“If it ain’t about love, it ain’t about God.”
That was just one of the gems offered by our shy and retiring Presiding Bishop, Michael Curry last Friday in his peripatetic preaching. (Pity the poor cameraman trying to follow him.) I was privileged to hear him in Dallas, at a conference called Evangelism Matters. The perhaps preposterous premise of the gathering was that Episcopalians and evangelism go together. Said another way, as Michael Curry demonstrated, an Episcopal evangelist is not an oxymoron.
If you wish to arrive at that point of view, however, you have to suspend prejudice about the word “evangelist”, expunge the vision of Elmer Gantry and contemporary descendants (of which there are plenty), and think about the etymology of the word evangelist. It comes from the Greek word for good news. The church over the years, up to current times, has too often proclaimed bad news, manipulative news, self-serving news, exclusive news. Michael Curry called us to another way. The way of Jesus.
Evangelism has nothing to do with a bigger church, he said. It has to do with a better world. He spoke with energy and eloquence about evangelism, part of God’s work of reconciliation in the world. He spoke about the dream of God, which is that each one of us would live in loving relationship with God and neighbor. Anything else is nightmare. He spoke about finding our way home.
So wrap your mind around the idea that as a follower of Jesus, or at least someone mildly interested in Jesus, you are an evangelist. Said another way, you are called to share good news.
In order to do that, you have to hold some good news in your heart. Not a bad thing to think about in this week marked by a national holiday dedicated to Thanksgiving. Note: This day became an official national holiday during the War between the States, a political season when it was really hard to find any good news. Thanksgiving may not have been top of mind in those days, sometimes referred to as the recent unpleasantness.
At the heart of our religious practice is a service of eucharist, which means thanksgiving. I’m always struck with the narrative of that liturgy, Jesus instituting the ritual meal of bread and wine on the night before he died. I would have been on the first bus out of town. Instead, he gathered with his friends to say thanks, knowing full well what was ahead of him.
Take some time on this Monday morning to think about those things for which you are thankful, those places where good news has touched your life. I know that every one of us is touched by challenge and tragedy and brokenness. I also know that every one of us has something for which we can be thankful. Including the amazing, confounding premise of our faith that God’s love is something from which we can never be separated, that there is no one who is beyond the reach of God’s love, that God’s presence dwells in each one of us.
Once you’ve gotten that thanksgiving in mind, think about how you might share that joy with someone you know this week. That would be such good news. Maybe it’s something you could share over Thanksgiving Dinner. I sense it would be much more edifying than a discussion of current politics. And would probably be better for the digestion.
Jesus said… I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.’-John 13:31-35
I was taught that [evangelism] meant converting people to the one true religion, namely, my own. Now I believe evangelism means inviting people into heart-to-heart communion and collaboration with God and neighbors in the great work of healing the earth, of building the beloved community, of seeking first the kingdom of God and God’s justice for all.-Brian McLaren,in his new book,The Spiritual Migration
People who want to share their religious views with you almost never want you to share yours with them.-Dave Barry
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