Sermon 19 January: “Evangelism ain’t so bad….”

So a note about my sermons….no sermon in written form can convey what I hope to in person.  For me, they’re a conversation more than anything.  That said, I try to format my writing as much as possible to convey the same meaning.  It might seem a little choppy to you, but in the end, I think it’s more faithful to what I hope to share.  ~Pastor Aaron

Readings: Isaiah 49:1-7, Psalm 40:1-12, 1 Corinthians 1:1-9, John 1:29-42

My wife Kelly has a special talent: pointing out stuff that’s important to her, bringing them to my attention.  And, she is really, really good at it – she points out that I don’t put my dirty dishes in the dishwasher, she points out that I forget about 70% of the things she tells me….and she points out the fact it’s not socially appropriate to walk around in public with my sweatshirt tucked into my sweatpants. (Long story…..one of our first dates and it’s a wrestler thing)

All kidding aside, I really appreciate that side of Kelly.  By pointing out things important to her, and inviting me to experience them for myself, it’s honestly changed how I look at the world, making me aware of things I hadn’t considered before.  And I’m better for it.

I think in our gospel story today – and really all of our readings – we see that same gift – the gift to point things out & invite others to experience them.  John the Baptist identifies Jesus for the crowds, and Jesus’ future disciples – “Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!”  And that does something….people start following Jesus around.  And those who have Jesus pointed out to them and see him not only follow him, but they do something else: they go tell others what they have seen.  They invite others to “come and see” for themselves.

We have a name for this in the church: “evangelism.”  Now I have to admit, “evangelism” isn’t well thought of these days – for a couple of reasons in my mind.  One, we often equate it with “conversion.” Evangelism is often imagined as Pat Robertson on the 700 club, “bringing people to Jesus,” or standing on a street corner telling people to accept Jesus and get saved – or else.

But that’s not how evangelism works in the story today.  There’s no need to bring people to Jesus – he’s already there, among them.  There’s no need to worry about whether people are converted to faith or not – even Jesus doesn’t seem too interested in that.  All John the Baptist and others who encounter Jesus do is point out where Jesus is present – and like Jesus, invite others to “come and see” for themselves.

And if you ask me, that makes Evangelism pretty easy.  All we do is simply share where what’s important to us – pointing to Jesus at work in our lives and together, leaving space to consider what the means for our lives.

It’s so easy in fact….that a kid can do it.

I do chapel every week for the preschool [at Holy Communion].  Two weeks ago, I gave them assignment: “Where do you see Jesus this week?”  And this past week, I asked them for their answers.  And here’s what they came up with:

In their hearts,
In their brain, (He meant it literally, I think they meant mind, but never argue with a kid)
In their preschool,
With their eyes,
In their eyeballs, (weird)
In their grammy and grandpa,
On the cross.

Ok, I think we have a budding theologian in preschool…because his answer actually connects to the story, and tells us something about who Jesus is and why he’s so important to people.

  “Look – the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.”

Jesus, the Lamb of God, is the one found on the cross.  The one who bears the sin of the world – God found with us in suffering, pain, isolation – the brokenness of the world and life.  John and the disciples point to the One who is present with us in this life on earth – God in the flesh – in all things, but especially, the things that separate us from God.

And pointing to this Lamb of God is not only important because God is present, but because “he takes away the sin of the world.”  The cross also promises the hope of resurrection – that God promises the hope of new life.  The brokenness of this world and our lives doesn’t have to define and destroy us.  It doesn’t rule over our lives. Pointing to the Lamb of God is to point to the One who in bearing all things with us in this life, makes all things new.  To “come and see” the Lamb of God is to be invited to consider and explore what it means to be in relationship with a God who desires to give life abundantly to a humanity he loves so deeply.

And since we’re talking about evangelism, I think it’s important to consider where we see the Lamb of God in our midst. So, we’re gonna try a little exercise. [I handed note cards out to the congregation at this point] On one side of the card, I want you to write down your answers to this question: “In what places, moments, or people do you see the Lamb of God in your lives?” Where in your life can you point to Jesus’ presence?

Now I’ll ask this: how many of you wrote “church?”  Not a bad answer…but let’s explore it a bit more.  So on the other side of your card, I want you to answer the following question, “Why do you keep coming to this church, week after week?”  If this church is important to you…..what keeps you coming back here, why do you call St. Andrew/Holy Communion “your church?”  If you’re new today, or recently have been coming, what led you to this church in particular?

Now I want you to take a look at both sides of the card, and ask yourselves this: If we are people seeking this Lamb of God in our lives and in our church, and we see Jesus in these things, is it worth sharing? Is it worth pointing out to others and inviting them to “come and see” this Lamb of God in our midst?

I think so…while I believe there are things we can do better and God convicts our hearts of those things, I also believe we have good things happening here and good people here doing all sorts of good things in the world.  Things that point to what important to us – our relationship with God.  Things that invite people to “come and see” – to consider this Lamb of God who enters deeply into all parts of human life and offers hope and new life in relationship with him.

This past week, I started a blog…..”Lutherans in P-Town.” And my hope is as much as it is for all of you, it’s a way to evangelize – point to where we see the Lamb of God in the world, and invite people to come and see and walk with us in faith.  It’s a tool….because not all of us can talk about faith so openly, and so you can share the blog – point people to it – as a way of sharing what’s important to us & invite people to consider that for their lives.  It is a way to share with others where we see God in our midst, a God who in Christ enters deeply into our lives and the City of Portsmouth.  It is a way to point out where we see Jesus moving and acting to those who because their suffering and brokenness is so great that they cannot see him…..pointing to God’s faithfulness in Christ to them, even when perhaps they themselves cannot be.

But I also hope that today, you know that God is evangelizing to you in Jesus Christ – pointing to God’s love and grace that makes all things new in brokenness and inviting you to come and see in faith, each and every day.  Amen.

I collected those notecards from folks who wished to share their thoughts…..look for a blog post later this week on what they shared!

 

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