Monday, December 19, 2011

Doubting Thomas: The Essential Twin

Wednesday, December 21, 2011
St. Thomas

Doubting Thomas, at last something I feel qualified to preach about.  Thomas the Apostle was also called Didymus, which means “the twin” in Greek.  Interesting, isn’t it, that in the first community of faith there was one among them who was called to articulate doubt and he was a twin. Doubt is the twin the faith, the brother of believing. It is not the opposite of believing, not the nemesis of believing. Doubt is essential to belief, incorporated into belief.  It requires doubt, as well as its counterpart, belief, to create the whole, complete  and dynamic entity that is the life of faith.

Are you familiar with the T’ai Chi? We sometimes hear it called the Yin-Yang symbol. It is a Taoist symbol, a circle made up of two identical halves, one black and one white, each stretching into the other a little, like two comets dancing around one another. Within each half there is a dot of the other.  So, in the white half, there is a distinct circle of black and within the black there is a matching circle of white.   The two halves, then create a perfect circle, a whole, which is where its name comes from: T’ai Chi translates to “Great Ultimate.”

I think it is a useful image to use when we encounter doubt and belief.  Belief is that brilliant white side, where we are full of confidence and consolation.  But within that brilliant white space there is a small but not insignificant measure of black doubt. And, on the other hand, doubt is that dark place that seems bottomless and engulfs us in despair, but within that darkness is one small but essential circle of light, of belief, present even in the domain of darkness. The whole thing together, the dark and the light, wrapped around one another and also incorporating one another, creates a whole, a complete circle, an entity we call Faith.

Toaists use the image of T’ai Chi to represent the dynamic nature of the Universe.  The Yin signifies rest and the Yang represents movement.  Stasis and progress. Being and becoming. Belief and doubt. As described by Dr. K. K. Yeo, the T-ai Chi embodies the natural state of Creation:  “change, even chaos, is not to be disliked manipulated or feared.  Change produces a life of pilgrimage. It is in that change and pilgrimage that one finds his being, the meaning of existence.”  (Yeo, What has Jerusalem to do with Beijing? 1998, p.98)

Belief and doubt exist in relationship to one another and it is that relationship that keeps them alive. It is the give and take of doubt and belief, the constant movement between one and the other that creates the living and growing and changing whole that is faith.  Believing is part of faith, but it is not all.  If faith and belief were the same thing, we could just rest on our laurels all the time, saying, “I believe and that is all there is.”

But that isn’t what we find in the Scripture.  Thomas questions Jesus. Thomas has doubts.  Not just in our text today but also in John 14 in which Jesus says:
3And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also. 4And you know the way to the place where I am going.’ 5Thomas said to him, ‘Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?’6Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life.”

Doubt opens the door to belief. Doubt articulates what isn’t and in so doing creates an opportunity for belief to articulate what is.  Doubt enlivens belief.  Doubt forces us to confront what we don’t believe, where we can’t go emotionally, intellectually or spiritually. Doubt is a dark place that we try, as a rule to avoid.  But the fact that there is such a dark place means that, within the whole of the Great Ultimate, there is also a light place.  We know there is because in the depths of the darkest place, there is a hint of light. It looks like a dot but it might also be a beam. A beam of light that can draw us back into the light side of belief.  And when we get there we are on firmer footing because we have been in the darkness of doubt, we know it is there and we are never permitted to forget.  There’s a spot of it right here in the light all the time.

This, I think is the most important point to be made.  Because we know even when we are perfectly secure in what we believe, there is always the possibility of doubt. Therefore we also know, just as surely and with just as much resolve, that when we are in the abyss of doubt and it all seems impenetrable darkness, that there is there, as well, the possibility of Belief, the hope of renewal, the essential element that can bring us back to balance.

That is the Great Ultimate, the whole life of faith. And because these two elements are constantly in relationship with one another, a life of faith is never static.  The life of faith is always growing, always changing.  We know well that over the course of our lives we come and go from believing, we come and go from doubt.  And that coming and going is natural, it is essential. It means the life of faith is never stagnant, it is never still, it is never dead.  

Doubting Thomas was a member of the community of faith around Christ.  His words were important enough to be recorded many times over, his legacy of skepticism is preserved thousands of years after other disciples words and actions have been lost to history.  I think this is because even in the community of Jesus, in the presence of the most brilliant, bright and absolute belief, in order for it to be complete, there must be one small but unrelenting dot of doubt. 

I’ll leave you with a little piece of poetry- and it is trite, I apologize - from the Christian Reformed Church from a poem about St. Thomas.:

May we, O God, by grace believe
  and, in believing, still receive
the Christ who held His raw palms out
  and beckoned Thomas from his doubt.
(Thomas Troeger, 1984, Psalter/Hymnal of the Christian Reformed Church)

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

St. Margaret of Scotland: Why, not How.

 ‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,

   because he has anointed me
     to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives
   and recovery of sight to the blind,
     to let the oppressed go free, 
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.’ 

Over the course of the entire history of the Christian church, there has been a fascination with the elemental questions about Christ. 

Obviously, the central question is “Who is Christ”?  Son of God, Descendant of David, Son of Joseph…

Throughout the history of the church there have been searches for the historical Jesus, leading to the helpful of sometimes confusing distinction between the “pre-Easter Jesus” and the “post-Easter Jesus.”

Immediately after his death the second most nagging question arose, “What is Christ”?  All man?  All God?  God and Man?

And “How does that work?”

But of all the questions we ask ourselves about Christ, one that is almost never under discussion is “Why?”

Why was the Word made flesh to dwell among us?
Why did he perform his ministry over the course of his life?
Why did he perform miracles?
Why did he tell parables?
Why did he preach the overthrow of tradition and traditional wisdom?

At the risk of offering an extremely simple answer to an impossibly complex question:
Our text today tells us that he did so “because he was moved by the Spirit.”

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me

Now, the Scripture doesn’t say that the Spirit of the Lord told Jesus to go out and perform miracles, it doesn’t say, “Drive the devil out of a man, and then into some pigs and then toss them off a cliff.”  It doesn’t say, “Answer direct questions with obscure cultural references and ambiguous metaphorical aphorisms.”

There are no instructions in this text at all about how to get it done.

Just what needs to be done:

o   Bring those who are distant from it, closer to the love of God
o   Help those who are enslaved by sin in every form
o   Bring light where there is darkness
o   Empower those who have no power
o   Be a beacon of Hope for the future.

Today is the anniversary of the death of Saint Margaret Scotland. She is the only Scottish Queen to be canonized.

She was born in around 1045,  and when she was 20, she and her family fled the Norman invasion of England intending to go to Northumberland.  According to legend, a storm blew up and sent their ship to Scotland.  The place where it is believed to have landed is called St. Margaret’s Hope.

Margaret was a renowned beauty and King Malcom fell in love with her on sight.  After their marriage, she is credited with being a civilizing influence on his court.  Though he could not read, she read stories of the Bible to him.  It is said the he “disliked what she disliked… and loved, for love of her, whatever she loved.”

And what she loved was service.

·         She instigated religious reform, striving to make the worship and practices of the Church in Scotland conform to those of Rome.

·         She was considered an exemplar of the "just ruler", and influenced her husband and children, especially her youngest son, later David I, also to be just and holy rulers.

·         She served orphans and the poor every day before she ate,
·         She washed the feet of the poor in imitation of Christ.
·         She rose at midnight every night to attend church services.
·         She invited the Benedictine order to establish a monastery at Dunfermline in Fife

and her blessings extend even into our congregation - she rebuilt the monastery at Iona – where our own curate went in pilgrimage and heard his call.

Saint Margaret was canonized in the year 1250 by Pope Innocent IV “in recognition of her personal holiness, fidelity to the Church, work for religious reform, and charity.”

Now, just to be clear, Canonization, whether formal or informal, does not make someone a saint: it is only a declaration that the person is a saint and was a saint even before canonization.

The person proposed for canonization “must have lived and died in such an exemplary and holy way that he or she is worthy to be recognized as a saint. The Church's official recognition of sanctity implies that the persons are now in heavenly glory, that they may be publicly invoked and mentioned officially in the liturgy of the Church, most especially in the Litany of the Saints.

22 miracles are attributed to St. Margaret. After her death, people who were afflicted would have a vision of a beautiful and elegant woman who told them to go to the burial place of St. Margaret and there to be healed. 

Useless hands were made whole, lesions and injuries were healed, insanity, infertility, and dropsy all born away on the prayers of the faithful.  My personal favorite is the man who suffered for years with a bally full of lizards.  God knows that can be uncomfortable. He was set right in prayer at St. Margaret’s resting place.

Now, I don’t think you need to believe in these miracles as such (though you are welcome to if you like, the older I get the less sure I am of the boundaries of reality as I know it.)

What is striking about these miracle stories is what they say about Margaret’s life.

Margaret of Scotland’s biography tells the story of a woman whose life and works were infused with the Holy Spirit.  She was intentional in the use of her talents, powers and privilege as means of serving her fellow man and her Father in Heaven. 

I think when people go to her grave and pray for a miracle they have not been brought by the “how” of her life, but by the “why.”

Why did she do all that she did in the service of the Kingdom of Heaven? 

Because “the Spirit of the Lord was upon her” and when the spirit of the Lord is upon you, all things, all things are possible.

 As long as we don’t lose sight of the “Why”…. The “how” will work itself out.

“and the Scripture will be fulfilled in our hearing.”


Wednesday, November 9, 2011

The Loaves and the Fishes: Occupy Galilee

Matthew 15:20-39

This is my favorite of all of the miracles Jesus performed during his lifetime. This and the story of the wine casks in John – when Jesus is asked to provide wine and turns dozens of gallons of water into the finest wine at a wedding.  I love these stories because they remind us that our God is a God of abundance.  And that is such an important message that we can’t say it enough.

But the story of the loaves and the fishes is unique. It is the only miracle story recounted in all four Gospels.  In fact, it is told six times in the gospels.  Some scholars think that indicates that the event, or some kind of event actually took place – not metaphorically, not allegorically – actually… that there was an event of feeding a mass of people in the wilderness.  In Jesus’ time and, as in this text, in the wilderness, food would be scarce and the people would be pretty desperate – to feed such a crowd would be a feat worthy of recording at least six times.  

The people following Jesus have been three days without anything to eat.  They came to be healed and have miracles performed for them, their motivation was great, but it has been three days and they are probably in pretty bad shape.  They are in a crowd of four thousand men and untold numbers of women and children.  They have come for miraculous healing, so at least when they started out they were injured or ill or in pain.  And they have remained in faith and subject to the elements for three days and nights.  They are, we can safely say, a profoundly wretched bunch.

And they are starving.
But they are also faithful - for in their time with him, they have been made whole, cured, made well.

So, what does Jesus do? He has compassion on them. He takes what resources are present, blesses them. There are seven loaves of bread and a few small fish.

Seven loaves and a few fishes is probably just enough to feed himself and his 12 Apostles. There is no way it can make a dent in the needs of the four thousand. But Jesus and his party put them into seven baskets and hand them out into the crowd.

Now, it doesn’t say he magically magnified the food as he did with the wine in John. There is no indication in any of the six versions of the story that he did anything more than bless the bread for their consumption. So, without a miraculous incantation, how on earth did those seven baskets of food feed four thousand plus people?

Well, it has been suggested that certain of the people, when they saw how little food there was and that it was meant to feed so many, didn’t take any.  They decided they did not need any and let the less fortunate have some. 

Maybe there were some who had neighbors nearby and the promise of a good meal very soon. Some may have brought food of their own and let the basket pass by them,  some may even have put food from their pockets into the basket as it went by.

In any case, at the end of the story, the baskets make their way back to the Apostles with food remaining in them. 
37And all of them ate and were filled; and they took up the broken pieces left over, seven baskets full. 

The obvious modern application of this text is Occupy Wall Street.  It seems clear to our Loaves and Fishes Informed eyes that the top 1% of Americans need to spread their wealth more evenly among the 99% who are not as privileged.  Clearly, they need to put their loaves into baskets with a blessing and send them off into their communities.

But that isn’t the lesson of the Loaves and the Fishes, is it?  I mean, the miracle was not that Jesus and the disciples were generous enough to put their wealth in a basket and send it out into the world. That is what we would expect from the Messiah and his apostles.

The miracle was that the 99% were able to share it.  No one horded, no one jealously guarded, no one cheated, and further, many people must have replicated the initial act of generosity in order for the food to go as far as it did. 

Do you think if we sent seven baskets of money into the crowd of 4,000 at an Occupy Demonstration, that they would come back with change in them? I confess, I doubt it.

So what is the difference between the 4,000 in Galilee and the 4,000 in the financial district?
The 4,000 in Galilee had come to see the Messiah in faith.  They believed in him, in his ability to heal and to set things right.  They believed that his actions were motivated by love and that his teaching was the truth.  They believed that everything would be alright.  They had faith. Not just faith in Jesus, faith in God. A God of abundance.

The demonstrators at Occupy don’t have that confidence. They have a scarcity ethic: “there isn’t going to be enough”, “I won’t get what I need, if I choose moderation now, I may starve later.”

So, the miracle Jesus performed in Galilee was not that he magnified the resources, it was that he replaced the crowd’s fear with confidence. He replaced their insecurity with generosity.  He replaced their desperation with faith in a good and gracious and abundant God.  And when he did that, he set them free.

Absent their insecurity, the crowd was able to be generous.
Absent their fear, they did not panic and hoard.
Absent their doubt, they were filled with faith in an abundant God and the ability to live out his commandments with courage and conviction.

And, it tells us, everyone went away full.  

The Miracle of the loaves and the fishes didn’t happen in the bread baskets, it happened in the hearts and minds of the people who knew and loved Christ.  That is worth repeating six times because not only is it amazing, it is timeless.  It can happen today.  It should happen today.

We have, at Christ Church, a ministry called Christmas Angels, in which Christ Church families “adopt” less privileged families, provide for them for Christmas, wrap the gifts and sometimes give a little extra as well.

This year, because some supporting agencies were unable to take their usual number and because more families than ever are in need, we at Christ Church have taken on 60 new families – large families.

Now, this is a lean year for many of us.  We none of us are able to give as generously to our loved ones during the season as we would like.  We none of us are able to fulfill the dreams or fill the stockings the way we had hoped to be able to.  We have only enough for our own Christmas this year, and not even enough to do that properly.

We have only the seven loaves and a few fishes for our whole family.  How can we be expected to share it with 3,995 other people?

Well, we don’t have to share it with 3,995 other people.  We have to share it with one other family.  We have to reach into our pockets and say, “I have enough for me and mine. Let me leave in this basket for you, what I do not need.”

“Because God is good and bountiful, I can afford – no I am privileged to be able to – extend His bounty to you.”

In our hearts, we may be afraid and insecure. We may secretly embody a scarcity ethic. But we also know and we believe in that super abundant God who miraculously fills wine casks and bread baskets.

Now, this isn’t a “prosperity Gospel”: it doesn’t tell us that if we pray for a pool we’ll get a pool. It isn’t really about material things at all.

It is about being faithful to the God in whose image we are made, remembering and believing in the Messiah in whose footsteps we are meant to walk and embodying the Holy Spirit, and being her hands and feet in the world.

I we can do that: remember, believe, be…

We can all walk away fulfilled.


Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Something Greater Than the Temple.

Matthew 12:1-14
Chapel Sermon 10.19.11

Can you cite Scripture chapter and verse?  I can’t. I know people who can – I know a Baptist preacher cum doctoral candidate, my dyed in the wool Methodist grandparents, but mostly the people I know who can quote Scripture chapter and verse are fundamentalist Christians.  And mostly they quote it to me to tell support positions that I believe are wrong.
They may say “a divorced woman should never marry again” quoting Leviticus. They may say tell me that they don’t have to make charitable donations, quoting Ecclesiastes, and they may quote Exodus when telling me that women are the weaker sex. And I will answer that I believe those sentiments to be wrong, but I cannot say they are not Scriptural. Irritating as it may be, the truth is the Scripture does say those things. I just don’t think it means them.
The interesting thing is, when my Fundamentalist friends quote chapter and verse to me-this is called “proof texting’-they are taking the verses out of context.  My friends are using the words without any frame of reference to original intent and using them to support whatever position my friends want to take. What they are not doing is looking at the context: at the conditions under which the words were spoken. 
My friend Kevin works all day on elaborate data collection programs. They run on giant massive programs and they crunch numbers in equations that would take months if they were done by hand. But sometimes an equation is too big or too elaborate or flawed in some way and he has to stop the computer from crunching away forever on it.  In this care, he decides to end all the calculations and to shut down all the programs.  He says to his assistant, and I have heard him say this, “This will never work, kill them all!”  Out of context, this sounds like a pretty frightening statement. In fact, in context it is so innocuous as to be downright boring.
As a rule, when my Fundy friends quote me chapter and verse it is because they are delimiting something.  They have built a wall around righteousness or piety. They have made a little line in the sand and said “inside here is what is right.”  It gives them comfort, it’s easy, they don’t have to think. And when I ask them why, why do they think that, you know what they say?  They say, in one form or another “because the Bible tells me so.”  But that isn’t entirely accurate. The Bible may say it, but in context, reading with your brain engaged and your heart open, that is certainly not what the Bible is trying to tell us. 
In the text we are looking at today, Jesus does not like being hemmed in by imaginary Scriptural boundaries.  The Pharisees, who are Ancient Israel’s answer to modern Fundamentalists, have an idea in their minds of how The Law works and if you are not doing that you are in violation of The Law.  Jesus, tells them to look past the letter of the Law to its intent: “If you had understood what this meant…” he says, you would not have made the mistake.  Not what it said, what it meant.
Jesus teaches us to look past literalism to ethics – ethics from the word Ethos - Greek for character, used to describe the beliefs or ideals that characterize a community. Our ethic is not a law that guides us, it isn’t a more that circumscribes our behavior – our ethic, our ethos if you will – is the nature of our community, what is in our hearts, what invigorates our actions;;; Like the Holy Spirit, our ethos is the wellspring of our motivation and our ethics are the expression of that zeitgeist. Jesus is reminding us here that the single central Christian ethic is love.
In the first story the Apostles are hungry and they forage for food.  The Pharisees say, “harvesting is prohibited on the Sabbath.”  But the Apostles were hungry- they are motivated by need not wantonness- and essential to the celebration of Sabbath is being sure that everyone is fed, that no one goes hungry.  In the second story, Jesus encounters a man with a crippled hand and the Pharisees say, “is it lawful to cure on the sabbath?”  Now it is important to note that they are not asking it if it right – I think there is no doubt that they would not think it was right to let a man suffer on the Sabbath, they would, if they could, cure him – but in doing so they would knowingly violate the Sabbath.  So their question to Jesus – in an attempt to discredit him- is “is it lawful”?  He answers with a rhetorical question I think because he has already answered this question above…
“Something greater than the temple is here…”I desire mercy and not sacrifice.”  If you had known this, you might not have made the mistakes you have made.
Jesus here is reaching beyond the letter of the law.  He says elsewhere that he is not come to change the law, that not a jot or tittle will be altered… but neither will He let us continue to adhere to the law without thinking, without feeling.  Jesus asks us here – as he is wont to do – to work for it.  You know God loves you, would a loving God want you to observe Sabbath while your brothers and sisters went hungry?  Would a loving God think it was illegal to heal a brother or sister before your Sabbath celebration?
No, if Jesus of Nazareth is anything, he is a breaker down of walls. The walls of literalism that my fundamentalist friends use to hem in righteousness and delineate piety, Jesus tears down with an ethic of brotherly love. And while observing the Sabbath law maybe mutable – there may be times when you knowingly violate it – the law of Love is inviolable, never suspended, never suspect, never in error. And it is a law that does not build up a wall between men, rather it is a law the breaks down barriers and brings mankind together
And therefore it defines much more than what is righteous… it defines what is right.
Now, before I close today, I just want to point out something that I noticed for the first time when I approached this text to preach on it this week.  This text is, in its own way, very amusing.  You see the Pharisees come to Jesus with righteous indignation and a feverish concern for the preservation of the Sabbath saying: “You should not harvest on the Sabbath!” (and so now we get to kill you) and “It is illegal to heal on the Sabbath”  and yet what does the Scripture end with?  “But the Pharisees went out and conspired against him, to destroy him.” Feeding the hungry is not appropriate for the Sabbath, healing the disabled is not lawful on the Sabbath but go ahead an conspire to destroy a Rabbi, that’s an okay activity for the Sabbath.
So you see, it is not just our common sense that guides us in the conduct expected of us by our Lord Jesus Christ, it is also our sense of humor.


Monday, June 20, 2011

Evangelism is show, not tell.

Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. 17When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. 18And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
Matthew 28:16-20

“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations.”  The word for that is “evangelism” and in the 21st Century in a liberal protestant church like ours “evangelism” is a dirty word.
The word evangelism is harmless in itself; it means the zealous dissemination of something we profoundly believe in. It means “propagating for a cause.”  You can evangelize your health club or the model of car you drive.

No, it’s a dirty word not because of what it means (indeed very few dirty words are dirty because of their meanings) but because of its associations:

Evangelical, Evangelist, Televangelist.

In a modern context, evangelism is when you are accosted on the street or on your own doorstep by someone who is selling something you don’t even want to talk about. 
And from its earliest inception, that has always been true.  Evangelism is when some self-righteous stranger tells you about Christianity.  And it seems like, historically, that something is something you really don’t want to hear.

For example, that being Christian means being a white eastern European male.  Only.

Or that the beautiful and practical clothing of the people of the Andes must be traded for Eastern European garb in order to embody Christian propriety.

Or that the breathtaking music of Sub-Saharan Africa must be replaced by the music of Bach and Beethoven in order to be sacred.

Or that the awe inspiring images of the deity and Holy Spirit to be found all over Asia are heretical graven images and must be replaced with the image of a white man and a Holy Spirit we can’t describe (we only know their depiction is wrong).

Evangelism is responsible for the darkest moments in the history of the Church: the Crusades, the Spanish Inquisition, complicity in Nazi and Stalinist atrocities.

Evangelism is a secretly corrupt man in an expensive suit in front of a podium with no evidence of Christian images anywhere near him…. or worse excessively violent images… telling you who among your acquaintance is damned.

Evangelism is, I am afraid, a word which has been used to justify more bloodletting, more physical and emotional and cultural violence than any other in any language that I can think of.  And that is not because of what it means.

Evangelism is obnoxious at best, horrific at worst.

Or is it?

Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you.

Where is the line where Jesus tells us that the only way to be Christian is our way?  Where is the part where he tells us to oppress others?  To punish them for diversity, to destroy anything unfamiliar that threatens our self-righteous ego-centric definition of faith?

Maybe it’s Paul.  Jesus was always good at telling us what to do, Paul was good at telling us how. 

Examine yourselves to see whether you are living in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not realize that Jesus Christ is in you?

But we pray to God that you may not do anything wrong—not that we may appear to have met the test, but that you may do what is right, though we may seem to have failed
Put things in order, listen to my appeal, agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you. 

There’s nothing here about killing other people, there’s nothing here about homogenizing culture or even worship.  The “how” that Paul seems to be advocating here is not “tell” but “do.” Not “oppress” but “live in peace with.”

Paul tells us this, my brothers and sisters, because that is what Evangelism REALLY is. It is doing, not telling. 

And here the really shocking part:  we are, all of us, all the time, unwillingly, unrelentingly and whether we like it or not, evangelists.

Because when we are in the world, when we hold the door open for the man with his arms full, when we put our shopping carts back in the cart corral, when we pause to be thankful before a meal, when we swear like sailors as the train goes by… every moment of every day we are Christians and we are representing for Christ.

All Paul is saying is, we have to be more intentional: be aware of what we are doing. Imagine in every moment that we are wearing tee shirts that say, “I am a representative of Christ.”

Now, that doesn’t mean we have to be saints.  Paul says explicitly that we don’t have to be perfect, even Christ was half human.  It means we have to try to be perfect, we have to “fake it till you make it” or “dress for the part you want” or, and I know we’re all sick of it but, it means you should ask yourself “what would Jesus do?”

In the words of the mahatma: we have to be the change we seek in the world.

And this is the way Evangelism really works. I can tell you how great my health club is, but if I really want you to know, to understand the experience as I understand it, I will give you a visitor’s pass.  If I want to experience the difference between my minivan and Tina’s mini cooper, I’m going to have to take it for a test drive.

That’s it that’s all we have to do.

Because the Holy Spirit does the rest.  Because maybe that person you met today goes home and says, “All Christians are not Oral Roberts or Pat Robertson (no relation, thank you very much).  I know a really great woman in Winnetka, a really great one. And she’s a Christian.”

You see, evangelizing is not so much something we do as it is something we assist the Holy Spirit in doing.  Evangelizing, in its truest form, is when we demonstrate the glorious feeling we have when we are in touch with our divine nature.  Evangelism is when we follow the still small voice inside of us, the grace placed there by our creator.   It is when we seek to know the spark of divinity that is present in every other living creature. It is when, thorough our actions and impact on the world, we open other people to their own divinity and blessing. Then, in that moment, the Holy Spirit can spread wide her wings and fill that person with an understanding of how blessed and brilliant a creation he or she is.

Now, don’t get me wrong.  Evangelism is not necessary to conversion. That divine spark, that “prevenient grace” is present in everyone and it can be turned on with or without the intervention of any other person.

But in this text we are called to ask, “How can I help?  What can I do to share the joy I feel in my faith with other people who aren’t there yet?” 
And in the 21st Century we add, “without making them unfriend me on Facebook?”

How can we help the process along? Well, we cannot hope to change an entire culture with sweeping reforms and testimonials broadcast over the airwaves.  But we can hope to change one person at a time, the way all good viruses are spread: with a handshake, with a hug.

Evangelism works through contact, not coercion. Plenty of sentences have begun with the words, “I know what’s good for you.” None of those sentences resulted in real evangelism.

So I’m going to ask you to think about this, this week.  How can I, in my own life, in my personal interactions, in my own little insignificant way, how can I be the change I seek to see in the world?  How can I embody my experience of God? The loving and wonderful creator of all things?  How can I be guided by the Holy Spirit to walk in the footsteps of my Redeemer?

If we let ourselves be guided by those questions, we will be evangelists in the truest sense of the word: in action, not word, in fact not theory… in faith and in the name of Church.

"Go therefore and make disciples of all nations.”