he and the others tried to put a halt to this practice.4 Jesus responds (Mark 9:39). He first commands John not to prevent this person from helping others. Then Jesus tells John not to worry. Anyone who works in the name of the Lord will not be able to speak against God. In other words, once they have tried doing what the Lord actually wants, they will continue to be on the Lord’s side.5 This kind of behavior described in today’s Gospel actually frightens good Lutherans. We think to ourselves, “How can Jesus do this?” We want specific details about that one healing the sick in Jesus’ Name. Where did this man study? Who were his teachers? Did he pass all of his classes? Who is making sure that he stays within some confessional boundaries?6 To summarize it in the words of the Lutheran Confession. We simply want “good order” in the church where we worship.7 All of this concern on our part is nothing more than a cover for what really terrifies us. We are scared silly of what happens if we take God at His Word. We do not want anyone to walk into the door of the Lord’s house without first
This is the only time in Mark where the disciple named John acts alone. John R. Donahue, S.J. and Daniel J. Harrington, S.J.; Idem, editor, The Gospel of Mark, Volume 2, Sacra Pagina, (Collegeville, MN: The Liturgical Press, 2002), p. 285. 3 One cannot tell if the the exorcist was not following Jesus or the disciples. Ibid., p. 286. 4 The text is ambiguous and could either mean verbal or physical restraint. Ibid.. 5 Ibid. 6 It sometimes seems in our desire to protect God’s Word, we promote a sophisticated version of Donatism where only the blameless are able to lead the church. 7 This way of understanding tradition is listed almost ten times in the Lutheran Confessions.
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knowing all of our traditions, we cannot imagine a stranger picking up that free trial membership to this church without our explicit consent, and we do not want somebody from around here taking that first bite from the Lord’s Table without understanding every detail of Lutheran theology because we all know what will occur. God will transform these outsiders into Christians just like us. Our way of life that keeps people away from the Savior does not stop God. He continues to invite people into the Church. Go outside and look. Over there, on that corner where we never bother to go, the Lord of life is handing out free samples worth more than all the gold in the world. The gift Jesus has for those men and women, boys and girls that walk by Him is forgiveness. He says to all that will listen, “I accept you.” In that discussion, in the convenience store that we never visit, the Holy Spirit invites everyone to come and join Him. At the rundown house outside this church where they cannot afford to put a decent meal on the table, Jesus is there. He offers them the one meal that satisfies all our cravings. If we are honest with ourselves, God does this all over the world. The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit go out and ask everyone to come, to see, to smell, to touch, to taste, and to hear that the Lord is good. That is also what God does for you. At one time in your life, someone wanted you to share in the joy and the hope that they felt. These people, probably your parents, did what any normal person would do. They invited you into the group. For most of you, your entry into the church happened so early in your life that you do not even remember it. You were baptized as a child. If you happen to be one of those people who never have strayed from the way of truth, God has blessed you. 5

God has given you a lifetime of good memories. Others of us were not so fortunate; we left the faith and tried what the world had to offer. The sights and the sounds of the world called out to us and asked us to try them. So, we did. At first, they seemed so good but when push came to shove, every one of these experiences lacked something. All that glitters is not gold. They left a bad taste in our mouths. The Lord brought us back and we are thankful. Five, ten, or even fifteen years ago, that would have been the end of the story. At that time, most of the people in this country had experienced Christianity in one-way or another. Either they were in church on a Sunday or we expected them to come back once they had children. Today, this is no longer true. Vast numbers of people in this community that we serve have no idea what it means to be a Christian. No one has ever asked them to come and try. That is our job. God wants you to offer them the real thing because once you have experienced it you will never go back to poor imitations. Every advertiser that has ever lived knows this one indisputable fact. Satisfy a customer’s need and they will be loyal customers for life. What they won’t tell you is what you really are craving is God. That is what is missing from our lives. Friends and family, neighbors and strangers need to know what they are looking for. Offer them God and see how this changes both them and you. “The peace of God, which passeth all understanding, keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”8
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Philippians 4:7.

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References
Donahue, S.J., John R. and Harrington, S.J., Daniel J.; Idem, editor, The Gospel of Mark, Volume 2, Sacra Pagina, (Collegeville, MN: The Liturgical Press, 2002).

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