This past Friday I was one of the lucky 20,000 people that witnessed our very own Memphis Grizzlies defeat the Los Angeles Floppers, I mean Clippers, to move on to the second round of the NBA playoffs. As I was leaving the Forum I saw something that was a daily nuisance for me as I walked to class in college.
I slowed down a little because I always find it interesting to hear what they have to say. As usual, it was filled with anger and judgment as I began to chuckle and walk away. It is always entertaining to hear some of the things they have to say.
This morning a heard something on the radio that made me think of these evangelists that I encountered near the Forum. Westboro Baptist Church has announced that they will be protesting Graceland. According to them, Elvis is an evil drug addict and a false idol, which makes Graceland hell.
As Episcopalians, we often times do not focus much on evangelism. We shake our heads at the people who do the things mentioned above. “They make a bad name for all Christians” we say.
One great thing about being Episcopalian though is I can say that I strongly disagree with not only the way these evangelists go about preaching the Gospel but also the interpretation of the Bible that they are preaching. I think it would be safe to assume that I am not alone in saying that either. Now I am no scholar or academic theologian but my understanding of the Gospel is a little different, a little more loving.
However, all of this made me think about what it is we are called to do as Christians. We often simplify down to a simple set of dos and don’ts. Do- treat others nice, respect your parents Don’t- lie, steal, murder. Is that all it takes to be Christian then? Why then do people all over the world who do not identify as Christian also follow these rules? Does simply being a person with good morals make you Christian?
In a previous post I wrote about how that first golden rule often gets glazed over. We focus a lot on the love your neighbors as yourself. However, that first one that says love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might!
It cannot just be simplified into a set of rules or guidelines! If we love Him then it means so much more than just following orders. The definition of a sacrament is an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace. We all know the 7 recognized sacraments already but if we change how we think about what it means to be a Christian, change the thought of I should do this to I WANT to do this, imagine what that would mean for you in your spiritual life! You have changed from simply playing the part to being a living sacrament of God! Your life would be a visible sign of the glorious and wonderful Grace of God!
What else are we asked to do in our lives as Christians…
And he said to them, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation.”
And I heard the voice of the Lord saying ,”Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Then I said, “Here am I! Send me.”
If you look, it clearly says that we are called to be evangelists.
But I don’t want to stand on the corner yelling at people!
“Preach the gospel of the Lord at all times, and when necessary, use words.” St. Francis of Assisi
You do not have to be the person condemning and yelling at others to be an evangelist. You can simply be you. Being an apostle to others, lending a hand to someone who is down, listening to someone who has had a rough day, there are countless ways that you can carry out this mission in a positive way.
This past week we talked about ministering. How do you minister to others? How have people ministered to you? This year, the ministering I have received from the wonderful families of this congregation has blown me away.
I am utterly speechless as I look back and think of the group of youth that go out every month to prepare food for More than a Meal, the group that gave up a Saturday to do yard work at Shady Grove Elementary, seeing how supportive everyone is especially when bad things happen in their lives or the lives of their friends.
So this week, the challenge is to go out and be an evangelist.
If necessary, use words.