Sermon Easter5b 2015:Evangelism is the love of God in Action to Change the World

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1 Sermon Easter5b 2015:Evangelism is the love of God in Action to Change the World Introduction One of the reasons that the season of Easter goes well beyond Easter Day Is because we as a church, as followers of the Risen Christ Need to be encouraged and reminded how important Jesus death and resurrection are for the life of the world. We have these fifty days to remember the incredible power of Jesus resurrection As we read stories about how it affected His first followers; And learn what Jesus expects us to do with our lives And what kind of world God is calling us to build; Once we ve come to grips with Easter and accepted that saving love That brings forgiveness and the promise of everlasting life for all. For we do not continue to read the stories of the resurrection And the aftermath, the change in the lives of Jesus first followers As a mere fairy tale, as something that happened once upon a time; But we read them and allow them to touch our hearts; We read them as a reminder that we who are privileged To know the love of God for our lives, Have an opportunity and a responsibility to share that love with others In spiritual and in physical ways. And in a world where evil rises up in the form of terrorism and genocide; In a world where racial hatred divides God s beloved children from one another; In a world where we forget that every life matters, Where power is misused at the highest and lowest levels of authority; In a world where some people don t have enough And others are choked by the material riches ruling their lives; God is calling us to live and speak a different reality, God s dream for everyone. 1

2 And what we do about the Easter message, What we do with the reality of Jesus resurrection Says a lot about the God we know And the way that we will show and tell other people The importance and the power of God s love in our lives; And what that kind of love and power can do to bring about a different world. Evangelism A & B Now usually, in church speak, in church language, We call this sharing of our faith, we call this sharing of the Easter story Evangelism the sharing of the good news of Jesus resurrection. And today, for good or ill, that s an emotionally charged word in many churches, Not to mention a charged word from Christian to Christian. Some of us are all fired up and want to do our part to share this good news; Others of us find it offensive to suggest that we would change The way someone sees life and sees God. But however we think about the word, evangelism, It s part of our privilege and responsibility as Christians, as followers of Christ To share the good news of God s love in such a way That the world comes to know that God loves them And that God is offering a different way for our lives. Now for some, evangelism refers to an aggressive effort to win the unchurched, To win non-christians into the faith. Unfortunately, a head-on effort often brings the opposite response As people are turned off by the messenger and can t even hear the message. I wish I had a Diet Dr. Pepper for every time someone knocked on my door. Or stopped me in the airport or Minella s to talk with me about my faith; 2

3 And even when I inform them that I m a priest or am in costume, they still continue, As though to imply that while I may be a minister I m not truly of the right faith. It feels conceited and in a subtle way disrespectful, Though I know in my heart that they mean well. At the other extreme is evangelism, which says little about religion and faith itself; An approach that concentrates on building strong programs and welcoming everyone, With no strings attached, no expectations, No desire to change the world around us, and often no Risen Lord. And while for most of us, this is a more comfortable and effective way of evangelism It runs the risk of never quite letting people know that it s the love of Christ That powers these ministries and calls us to follow And change the world. The author Leslie Weatherhead tells the story about two men in his community Who worked in the same business for years. They became good friends, riding the same train home each evening, Sharing their lives with one another five days a week. Through the years they spoke of many things, But they consciously avoided politics and religion. Then one man s wife became suddenly ill and died. And being happily married, he was devastated by the loss And his longtime friend came to see him in his darkest hour. At last, he spoke of his faith in Christ and the strength he found in his church He was astounded when the grieving man fixed him with an angry stare And practically yelled at him, In all these years you have never once, Never once invited me to your church, nor spoke of your faith. And now I have nowhere to turn and you were my friend. 3

4 There it is. If our faith is at all important in our lives, If Easter, if Jesus resurrection has changed us and empowered us in God s love, It s essential that we find ways to share that faith so others can know, too; And though it may seem small in comparison to the world s And our own nation s problems; One changed life at a time will one day change all lives. Philip and Kindness In the reading from the Book of Acts this morning, We again meet Philip, one of Jesus first followers; A person who followed Jesus throughout Jesus earthly ministry; A person who spent time with the resurrected Lord; And now a person who is on fire to share the good news, to evangelize To change the world into one that is more along the lines of God s dream One person at a time. In the story this morning, Phillip meets a man in need; A person searching to know the truth about God And he reaches out to him in a way that makes a difference. Philip doesn t seem to care that this is a person of importance; Philip doesn t seem to patronize or look down on him Because the man doesn t understand that what he s been reading from Isaiah Is speaking of Jesus suffering and saving death on the cross. Philip is open with the man and allows the man to make his needs known And then to help him along as he s asked, there s no pressure, no hype. And then, when Philip has done all that he could, God changes the other man s heart, the man is baptized And Phillip quietly slips away. 4

5 There s no feeling of indebtedness, no expectation of being reimbursed, No effort to have the man join the right church or hold a certain set of beliefs, Philip leaves him to go on his way rejoicing And to pursue his faith as the Holy Spirit moves in him; In the life he s currently living. Bishop Fulton Sheen once said that there are three important characteristics of a Christian Kindness, kindness and kindness. That s what Philip shows here. There s a wonderful story about St. Francis who one day informed his friends That he planned to go to a nearby village on a preaching mission. And he invited their youngest novice to go along with him. On their way, they passed an injured man and Francis stopped; Saw to the poor man s needs and arranged medical care for him; They went on and soon passed a homeless person, near starvation; Again, Francis stopped and took care of the person. And so it went, through the day: people in need; Francis caring for them as best he could until the sun was low in the sky. He told his novice friend that it was now time for them to return now for evening prayers; But the young man said, Father, you said we were coming to town On a preaching mission, to preach to the people; Francis smiled and said, My young friend, that s what we ve been doing all day. That s evangelism in its most faithful and fruitful form; Allowing the promise of the resurrection to touch our lives and the lives of others In the most powerful way ministry to people in their need. Taking care of them through the power of the love of Christ. 5

6 A Movement for a New World The current Episcopal Bishop of North Carolina, Michael Curry, likes to remind people That Jesus came to start a movement; He didn t come to start a religion or a particular kind of church; Jesus came to start a movement of people who loved God And wanted to share that love with others; Not to bring about a religion, but a new way of life for the whole world. What we do about the reality of Jesus resurrection says a lot about the God we know And the way that we will tell and show other people The importance and the power of God s love in our lives. On our own, none of us are going to solve the problem of ISIS Or the problems of Ferguson, MO or Baltimore or our great nation; But one by one, person by person, we and the world will be changed. And so, as we draw near to the end of this season of Easter, I invite you to remember the love of God who was willing to give His all for us, To die so that we might live, the ultimate act of kindness and love, And I invite you to share that kind of love in your family, among your friends, And with anyone you meet who is in need and in all your actions So that all will come to know the love of God In Jesus Christ that you know and be on their way rejoicing As God s dream for us becomes a reality, one person at a time. Let s get moving. Amen. 6

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