Tag Archives: The Greatest Commandment

Hearing God speak really difficult when life interferes with listening

Last week a sudden realization walked through my brain:  summer break was over.  Now for many that might really seem like an epiphany, but for me it answered the state of mind I found myself dwelling.

 

Having lived all my life on an academic calendar until I retired from teaching in 2015, my psyche functioned along the year beginning in August, ending in May, and then taking a three-month break.

 

The last three years of serving as a licensed local pastor on a part time basis should have erased that internal time clock, but last week I realized it had not.

 

Stepping out of the pulpit as of July 1, I was mentally thinking I would take the break to refresh myself and return to work.  But, that is not what my internal time clock understood.

 

Last week it occurred to me that my ‘summer break’ was over.  Three months have passed and my year is not resuming as my brain thinks it should.

 

This realization has caused me to stop and reflect on why I feel so scattered, so unorganized, so lost—so to speak.

 

I need to listen more carefully for God to speak to me.

 

Listening for God is not easy.  Our humanness wants to be in control, and all that is going on around us easily distracts us. It interferes.

 

This pushed me to consider all the different factors that seem to deafen my hearing and I propose that this is a common trait that is interfering with our ability to fulfill God’s greatest commandment as Jesus answered the Pharisees:

 

35 One of them, an expert in religious law, tried to trap him with this question: 36 “Teacher, which is the most important commandment in the law of Moses?”

37 Jesus replied, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’

 

Consider the setting in which the Pharisees were talking with Jesus.  They were the powerful and the ones who thought they knew everything. They were feeling threatened by this newcomer, so by trying to find a flaw in his teachings that would discredit him, they themselves were no longer listening to God.

 

We do the very same thing. We live being in charge of our world. We live without thinking about the Golden Rule.  We live without spending time studying the Bible.  We let . . .

 

There is the problem. We let the world around us step in between God and us.  How in the world can we possibly hear God to speak to us personally when we listen to so many other influences?

 

Just like my personal calendar has long operated on an academic calendar and taking a break from teaching for three-months, I had taken the last three months and refreshed.

 

Or so I thought.

 

Last week I realized that my need to refresh really is defined as a need to listen to God.

 

Listening for/to God is not something that can be done in a pre-packaged time frame, neither is it a singular event.  Listening for God is part of the Christian lifestyle.  My time to refresh must become a time to realign with the practices that refresh my Christian lifestyle and encourages me to listen for God’s direction in my life.

 

John Wesley has a method for improving one’s piety or living as a Christian who is listening for God to direct one’s life.  The United Methodist Church’s website provides a list of Wesley’s works of piety:

 

Individual Practices – reading, meditating and studying the scriptures, prayer, fasting, regularly attending worship, healthy living, and sharing our faith with others

Communal Practices – regularly share in the sacraments, Christian conferencing (accountability to one another), and Bible study

[Accessed on October 10 2018 at http://www.umc.org/how-we-serve/the-wesleyan-means-of-grace]

 

I must confess that I know these Wesley’s works of piety, but I do not always center my life on them. I do fair, but I must do better. We must all do better.

 

With no need to prepare a sermon each week, reading scripture is easy to put aside—especially on a daily basis.  My personal discipline needs improving.

 

Admittedly I do read, and since July 1, I have already completed thirteen books—eleven novels and two church-related.  The choices have been fun, and they do lead me into reflecting on how God can be found even in our literature choices.

 

Participating in a small group who reads the Common Lectionary is part of my weekly routine, too. But, I keep thinking of how I could study even more with other small groups.

 

I do try to live healthy especially in terms of food choices and exercise, but I can do better with this too.

Probably the most difficult part of Wesley’s works of piety is fasting.  I am not good with this practice.

 

I have long struggled with dieting and finally realized that fasting can be done differently for instance, eliminating a specific food or an activity for a set time.

 

Time to rethink fasting as a way to step away from the thingsthat interfere with my focus on living as God asks me to live.  I need to think about this, so I can use more time to listen to God.

 

Prayer is certainly one area that I continue to improve.  I have studied prayer.  I have come to realize that prayers fill my thoughts when no one is talking to me. Prayer is thinking aloud with God as the listener.  Now I need to listen for him.

 

Maybe you, too, need to improve your prayers.  I offer this one that may be helpful, tool:

 

Lord, God,

The world around me is so loud that I cannot hear you speaking to me. Guide me in making better choices so that I can silence all the interference that separates me from you. Thank you for the encouragement of others who knew I needed time to refresh; but as the months slide by, help me to hear your next call.  May what I do reflect the work you ask of me now and on into the months and years ahead. –Amen

 

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God’s words, not mine

given on Sunday, July 31, 2016

Scripture connections:

Matthew 28: 18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (NIV)

 

Matthew 22: 36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” 37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’[a] 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[b] 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”(NIV)

 

Galatians 2: 15 “We who are Jews by birth and not sinful Gentiles 16 know that a person is not justified by the works of the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in[a] Christ and not by the works of the law, because by the works of the law no one will be justified.

 

Galatians 3: 26 So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, 27 for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.

Galatians 5: 26 So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, 27 for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise. . . . 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. 24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.

Galatians 6: Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. 10 Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.

Colossians 1: For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you. We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives,[e] 10 so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, 11 being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, 12 and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you[f] to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light. 13 For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

 

Colossians 1: 17 He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. 19 For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.

Colossians 2: So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.

Colossians 3: Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, the wrath of God is coming.[b] You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. 11 Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.

 

12 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13 Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.

 

15 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.

 

 

Reflection:

 

I apologize. I am not Paul nor do I ever presume that I have all the answers. Yet, I do try to pray, read, study, and listen for God’s word in order to lead others to Christ. I have failed.

After walking away from last Sunday’s service, I realized that somehow, some way a breakdown of God’s church was developing and I needed help. First, I had to clear my head and that took a couple of days and those days were filled with everything but a divine inspiration.

  • Conversations were replayed in my head.
  • Textbooks readings surround my living spaces.
  • The calendar keeps filling up.

In the center of it all, I felt lost. My mind simply could not process anything and I knew I had to regroup quickly. Life was not going to slow down for me. If God was going to have a chance, I had to change something.

Once I had processed what was cluttering my brain, I began seeking sage advice. I read the lectionary, the commentary, and a few more odds and ends from the stacks of books surrounding me. Then I started sorting out questions. Slowly, a major line of thought—a God inspiration—began emerging: What does the Bible tell me? What does the Bible tell the church?

The answer lies in scripture, not only this week but over and over and over. Return to the Bible.   Read. Listen. Study. Read again. Pray. The Bible is holy literature that has withstood the test of time for thousands and thousands of years. The answer is not always easy to locate and sometimes the answer is pretty difficult to acknowledge. Still, the answer is buried in those words and the words of theologians and translators who have done the very same thing as we do today—read, study, pray, and listen.

I apologize if I have failed to communicate God’s timeless message in a manner that leads us to fulfill the commission Jesus issued to his disciples:

Matthew 28: 18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (NIV)

 

Reading the lectionary reminds us that human nature has a tendency to repeat the same behaviors and every three years the theologians guide readers through the entire Bible three times never repeating the same verses within that time frame. The theory is that by following the lectionary for three years, readers will have read the entire Bible once.

The lectionary is a tool. The study notes of our Bibles are supplementary tools. Add to that the textbooks or additional materials available provide more opportunities to hear God speak to us. I have struggled with the daily discipline needed to combat my human character and personality and to follow God’s calling to serve. How does one quiet the babbling in one’s head to hear God talk? Much less, how does one find what is God telling his church to do?

During the past couple of months, the assigned readings from the lectionary have included selections from Paul’s letters to the Galatians and the Colossians. In my Life Application Study Bible, each chapter begins with a sidebar “Vital Statistics” and it begins with the purpose of each book. Looking at the purpose of Paul’s letter written to the church communities, one sees that today’s challenges are really no different than challenges to churches throughout time:

  • Romans: To introduce Paul to the Romans and to give a sample of the message before he arrives in Rome.
  • I Corinthians: To identify problems in the Corinthian church, to offer solutions, and to teach the believers how to live for Christ in a corrupt society.
  • 2 Corinthians: To affirm Paul’s ministry, defend his authority as an apostle, and refute the false teachers in Corinth.
  • Galatians: To refute the Judaizers (who taught that Gentile believers must obey the Jewish Law in order to be saved), and to call Christians to faith and freedom in Christ.
  • Ephesians: To strengthen the believers in Ephesus in their Christian faith by explaining the nature and purpose of the church, the body of Christ.
  • Philippians: To thank the Philippians for the gift they had sent Paul and to strengthen these believers by showing them that true joy comes from Jesus Christ alone.
  • Colossians: To combat errors in the church and to show that believers have everything they need in Christ.
  • I Thessalonians: To strengthen the Thessalonian Christians in their faith and give them the assurance of Christ’s return.
  • 2 Thessalonians: To clear up the confusion about the second coming of Christ.

 

Seven different churches all were sent letters to communicate Paul’s messages. Each different congregation had its own issues and as Bible readers/students learn, these problems appear in churches repeatedly. Paul’s letters continue to guide today’s congregations and that means our own right here, right now.

Beginning the last Sunday in May, the weekend before Annual Conference, the lectionary included the first reading from Galatians and that, remember, is the letter Paul wrote to clarify the application of the New Law to the Jewish traditionalist wanting to force the Gentiles to follow the Old Law.

Do we, in our own church need the same reminder? Of course we do. Reading through Galatians during the remaining weeks of June, churches are reminded that the stringent laws are not required, that the church is open to all people. There is no closed door in a church that is following God’s call to serve all the people in all the ways that they possibly can. God’s words overrule my words or any other person’s words:

Galatians 2: 15 “We who are Jews by birth and not sinful Gentiles 16 know that a person is not justified by the works of the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in[a] Christ and not by the works of the law, because by the works of the law no one will be justified.

 

Galatians 3: 26 So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, 27 for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.

Galatians 5: 26 So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, 27 for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise. . . . 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. 24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.

Galatians 6: Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. 10 Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.

 

These words send red flags to today’s churches that are struggling to survive in a corrupt culture that seems to creep into our lives as silently and stealthily as the fog we have seen these past few days. The sun burns the fog off, and God’s Son should burn the fog off in today’s churches.

And again, I apologize. God’s message is not getting communicated well. I continue to read and to study, but life gets into the middle of my own calling and I fail.

The lectionary does not fail, though, and as July began Paul’s letter to Galatians continued to explain how the Old Law did not apply once Christ delivered the New Law, was crucified, died, and arose. Does our church need Paul’s words to guide us to opening our doors to others?

Then the lectionary shifts into Colossians and Paul tries:

 

To combat errors in the church and to show that believers have everything they need in Christ.

 

As the month continued—and now ends—with the readings from Colossians:

Colossians 1: For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you. We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives,[e] 10 so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, 11 being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, 12 and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you[f] to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light. 13 For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

 

Colossians 1: 17 He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. 19 For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.

Colossians 2: So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.

Colossians 3: Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, the wrath of God is coming.[b] You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. 11 Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.

 

12 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13 Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.

 

15 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.

 

How can we ignore the words written so many years ago but still apply today? We are living in a corrupt society. We are still trying to preserve the way things were rather than adapting our methods to a world that has raced ahead filling our communities with so many temptations that our churches cannot ‘combat evil’ successfully.

John Wesley lived in a corrupt world, as did so many Christian theologians. We live in a corrupt world, too, but there is no reason to give up trying to make a difference. My high school graduating class selected a quote that continues to be a driving force in my own life:

Take the world as you see it,

but leave it better.

 

I googled those words and I could not find the original source, but I certainly remember the work we put into selecting that quote and the value it has provided me in my life. When you add that quote to Wesley’s quote:

“Do all the good you can. By all the means you can. In all the ways you can. In all the places you can. At all the times you can. To all the people you can. As long as ever you can.”

How can one go wrong following God’s New Law found in Matthew 22 when Jesus was asked:

36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’[a] 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[b] 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”(NIV)

 

Let’s put these words into action. Let’s work together. Let’s study together. Let’s pray together.

Join together in conversation. The second week of the challenge to meet on Tuesday morning, 10 am, at the church to read and to discuss the small book, I am a church member, is open to each and every one in our community. We have just five more weeks to prepare for the fair and our doors are literally wide open. There can be no better opportunity to open the hearts of our neighbors to the love of Christ who offers hope in a world filled with corruption.

Closing prayer:

Dear Guiding Father,

Your servant Paul has guided the church for centuries,

We read his words but struggle to understand.

Use the words to open our hearts.

Use the words to guide us in the very principles of love.

Help us to work together to change our world.

Help us to demonstrate service in all the ways we can.

May we love one another as you have loved us.

May we serve one another as you served us.

Keep us focused on your message of compassion.

Keep us focused on the promises of life eternal

As we live our Christian faith out loud in our community

So others may find grace and hope in your love. –Amen

 

Benediction from Scripture:

Colossians 3: 16 Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. 17 And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

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The Big E: How well are we following Jesus’ commandment?

given Sunday, February 26, 2012

During LENT, let’s open our minds to the Big Evangelism through scripture, worship, prayer and discussion.  The bulletin and quotes will be from The Message translation.  Consider reading your favorite translation and study notes to compare the ideas being discussed.  This is the first of the Lenten series.

Ephesians 2:1-5  Paul’s letter explaining the nature and purpose of  the church

It wasn’t so long ago that you were mired in that old stagnant life of sin. You let the world, which doesn’t know the first thing about living, tell you how to live. You filled your lungs with polluted unbelief, and then exhaled disobedience. We all did it, all of us doing what we felt like doing, when we felt like doing it, all of us in the same boat. It’s a wonder God didn’t lose his temper and do away with the whole lot of us. Instead, immense in mercy and with an incredible love, he embraced us. He took our sin-dead lives and made us alive in Christ. He did all this on his own, with no help from us!  (the Message)

Additional verses referenced in today’s sermon:

  • John 3:16  Apostle John writing to New and searching Christians
  • Matthew 28:19-20  The Greatest Commission
  • Matthew 22:37-40  The Greatest Commandment
  • Matthew 25:34-36  from the Parable of the Sheep and the Goats

Today is the first Sunday in the Lenten season, and during this Christian season tradition establishes these 40 days—excluding Sundays—as a time for deep, personal reflection.  Ash Wednesday is the first day of Lent and marks the beginning of the process.

Methodists do not have any requirements for the season, but suggestions do include giving up something for Lent.  Over the past few years, I found that adding something for Lent is another way to add focus to the season of reflection and evaluation.  In fact, one possibility is to carry your personal Bible to church each Sunday.

With that suggestion, I challenge each of you to bring your favorite translation with you during the remaining Sundays.  The scriptures provided are from the Message, but each one of us has our favorite language to read.  We may have a version with study notes that help us to hear the message.  Just bring your own Bible each Sunday; and during the week, read as often as possible.

Now that the challenge is issued, it is time to begin working through the discussion of “The Big E,” which is a subject that can strike horror in one’s psyche.  Evangelism has evolved into one of the scariest words in church language, and it is one that causes many to run away from the church.  Why?  Just what is evangelism?

Go back to Jesus’ greatest commandment, Matthew 22:37-40:

37-40Jesus said, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your passion and prayer and intelligence.’ This is the most important, the first on any list. But there is a second to set alongside it: ‘Love others as well as you love yourself.’ These two commands are pegs; everything in God’s Law and the Prophets hangs from them.”  (The MSG)

The Greatest Commandment turns out to have two parts, really.  Love God, but then also love one another.

The question for our personal reflection is “How well are we following Jesus’ commandment?”  Stop and review what has happened over the past year.  Has there been a time when life got in the way of this command?  Has something hurt you causing you to focus on yourself rather than on others?  How many times have you recognized someone’s need and worked to meet that need?

These are tough questions and we are human.  So many times we walk right past someone in need—and we really do not see the need.  We pass right on by, caught up in our own thoughts.  The disciples wanted to understand how they were to know when they were following God’s laws.  The answer is found in Matthew 25, not just once, but repeated twice:

“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Enter, you who are blessed by my Father! Take what’s coming to you in this kingdom. It’s been ready for you since the world’s foundation. And here’s why:

I was hungry and you fed me,
I was thirsty and you gave me a drink,
I was homeless and you gave me a room,
I was shivering and you gave me clothes,
I was sick and you stopped to visit,
I was in prison and you came to me.’   (the MSG)

The answer Jesus gave the disciples is the same answer he gives us today.  Look at those needs and then review whether or not you have served others in any of those ways.

This list is not complete, but it is a list that covers the basic needs of all humans:  food, shelter, and clothing, as well as healing for those who are sick or in prison.  Each of us surely can think of other times when we have identified a need and then worked to see that it is met.

How does the Big E fit into this discussion?  A definition of evangelism is needed.  Evangelism, according to the HarperCollins Bible Dictionary, is ”. . . proclaiming the good news about God’s Kingdom and about Jesus the Christ . . . “  Those words sound familiar, and they echo the Great Commission as recorded in Matthew 28:19-20:

Jesus, undeterred, went right ahead and gave his charge: “God authorized and commanded me to commission you: Go out and train everyone you meet, far and near, in this way of life, marking them by baptism in the threefold name: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Then instruct them in the practice of all I have commanded you. I’ll be with you as you do this, day after day after day, right up to the end of the age.”  (the MSG)

The echo continues to be heard across the centuries and nothing has changed Jesus’ instructions since then.  During this Lent, we need to include or possibly conclude our reflection with the question How well have we shared the good news with others?”  The Great Commission is Evangelism.

A language search makes the connection much clearer.  Evangelism is the gospel.  The gospel is the good news.  The good news is found in John 3:16:  “This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life.  (the MSG)

The Big E should be the “Big Easy,” but in our harried, full, fast-paced lives we are frightened of evangelism as we think it is another job for us to do.  We see evangelism as imposing our views on someone else.  We see evangelism as a specific process to get others into church.  We do not know how we could possibly evangelize, as we do not have that talent.

These are reasons I know personally.  I did not get it.  I could not see how evangelism was something I could do.  I did not understand that evangelism as a process was simply living my faith openly.  Evangelism is easy; evangelism is Christian life.  What do we do to take fear out of that word—evangelism?

During the weeks of Lent, the Big E needs a makeover.  We need to conquer the fears that evangelism creates in our own minds and find ways to apply the gospel in our lives today.  Why the word evangelism did not even surface until the early to mid 1600s!  The word is certainly not as old as the faith, so surely we can tame it for our 21st century lives.

Evangelism can be studied and analyzed by theologians, but the simple fact is that evangelism needs to be as natural to us as breathing.  The question really becomes how do we share the love, the joy, and the peace that our faith provides us in all that we do in our earthly life.  How can we demonstrate to others the power of God when we just casually live with it?

First, review your own daily life.  Look at how your faith is woven into each and every little facet of the day.  As you prepare and eat a dinner, do you see God’s role in your life?  Is God in your life at work, whether in an office or out in the field?  When you look out at the birds, the sun, the thunderstorm, or the woods, do you see the wonder of God’s world?  In the doctor’s office, in a hospital, or even during a funeral, is God with you?

Second, think about the times you have been asked how you manage all that you do or have been through.  Don’t you say that you do it because of your faith?  Don’t you tell others that that is just life so you take it one day at a time—knowing that God is with you?  And, despite all that you are struggling to manage, when someone else is in trouble, don’t you put them first?  You are evangelizing.  You are living your faith.

As the Big E continues to loom over us, let’s continue with our personal reflection and a congregational discussion.  If living a Christian life is the good news, how can we share that with others?  Once you see the gospel in your life, now you will look outward seeing how to share it.  The final issue is defining the kingdom of heaven and then how to explain it to others.  This is our Lenten task.

Dear Loving Father,

Our lives are so full of family, work, and fun

     we are guilty of overlooking the Great Commission.

Forgive us for knowingly avoiding evangelizing.

Guide us through Lent as we review our own faith,

      as we struggle to understand our own good news.

Open our minds as we look at how our faith is evangelism

     and search for ways to openly share with others.

Teach us through the words of the Bible, the hymns,

      and the prayers how the Kingdom of Heaven

     was, is and will forever be available to all.

Thank you for this community of faith who join

     in worship, study and practice together.

Amen.

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