A priest and performer considers religion, the arts, and the often thin space between sacred and secular, church and culture, pulpit and pew.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

The Twelfth Day of Christmas: January 5 (John 1:43-51)

On the twelfth day of Christmas, God’s true Love gave to me…

…the playbook for evangelism.

“We have found him….” “Come and see.”

We Episcopalians tend to think of ourselves as having some kind of allergy to the “E” word – that is, evangelism. We’ve joked about this, often proudly, for years, decades; but the painful truth is, as much as we say we love our church and our liturgy, we have seemed reluctant to share these things, preferring perhaps to think those whom God intends to have join our churches will have the good sense to come through our (usually) red doors on their own.

To many of us, the word “evangelism” conjures up visions of the Billy Graham crusades, or of teams of people going from door to door (or nowadays, standing on street corners or in the train station) asking “Have you been saved?” or “Have you found Jesus?” or (God forbid) “If you died tonight, do you know where you’d spend eternity?” Or perhaps we’ve been led to believe that religion and faith are private matters which, like politics, we should never be so rude as to bring up in polite conversation. Either way, being asked to share our faith can seem intrusive or even oppressive.

And yet…. We surely think that we have something worth believing in, worth hanging onto, worth sharing, or we wouldn’t keep coming back to church. We believe in the good news of Jesus, because we have experienced that in our lives. We understand what it means to worship God in the beauty of holiness, because that’s what we do, week after week. We know the power of God to forgive, reconcile, heal, and make whole. We know the joy of community. We have found all these things in Jesus Christ through the church. And we trust that God will work through the Holy Spirit in the lives of others, just as God has worked in our lives. But those others still need an invitation from us. When the first disciples approach their family members and friends about Jesus, all they do is issue an invitation: Come and see. Look for yourself. Experience what I’ve found. Make up your own mind. And as we read in John’s gospel, it’s Jesus himself who issues that first invitation. He doesn’t answer the question posed by Andrew and his friend by giving them information, but by inviting them into experience and relationship.

“Come and see” – a simple, friendly, loving invitation. The playbook for evangelism.

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