Saturday, January 19, 2008

So we tell them...

Sermon for 2 Epiphany
Fr. Tim Fountain

Back to our Army cadence chant:

Everywhere we go
People want to know

…So we tell them

Today’s Collect asks that God use us to spread the message of Jesus:
+"Grant that your people (that’s us!) illumined by your Word and Sacraments (that’s what we are doing right now!) may shine with the radiance of Christ’s glory, that he may be known, worshipped, and obeyed to the ends of the earth…"

Remember the two prior sermons in this series:
+“Who we are” – we are people chosen by God to point to Jesus
+“Where we come from” – we are people who came from all kinds of backgrounds, through the waters of baptism, to share Jesus’ life and work with others

So we tell them…about Jesus!
+God’s vision for the church is in today’s lesson from Isaiah 49:6 – "I will give you (that’s us again) as a light to the nations (that’s “them”), that my salvation (that’s Jesus) may reach to the end of the earth."

A case of easier said than done! Here are some things that get in our way (and why they are just excuses)
+Lack of credentials. “I didn’t go to seminary. I don’t know all the answers.” But the first apostles didn’t know all about Jesus. They had no established Creeds, ceremonies or organization on which to lean. They learned by doing – and they invited others to do the same.
+Embarrassment. “I don’t want to seem weird.” Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair is a Christian, and he admitted in an interview: "You talk about it (Christian faith) in our system and, frankly, people do think you're a nutter.” But that’s always been the case. Jesus himself was called crazy and demon-possessed, and tells us to expect the same (Matthew 10:24-25). Besides that, think of all the trivial things about which we argue with others. We embarrass ourselves over all kinds of things – why doesn’t Jesus deserve equal time?
+Sense of unworthiness. “I’m no saint.” Well, you are a saint, if you understand that word as it is used in the New Testament. But besides that, you are worthwhile enough that somebody trusts you. Somebody is willing to give you a hearing. Andrew had enough credibility with his brother, Peter, to invite him to meet Jesus. And Jesus did the rest. We point to Jesus’ holiness, not our own.
+No personal testimony. This is the biggest problem we face. If Jesus has no significant meaning in our lives, what can we say to someone else? But, as I’ve set out in the other sermons, we really are people chosen by Jesus to share his life and his work. If we ask Jesus to show us how he’s been doing this, and we look over our lives, we will discover signs of his presence – enough evidence that we can tell someone else how Jesus makes a difference in who we are.

So we tell them…and here’s how we start
+Passion. If Jesus Christ is not important to you, you are not going to point others to him. Our Collect asks that Jesus be “known, worshipped and obeyed” – those are strong words! Think about it – do you sincerely adore or willingly obey anybody or anything for which you have no passion? This is where worship is so important – we can “shine with Christ” if we are receptive to the Word and Sacraments.
+Prayer. We need to ask Jesus to show us his presence in our lives. We need to be praying for others, because Jesus will open our hearts to point us at people he wants to reach – through us! And it goes without saying that we should ask God to make us “shine with the radiance of Christ’s glory” – other people will be drawn to that! We should be praying strategically, as a church, that the Holy Spirit give the gift of evangelism to many of us. And we need to pray that Jesus will use our church to reach people who do not know him.
+Practice. “So we tell them” isn’t true if we aren’t out there telling them. John the Baptist had to say, “Look! The Lamb of God!” several times before anybody responded and went to Jesus.
+Patience. Do not be discouraged. We will be rejected, sometimes politely, sometimes rudely. There are countless stories of people who met Jesus Christ only after decades of prayer and invitation. Just know that it pleases Christ to see us taking part in the effort.

Let us pray.
Father in Heaven, we confess that we have neglected to tell others about your Son, our Savior Jesus Christ. But we give thanks that you are patient and gentle, and we ask you to give us the Holy Spirit, to make us more passionate for Jesus and to give us the gifts we need to point others toward him. We pray this in Jesus’ Name. Amen.

1 comment:

Alice C. Linsley said...

Another great sermon! The part about patience really struck me. I had never thought about John the Baptist saying "Behold! The Lamb of God" multiple times before anyone believed him. But it was his words that led Andrew to become a disciple, and Andrew brought Peter... and well, isn't that the point of patience in evangelism? Just keep pointing to Jesus and saying "Behold! The Lamb of God." You never know who will become a disciple, and disciples make disciples in the same way, by pointing to Jesus!