A few years ago I was on a mission with a company of colleagues in Estonia. We were housed in Tallin on the southeastern coast of the Baltic Sea. One of the sites that caught our attention was near our hotel-the harbor for the big ships that sailed to and from the major cities around the sea. One night we saw hundreds of persons boarding the flagship Estonian. The next morning we awakened to the tragic news that, due to mechanical failure and a fierce storm, the Estonian had sunk and over 750 passengers went to a watery grave. A pall hung over the city. The next afternoon several Rotarians in our group visited the local club. When the president saw a half dozen strangers come in, he inquired who we were. Learning that we were Christian clergy, he told us that one of their fellow Rotarians had lost loved ones on that voyage, and everyone present shared his distress and sorrow as well as their concern for all their fellow citizens who perished. Then he said, "Could someone in your party speak some words of comfort and hope to us?"
That request on a tragic day has come to my mind often, especially since 9/11 and the havoc Hurricane Katrina has wrought on the Gulf Coast in our country. The world is full of woe, and people are looking for hope and assurance amidst it all.
From the beginning of biblical history, God has been responding to the plight of God's people in and through all circumstances. That's why we call the Bible the Word of God. This is borne out dramatically in the story of Moses. Some wag has said that we should all take hope remembering that even Moses was once a basket case. The story of the Exodus led by the mighty Moses is a classic paradigm of God's power to deliver us from evil and free us from bondage. You know the story of God appearing to Moses as he was tending the sheep of his father-in-law, Jethro, the priest of Midian. There at the burning bush, God directed Moses to go back to Egypt and tell Pharaoh to "Let my people go."
Now Moses did not take to that task readily. In fact, he demurred, excusing himself because he was not a good speaker. But God would not be denied. He promised Moses that he would tell him what to say plus sending Aaron, Moses' brother, who was a good speaker, to go along and be his mouthpiece. That threesome-God, Moses, and Aaron-fit the bill. But not without one more provision. God said to Moses, "I AM who I AM." Scholars tell us that is to be interpreted, "I will be there for you." In other words, "Remember, Moses, no matter what, no matter where, no matter who, you can count on me."
Isn't that wonderful! God has an amazing way of developing and empowering witnesses. God is never without persons to tell of God's wondrous works, to herald the glad tidings of God's steadfast love and redeeming power. It is on that premise and on that promise that sixty years ago, out of the crucible of World War II, the Protestant Hour was launched. A war-weary nation was taking on new life. Homes were re-established, churches were revitalized, and thirty million war babies began populating the earth like flowers bursting forth in springtime. Through six decades this program has met with gratifying response to our presentation of a warm, intelligent, relevant Biblical message. We've always been ecumenical. Yes, and contrary to public opinion and church nomenclature, we are evangelical in the classical Protestant tradition. None of the participating denominations presumes to have a monopoly on truth. Nor do we force feed our listeners. We do not claim to have all the answers. There are no pat answers to the ultimate mysteries humankind has pondered for centuries; rather we offer Him who is the answer to our deepest needs-Jesus the Christ.
We founded and perpetuate this ministry on the saviorhood of Christ expressed by Paul in our scripture lesson. Paul emphasizes that we are saved by grace through faith. But it is through hearing the gospel that people believe. Martin Luther went on to say that the preaching of the gospel is the very presence of Christ. Furthermore, we are aware of both the threat and promise of life on planet earth. We earnestly seek, as Jesus taught us to pray, for God's kingdom on earth as it is in heaven.
One of the signs of our times is a spiritual hunger in hearts everywhere. Listeners such as yourself tell us that they desire not merely to know about God but to know God personally. Amidst all the complexity and controversy in churches today, there is a persistent longing for an authentic experience of the Living Christ.
You have doubtless noticed our new name: Day 1. Now, that's not for novelty or to be different. It has profound theological and spiritual import. It harks back to the beginning of biblical history-to what St. Augustine called the one great miracle-creation. Wonder of wonders -- that anything should be at all, and you and I a part of it!
In the beginning God brought light out of darkness and order out of chaos. God is still doing that for all who call upon him. God not only creates, God re-creates. Those who believe and exercise faith can experience life anew: new light on life's perplexities, order out of chaotic living, ruined lives remade, broken relations restored, and sins forgiven. Herein is the ultimate goal of the gospel we proclaim: a new creation, life transformed by the grace of God and the presence of the living Christ. Such is our hope for now and forever. What a faith to be shared!
In the words of Ernest Nichol:
We've a story to tell to the nations,
That shall turn their hearts to the right,
A story of truth and mercy,
A story of peace and light.
We've a savior to show to the nations,
Who the path of sorrow has trod,
That all of the world's great peoples,
Might come to the truth of God.
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Will you join me in prayer?
We thank you, O God, for the chorus of voices that for six decades has stirred the hearts of millions through the medium of the Protestant Hour and Day One. Likewise, we offer our thanks for the countless listeners who have encouraged and supported us and have joined us in spreading the Good News. Empower us as we seek to meet the urgency of this hour with your eternal Word. Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.