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Luke 6:37-45 
"Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven; give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you."
He also told them a parable: "Can a blind man lead a blind man? Will they not both fall into a pit? A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone when he is fully trained will be like his teacher. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, 'Brother, let me take out the speck that is in your eye,' when you yourself do not see the log that is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take out the speck that is in your brother's eye.
"For no good tree bears bad fruit, nor again does a bad tree bear good fruit, for each tree is known by its own fruit. For figs are not gathered from thornbushes, nor are grapes picked from a bramble bush. The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks." (ESV)
Product Over Sales
Tuesday of Pentecost 16
15 September 2015
Journalist Peggy Noonan recounted in an editorial that Steve Jobs thought that the product should drive a company, not the sales force. Jobs thought that decline occurred at great companies when "the company does a great job, innovates and becomes a monopoly or close to it in some field, and then the quality of the product becomes less important. The company starts valuing the great salesman, because they're the ones who can move the needle on revenues." Those who are producing the product, engineers and designers; the thinkers that got the company to its present status are no longer important. Noonan says, "Their efforts are no longer at the white-hot center of the company's daily life. They 'turn off.' IBM and Xerox, Jobs said, faltered in this way. The salesmen who led the companies were smart and eloquent, but 'they didn't know anything about the product.' In the end this can doom a great company, because what consumers want is good products" ("A Caveman Won't Beat a Salesman," WSJ, 19 November 2011, A15). When I read this it hit me like a ton of bricks. I wondered if the church hasn't done precisely this by emphasizing so-called missionality (whatever that means) over the gospel content, which is the product of the church. Has the church, too, emphasized sales over the product? The revenue side for the church, of course, is the number of people in the pews and the offerings they represent.
Perhaps the church should ponder this worldly wisdom of Steve Jobs. Have the sales people taken over the church, cutting the importance of the product of the church, which is the proclamation of the evangelical truth? Now technique is more important than the proclamation. Delivery is more important than content. Packaging is more important than what is packaged. Is the church becoming the Xerox of the religious world? It is not as though the people committed to sales are bad or intend to hurt the product; it's just that they don't know anything about it. This will cause an inevitable decline in the company of the church. Kyrie, eleison.
The "white-hot center" of the church's life is the gospel of Jesus Christ. If the sales people get control of the company of the church, then those who produce the message will certainly "turn off." Could it be that declining seminary enrollment is a symptom of that turning off? The theological content is presumed, a given; no longer a matter for the deep and long consideration of the church's theologians; no longer the powerful product of the church's pulpits, printing presses, and classrooms. There has been far too much talk about the church being mission (sales) driven, when the talk should be about the church being led by a quality product (the gospel). If the product is at the forefront of he church's life, then the Lord Jesus will be the one who is leading the company which He has purchased with His own blood. Those whom He has called will find themselves at the white-hot center of His heart in the message of the gospel, which is the product of the church. Bishop Theodoret of Cyrus (c. 393 - c. 457) was very much about a good product in the church.


Theodoret of Cyrus

"The holy Apostle charges us to take quite the opposite course [than to be silent about the gospel truth]. 'Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season' (2Ti 4:2). And the Lord says to this very spokesman, 'Do not be afraid, but go on speaking and do not be silent' (Acts 18:9), and to Isaiah, 'Cry aloud; do not hold back' (Is 58:1) and to Moses 'Go down and warn the people' (Ex 19:21), and to Ezekiel 'I have made you a watchman for the house of Israel,' and you shall 'warn the wicked' (Ez 3:17, 19), and others. I think it needless to write at length to one who knows. Not only therefore are we not distressed at having spoken freely, but we even rejoice and are glad, and praise Him who has thought us worthy of these sufferings. Yes, I even call on my friends to encounter the same perils.
"If they know that we do not keep the apostolic rule of the faith, but swerve to the right hand or the left, let them hate us. Let them join the opposite side. Let them be ranked with those who are at war with us. But if they bear witness to our holding the right teaching of the gospel message, we hail them with the cry, 'Do you too "stand having fastened on the belt of truth....and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace'" (Eph 6:14-15)? It is said that virtue consists not only of temperance, righteousness, and prudence, but also courage, and that by means of courage the rest of its component parts are preserved. For righteousness needs the alliance of courage in its war against wrong. Restraint vanquishes lack of control with the aid of courage. For this reason the God of all said to the prophet 'My righteous one shall live by faith, and if he shrinks back, my soul has no pleasure in him' (Heb 10:38). Shrinking he calls cowardice. Hold fast then, my dear friend, to the apostolic doctrines, for 'the coming one will come and will not delay' (Heb 10:37) and 'He will render to each one according to his works' (Rm 2:6), 'for the present form of this world is passing away' (1Co 7:31), and the truth shall be made manifest."

Theodoret of Cyrus, Letter to Uranius, Bishop of Emesa
Almighty God, our great Redeemer, in the sacrifice of Your Son You put to death our wretched flesh and in His rising restored our life. Sustain us in our battle against the flesh and all its powers. Grant that we may always cling to Christ by faith in this life that at the last we may rejoice to stand in our own flesh and see You face to face; through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

For Paul Lodholz, who is undergoing chemotherapy, that he would be strengthened in body and soul and delivered in the midst of suffering by Christ
For those suffering the outrageous hardness of heart that is rampant in our culture, by which people are just cast off if they are thought to be inconvenient or troublesome
For Diva Pilli, who is undergoing diagnosis and therapy, that the Lord Jesus would grant her healing
Art: Dürer, Albrecht  The Adoration of the Trinity (1515) 

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