“Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God.” Mark 1:14.
This passage from last week’s Gospel lesson has really stuck in my brain, which I find to be rather odd. First, it appears to be in some respects what we in the legal profession might refer to as “dicta” – a non-consequential sentence that is more filler than anything – a throw-away sentence in a lesson that is much more about Jesus’ calling of his disciples than anything. But this is the beauty of Scripture, how it speaks to us differently each and every time we read it.
What perhaps impacted me the most about this passage, however, is how it allowed me to see Jesus in a new way – a new Light, so to speak, one in which I hadn’t ever considered before – the light of an evangelist. Teacher? Absolutely! Healer? Most definitely. Son of God, Prince of Peace, Emmanuel, Lord and Savior? Do I even need to respond to this one? But evangelist? Sad to say, but that caught me off guard.
Perhaps it is because we Episcopalians tend to shutter at that dreaded “E”-word (“evangelism”). We are a funny lot in that regard – people who prefer to follow the quote often associated with St. Francis: “Preach the Gospel at all times. When necessary, use words.” It could be that we are one, big collective of introverts, people who would rather let our actions do our talking for us. But, sometimes actions are not enough. Sometimes, we need to use our words to spread that good news.
“Evangelism” comes from the Greek word “euangelion” which means “Good News.” As such, logic dictates that an “evangelist” is one who proclaims good news. Which is why I don’t understand the aversion we as a faith have to evangelism? I mean, who doesn’t like to share good news?
In my experience, people are always willing and ready to share the good things happening in their lives with their family, friends, neighbors, co-workers, and sometimes, strangers on the street. We eat at a really good restaurant, or see a really good movie, we want to share it. If we look at Facebook or Instagram, people are often sharing story after story of good things happening in their lives – good books they’ve read, good food they’ve eaten, engagements, anniversaries, births, etc.
It would seem natural that people would also be very willing to share the good news of how their lives have been shaped, guided, and changed, comforted, strengthened, and blessed with God and Jesus in their lives. And yet, we don’t. We hold our faith very close to our hearts. However, I do believe that people are willing, if asked, to share their stories of their faith.
Lent is coming up, and instead of giving up something perhaps try taking on a new spiritual practice - the practice of evangelism. Share the good news of God with your family and friends, co-workers, and maybe, strangers on the street. It is fairly simple, although it takes some intentionality.
Jesus promised us, “I will be with you always, even unto the end of the age.” Matthew 28:20. So look and see. Be attentive. Where have you seen Christ-God-Holy Spirit working in your life? Where has God blessed you? Where has God strengthened you? Where has God comforted you? Where has God cried or rejoiced with you? God-Christ-Holy Spirit is here with us always, in every situation.
Once you have seen God’s handiwork, go and share this with people whom you know. Talk about why God is important to you. Why your faith is important to you. Why your Church is important to you. Use your words and not just your actions. These are important conversations to have - particularly now. People need to hear the good news of God.
I’ll share a recent experience of mine. I was heading to church, listening to an acoustic version of “All Creatures of Our God and King” - it just has a way of centering me. And as I drove and listened, I saw a flock of geese flying in formation, people walking their dogs before work. People were going on their way. And all of a sudden, they were all in sync with the music - in one big divine dance with each other and with the world. And I felt a peace come over me and all that was before me - a peace that passedall understanding. And I knew that all was okay - because God was at work in the world.
Evangelism doesn’t mean conversion. It means sharing the good news of God. The Holy Spirit does the rest.
As followers of Jesus, let us follow all his ways - and go and share the good news.