Because of circumstances beyond my control, Thanksgiving at the Seus' was postponed until Friday. That left me with free time in the middle of Thursday while you folks were communing with family. I did something I have wanted to do and headed down to see extended family (you might say) at the Whosoever Gospel Mission in Philadelphia. (I like the name. Good doctrinal emphasis, "whosoever." Reminds me of Isaiah 55:1 "Come, everyone who thirst, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat!")
I had called ahead and it turns out there were enough volunteers to serve lunch but I was welcome. I arrived in time for the worship service. It consisted of a few hymns and then the floor was thrown open to testimonies. When testimonies are real and plentiful you don't necessarily need a sermon. The run-of-the-mill testimony at the 118-year-old residential facility that offers food, clothing, education, counseling, and rehabilitation is a sermon "plus": One gets from any half decent testimony what the Apostle Paul calls "of first importance . . . that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised from the dead on the third day in accordance to the Scriptures" (1 Corinthians 15:3-4).
That's pretty much the whole gospel; the rest is fine-tuning. And I heard it seven times over on Thursday, as one hand in the audience went up and then another. Large grown men, some standing in place, some taking to the podium at the front of the room, most stifling tears, told, with joy, of the gospel that saved them. It occurs to me that they covered every inch of 1 Corinthians 15:3-4-the part about Christ dying for their sins, and the part about Christ not being dead anymore but raised. Though the men were not what some would consider sophisticated theologians, they really "got" Romans 6-that if Christ is raised and alive and powerful against the principalities, rulers, and powers, then they also are raised and alive and powerful against the principalities and powers.
It is good now and then to sneak down to the missions and shelters and prisons on the holidays, or any other time. Sometimes you just need to hear the gospel sharp and clear, to be with people who know exactly what they were saved from and exactly who saved them.
To hear commentaries by Andrée Seu, click here.