In the upper room on Easter evening, when Christ told the disciples to wait in Jerusalem until God had “clothed them with power from on high,” Jesus also “opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and said to them, ‘Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be preached in His name to all nations…’” (Luke 24:45-47).

In the same vein, Paul wrote to the Corinthians, “For what I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that He was buried, that He was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures…” (1 Corinthians 15:3-4).

The core of apostolic ministry and the mission of Christ’s Church is the preaching of repentance and forgiveness of sins in Jesus’ name.

The matter of first importance is the delivery to others of what we have received – Christ’s death and resurrection for us.

One of the basic questions I ask of any sermon, especially my own, is this: “Does the preacher deliver the goods?” In other words, what is the real goal of the sermon? Did it clearly deliver what God promises? Or simply talk about the Gospel?

I believe that whatever the goal of the sermon or lesson, whether it is a “faith goal” (that the hearers/learners might grow in faith in Christ) or a life goal (that the hearers might grow in living the Christian life), nothing good will happen unless you truly “deliver the goods.” What do I mean?

The Gospel is more than happy talk about Jesus and God. The Gospel is preaching and teaching that actually brings forgiveness of sins, life and salvation in Jesus’ name. It is the death and resurrection of Jesus personally applied to dying sinners.

Where the Law has exposed the cuts and wounds from living in a sinful world, “delivering the goods” means applying the healing medicine of forgiveness in a personal way: “Your sin is forgiven!” Indeed, when the Law has killed us by exposing the fact that sin and its brokenness are not only “out there” but also “in here” – in my heart, my life, my being – “delivering the goods” means bringing to dead ones the living Word of the God who raises the dead. Jesus is alive! In water, in Word, in Body and Blood, He makes you and me alive.

You and I are called to speak the Word of Christ, and His Word does what it says. “Peace be with you!” said Jesus (John 20:19), and His Word actually brings peace. “Because I live you will live also” (John 14:19b), Jesus told His disciples. And His promise brings what it says – life! When you have prepared to preach or teach – go back, look it all over and ask, “how do these words bring life, the life of Christ, to those who will hear?”

Just think of it! You and I have the privilege of actually delivering God’s life-giving promises to people when they need it most. You are the delivery person in your pulpit, your classroom, your vocation, wherever God takes you. Let every word then serve this goal – to bring life, to “deliver the goods!”

 +Herbert Mueller
LCMS First Vice President