If you give a pig a pancake, she'll want some syrup to go with it. You'll give her some of your favourite maple syrup, and she'll probably get all sticky, so she'll want to take a bath. She'll ask you for some bubbles. When you give her the bubbles...
Virginia Woolf wrote, “For pleasure has no relish unless we share it.” And this wonderful children’s book seems to capture that spirit exactly.
I read this story because 1) I believe it’s the perfect illustration of what God’s love for us is like. Wherever we are or what situation we find ourselves in God is there, and ready to give us our hearts desire. But I also read it because I believe it also says something about who we are, and what our faith should look like.
For the past few weeks, we’ve been learning about the Word of God. A Word that John’s gospel professes “became flesh and walked among us.” And then in Matthew’s gospel we heard what that Word has to say about who we are. Today I want us to look at what that means to us, and this community, now that we’ve heard the good news proclaimed.
How can we share our faith with the reckless joy and tireless enthusiasm of this little girl who shares everything she has with her pet pig? She makes it look so effortless. As if it’s the natural thing to do. And for God, it is. But what about us?
Imagine a world where we just automatically shared our faith without pause. To have such a giving spirit that people can’t help but see the goodness of God shine through. And when they do, perhaps they will want to know more.
There’s a word for this. It’s called evangelism which comes from the Greek word “euangelion” which means “good news” or “gospel.” But I have also seen it defined as a “word that scares the crap out of Christians.” And rightly so.
Many of us don’t like to share our pancakes, muchless our hearts. And when it comes to our faith, well like politics, there are just some things we don’t share in good company.
Because it’s often tied to a particular politic or religious ideology, evangelism has become a kind of dirty word. It’s hard to see all its good points through all the negative that have become attached to it.
Which is odd when you think about it because, in its broadest sense, evangelism is the work of those who are messengers of God’s good Word made manifest in Christ Jesus. Heck, it even has the word “angel” right in the middle of it so it can’t be that bad.
Given what we’ve been enduring with the pandemic and the politics surrounding it, we sure could use a little good news. And who doesn’t want an angel hanging around? I’ve learned that when you see an angel, there’s a good chance you’re going to want to hear what they have to say.
There’s another good book where this idea is found. In the book of Romans, Paul writes this.
READ: ROMANS 10:11-17
...the same Lord is Lord of all and is generous to all who call on him. For, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” But how are they to call on one in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in one of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone to proclaim him? And how are they to proclaim him unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”...So faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes through the word of Christ. ~Romans 10:11-17~
In May of 2018, some 29 million people around the world watched Prince Harry wed Meghan Markle in Saint Georges Chapel. Amidst all of the royal pageantry, the presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, the most Reverend Michael Curry, preached a sermon of love and the good news of Christ’s Word for all to hear.
In that sermon Curry proclaimed, “If humanity ever captures the energy of love, it will be the second time in history that we have discovered fire.” Such powerful words to profess.
Now, let me ask you this: When he spoke those words to all those people do you think he was nervous, knowing 29 million viewers were more interested in seeing Megan's wedding dress than what he had to say?
Or was he convicted knowing that 29 million people would hear about the love of God; knowing that faith comes by hearing? I would bet it was the latter. Bishop Curry was given an opportunity to share the gospel and he took it. And it left people wanting more. It makes me wonder if we have the same conviction.
Bishop Curry might preside over one of the biggest churches in the world, and yeah he has decades of preaching experience under his belt, but his call to share the gospel is no different than ours. The world is hungry, not for pancakes but for love. But how will they know where to find it if no one tells them or shows them the way?
“How can people call for help if they don’t know who to trust? And how can they know who to trust if they haven’t heard of the One who can be trusted? And how can they hear if nobody tells them? And how is anyone going to tell them unless someone is sent to do it?” (MSG).
Evangelism is not an option.
And if you’re like me, that should make you squirm a little. You see, I’m not the kind of person who just walks up to someone and beats them into accepting my way of faith.
watch or listen to the message here
I remember driving home from work one evening and seeing a small group of people in my neighborhood going from house to house with bibles in one hand and pamphlets in the other. It was only a matter of time before they hit up our home.
No sooner had I walked in from the garage, a mother with her young daughter knocked on our door. Now the nervous look on the mother’s face was priceless when I answered the door still wearing my clerical collar.
But it didn’t stop her kid from asking that old familiar question, “If you were to die tonight where would you go?”
I could help myself by answering, “Hopefully in the ground.”
Despite their feeble efforts, they were at least doing what God is asking of all of us – to share the good news of God’s redeeming love.
Again, this is not optional. But thankfully, there’s no one-size fits all approach to doing it either. If you feel comfortable going door-to-door, good on you. But don’t worry if your comfort zone maxes out at only being able to post a meaningful bible verse on Facebook. That’s evangelizing.
So too is telling a friend about the real struggles you’ve experienced in your faith journey. Or how going to church or following the way of Jesus helped you get your life back on track.
Perhaps you’re better at showing your faith than speaking it. No problem. Evangelism is all about putting our faith into action.
It happens when you march for justice. Or work to end discrimination. Or collect signatures to ban assault riffles. You preach the good news of Christ Jesus whenever you bring his light into someone’s darkness. Or when you’re generous with your kindness, patience, or your super delicious pancakes.
You see, it’s not about HOW you evangelize. But WHEN. It’s a matter of willingness. The opportunities to share God’s love and grace arise all the time. But who’s going to do it if not you and I?
Evangelism shouldn’t be a dirty word. It’s our mission, our goal, our way to participate in God’s kingdom right here in Anamesa...in that space between heaven and earth, us and them, you and me. It’s not supposed to scare the hell out of us, but to scare the hell out of hell itself.
I don’t know what was going on in Bishop Curry head on the morning of the royal wedding. I don’t know if he was nervous. Or if anyone confessed Christ that day because of what he said. All I know is he did it, with his whole heart, knowing faith begins with hearing the gospel first.
It wasn’t up to him to convert or “save” whoever was watching that day. That’s Jesus’ job. His, and our, job is to share the good news of Jesus Christ, the very Word of God. And to do so faithfully and freely. How we do it is up to us.
God’s not looking for perfection, just participation.
For some strange reason God has faith in us, and believes we can do it. It might not happen on international television. But it can happen in a kitchen, or a treehouse, or at work, in a bar, or anywhere you find yourself.
And so, as you enter the world today, consider what your words and actions are saying about God. How are you allowing the light and love of Christ Jesus to shine through you?
People are hungry for more than what this world can give. They are always listening and always watching out for it. When people see the way you speak love into their lives, there’s a good chance they will want more.
Like the prophet said, “How blessed are the feet of those who bring the good news!”
May God bless your lips, and your hands and heart as well. So that you will be an angel, in the flesh walking among us all in love and peace. Amen.
Bartlett, David L. and Barbara Brown Taylor, eds. Feasting on the Word Year A, Vol 3. (Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 2011) pp. 336-341.
Numeroff, Laura. If You Give A Pig A Pancake. (New York: HarperCollins, 1998).
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An ex-copywriter turned punk rock pastor and peacemaker who dedicates his life to making the world a better place for all humanity.
"that they all might be one" ~John 17:21
“Prius vita quam doctrina.”
~ St. Thomas Aquinas (1225–1274)
* “Life is more important than doctrine.”