There are seven “I am” statements by Jesus recorded in John’s Gospel. In order they are: 1) I am the bread of life, 2) I am the light of the world, I am… 3) the door, 4) the Good Shepherd, 5) the resurrection and the life, 6) the way, the truth, and the life, and 7) I am the true vine. Just with those statements alone, we eliminate all consider-ation of Jesus merely being a great teacher or fine moral example. This is an unmistakable claim to being deity…
Latest NewsletterNewsletter 2021-05-05
This week I wish to begin the discussion on the “how to” of evangelism, that is, sharing the Faith, or as I have said, gospeling others.
At the outset I wish to emphasize the avoidance of a formulaic way of going about the business. Perhaps this aversion is in part because my disdain of canned approaches. But hopefully it has more to do with the creative, individual, and natural ways being more compelling. That having been said, I have no doubt that God has worked through such things as “The Four Spiritual Laws”, “The Roman Road”, or “The Kennedy Plan”. Don’t worry if you are unfamiliar with those names, the point is they are formulaic and memorized ways of going about the endeavor. Even so, I like the saying , “I like his way of going about evangelism poorly, better than your way of not doing it at all.”
We tend to think of conversation as being necessary in the work of evangelism. And ultimately, indeed some words are needed. But the needed words tend to be more effective if they stem from our actions, especially our acts of compassion and mercy. And yet, people don’t learn of the Gospel, namely, the love of God shown us in the death and resurrection of God’s Son for forgiveness and rescue from sin, death, and the devil, by our actions alone. To learn of this requires words!
The easiest and most natural sharing of the faith comes when people have observed our lives and they ask us what motivates our lives, especially the hopefulness they see in us as we go about loving God and loving our neighbor. It is best when they are already inquisitive and ask such a question. But of course, that begs the question. Do they in fact see anything different in us?
This brings us back full circle to our constantly being formed in the Faith and exercising the same 24/7, and our being full of hope and deep seated joy.
Since You Asked…
What is the significance of sharing the peace?
“The peace which enables people to live in unity and in the spirit of mutual forgiveness comes only from Christ whose word has been proclaimed. … The peace is a sign that those who participate in it open themselves to the healing and reconciling power of God’s love and offer themselves to be agents of that love in the world. … The personal exchange of the peace should be as unpatterned as possible, but its meaning and significance should be kept clear. It is not the occasion merely for conviviality. The choice of gesture, whether a handshake, holding hands, or an embrace, should be left to the persons themselves.” (from “Manual on the Liturgy” companion to the LBW, from Augsburg Pub.)
I mentioned last week that we first need to be evangelized ourselves before we can effectively be employed to evangelize others. This is true, but it is also the case that gospeling others needs to begin before we are fully gospeled ourselves; for the simple reason that since being evangelized is a lifelong process, we would never get around to it at all if we needed to be fully evangelized first.
This is a case of being able to walk and chew gum at the same time. But in the sharing and formation of the Gospel, as evangelists we need to keep receiving that Gospel formation ourselves. The more we are filled, the more we have to pour out.
It is probably also true, that if we never venture out and share, that which we are filled with will become stagnant. God’s love and mercy is poured out in us, so that in turn it can be poured out to others. And as God’s love is infinite we need never fear that he is unable to refill us as we empty ourselves with the Gospel to others.
So there is a balance here. We need to have something to share, so we need to make being filled a priority. And yet, if we do not quickly pour out what we have received we also don’t receive all that we can. Think of it as emptying to make room for ever fresh and new blessings and mercy.
It is also true, if we just dabble and are sporadic and haphazard in our own formation by God’s Word, we not only will not be well equipped to share Christ’s Word, but we will also lack confidence, excitement, and familiarity with what we try to share.
It helps immensely to come alive in sharing devotionally with other believers. If we are not practiced in talking faith with other believers, it won’t be easier to have such conversations with the uninitiated and outsiders…
Since You Asked…
What is the meaning of the Incarnation?
The word incarnation is taken from Latin term incarnatio. It literally means “taking flesh” and in the Christian Faith it refers to God becoming human. In John 1:14 we learn of God the Son becoming flesh with the birth of Jesus of Nazareth. Indeed the child born to Mary was a man, but it is the insistence of the Christian Faith that Jesus was also fully God. He is sometimes called the God-Man. Without ceasing to be fully divine, inseparable and equal to God the Father and God the Holy Spirit; God the Son also fully assumed our humanity in the womb of the Virgin Mary. In this way Jesus mediates God to man and then also represents man to God. The mystery of the Incarnation becomes a necessary means by which Jesus’ death and resurrection accomplishes our salvation.
Continuing our conversation on evangelism, I cannot emphasize enough how important it is for us to be evangelized, or gospeled, before we can effectively be involved in evangelizing, or gospeling, others! And as was said last time, this is a lifelong process.
In Matthew 4 Jesus invited some fishermen, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Here we see clearly the priority of fist following Jesus, and then in the process of following to allow ourselves to be made fishers of men. It is probably helpful to say a word concerning the image Jesus uses in Matthew 4 for the evangelizing enterprise. He compares it with fishing! But it is important we have an accurate picture for this, one that our Lord’s originally hearers would have had.
As one who enjoys fishing, I relate to fishing with the use of a hook, line, and sinker. The idea is enticement. You bait the hook, or use a lure with hooks attached. The idea is to fool the fish. It is deceptive by nature. Think of it, man in all his brilliance tries to outsmart a fish! And if you succeed, you set the hook and reel in the scaled swimmer of the sea.
But there is something a little fishy about this image! Would it be fitting to attract folks to God’s reign (His Kingdom) by enticement or false advertisement? I don’t think so!
It is important to understand the image Jesus used, and the one the people would have had, was not modern recreational fishing, but commercial fishing with nets. And the effort was not one of enticement, baiting, and quickly trying to set the hook. Rather, it is one of casting out, and then drawing. And it would be fair to say, it is not the attempt to entice a fish to come to you. Instead, it is finding and going to where fish congregate and then drawing them to something new. In our case, we can only draw people to where we ourselves are being drawn…
Since You Asked…
What is the Christian’s Hope?
In a word, it is the resurrection of the body to life everlasting in the world to come. This is more accurate and complete than just saying “life after death.” It is also more helpful than saying “going to heaven.” When Jesus returns at the end of the age to judge the living and the dead, baptized believers will be raised bodily! They will share in a resurrection similar to Jesus’ resurrection. And being in his presence on that day and for all eternity is not just a matter of escaping to heaven, but living in his presence in the new heaven and earth. The Lord intends to renew and restore his creation. So our central hope is the resurrection of the dead, with believers inheriting the Kingdom.
This week I wish to begin a conversation with you on evangelism. For starters, it may be a good idea to provide a definition and explain what evangelism is all about. Webster defines evangelism as: the winning or revival of personal commitments to Christ.
I like better how the Webster Dictionary defines the word evangelize. The definition here is: to preach the gospel. Why I like this better is because the English word is based on the Greek euangelion which translated means “good news” or “gospel”. And whereas it is assigned for pastors to preach the Gospel, it is expected of all of us to share, give witness, and testify to the Good News of the salvation Jesus Christ won for the human race.
You might say we all need to be gospeled. Even baptized believers need to continue to be gospeled. And we in turn need to gospel others.
It is this Good News itself, sometimes called the Word of Christ, sometimes the Word of God, that brings salvation to us, and enables us to receive the gift by faith. The Apostle Paul writes, “Faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the Word of Christ” (Ro 10:17).
Evangelizing is at heart of what the Church does. It is the continuation of our Lord Jesus’ mission to rescue and reclaim a world lost to sin. It is His work! And this work after Jesus’ Ascension and outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost, is now continued through Christ’s body, the members of which are baptized believers.
The reason I did not like Webster’s first definition is that it makes the work ours – that we are to do the winning or reviving of commitments to Christ. Frankly, it is Christ’s work! But that does not absolve us from being involved, nor of lots of dedication and work. But our job is to share and care, testify, point to, and support pastors to preach. Of this I will have more to say…
Since You Asked…
Are announcements necessary? And should they be included as a part of the liturgy?
Not all announcements are necessary! Nor should they be allowed to disrupt the rhythmic flow of the service. It is likewise important that announcements be kept to a minimum. But certain announcements are important. Information that will enhance participation in the worship, information pertaining to further Christian service, and information for regarding further opportunities for spiritual edification are such announcements of importance, and they are worthwhile to promote publicly to the assembly. We have chosen the beginning of the worship service as the most helpful and least disruptive placement for announcements.
Of all the things our Lord Jesus attended to on the eve of His crucifixion, instituting, or establishing, a new meal was an important part of that night. This meal He enjoined upon his disciples for generations to come. And of this meal, Jesus connects and identifies the New Covenant of His blood with it. Now that is saying something! We rightly conclude that participation in this meal is something most special.
Interestingly, the Old covenant was likewise ratified by blood. And gruesomely the sacrificial blood of animals was thrown upon the altar, and then flung at the people so that they might be covered under the covenant God made with His people Israel. But with the new covenant a more efficacious blood confirms the agreement God makes with man. It is the blood of the perfect sacrifice, that to which all animal sacrifices previously pointed. It is nothing less than the blood of the Incarnate Son of God. And this blood is not flung at us, but rather, it is offered to us in a meal.
And Jesus says of the bread He blessed and broke, “take and eat, this is My body, given for you.” And of the cup that He blessed and shared with His disciples, “take and drink, this cup is the new covenant in My blood, shed for you and for all people for the forgiveness of sin.”
It is best to take Jesus at His word. “This is My body. This is My blood.” We get in trouble when we try to understand or explain it. It is obviously in the category of a miracle, and one of the mysteries of the Faith. And yet it is a tenet of the faith that God’s Word is able to accomplish what it purposes. After all, God spoke things into existence out of nothing. We just accept that we need His supernatural, sacramental body and blood to be nourished and sustained in the forgiveness of sins. What a meal!
Skipping such a meal is not conducive to good health...
Since You Asked…
Does the receiving of money offerings play a significant role in the worship service?
Yes, more than you might think! Cash is one of the strongest symbols in modern culture. When we offer our money on the altar it should represent our time and effort – our very selves. In early Christian worship gifts-in-kind were handled during the weekly assemblage. In our post-industrial societies, we now exchange in paper or metal symbols. The offering of our selves upon the altar is in response to God’s love proclaimed in the Good News and in anticipation of how God offers back that which is entrusted to him. During the moment of offering we also offer bread and wine upon the altar, and in return these gifts are offered back to us as the very body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ.