Jesus said to her, 'I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?' She said to him, 'Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one coming into the world.' When she had said this, she went back and called her sister Mary, and told her privately, 'The Teacher is here and is calling for you.' And when she heard it, she got up quickly and went to him.
The Episcopal Church released internal research data prior to our last General Convention. The honesty of the report was painful. It showed that the denomination is not adding people to life in Christ by conversion, by intergenerational transmission of faith, or by birth and nurture in Christian families.
This is not another rant about the stats, just a reflection on them in light of the Gospel lesson. We try to justify our Christianity by all kinds of things - "It works for me," "It makes me feel better," "It's the way to join with others to fix XXXXX," etc. While we say a Creed in our service, we are seldom challenged, individually or collectively, to answer the question "Do you believe this?" Martha, having answered it, is propelled to go and call her sister to Jesus. She goes "privately," John tells us. What she has to share is not only powerful but precious, worthy of discreet, intimate sharing.
I don't claim an expertise in moving from "Yes, Lord, I believe..." to telling others that my Teacher is calling them. I have all the inhibitions and compromised thinking that bedevil other church people. What if I say it wrong? What if I offend? What if I sound like one of "those" people? Do I really want to go this deep with some other flawed human being?
The church has potential to help its members overcome all the inhibition. While Jesus witnessed to himself, he sent his disciples out in teams. Our little congregation had a group go out over Labor Day weekend and their testimony is up on the parish Facebook page:
We came [to the Lifelight Christian Music Festival], we saw, we listened to great music, we gave free hugs, we packed school supplies for kids in the Philippines, we played hacky-sack, one of us gave his life to Christ... It was a good day!