Dear friends in Christ,
Most days when I walk down Broadway towards the Green, I come across an earnest pair of Jehovah's Witnesses with a kiosk with tracts--and a sign that changes, asking a provocative question that tugs at the heartstrings of our contemporary lives.
Today it was something like, "Will suffering end?" Yesterday it was along the lines of "How can I get along with my family more?" You can imagine the sorts of others.
Sometimes folks stop at the kiosk and look about. Sometimes they talk to the Witnesses there. I always wonder what they think about me when I walk by in my collar; in truth, I imagine they don't notice or think very much about it at all.
I disagree with the Witnesses about a great number of things. I don't like simplistic answers to complex questions--I think they can be damaging and dangerous. I believe I know God best in the revelation of Jesus Christ, the words of Scripture that point to Jesus, the Word of God, and the tradition of the Church catholic.
Nonetheless I admire the willingness of these Witnesses to stand out on the street and offer themselves for conversation--to take the time and risk discomfort to proclaim in the very streets of the city themselves what they believe.
What we say we believe--that God made us, loves us, and comes to be with us in the person of Jesus Christ--that not even death can stop the great love of God--that all people are beloved of God--these things, the distillation of the Creeds, the faith of the Church--are astonishing and revolutionary. They are literally earth shattering. I am loved that much?! By the Creator of the Universe?! What awe, wonder, and joy! And out of that place I can afford to love others wastefully and with abandon.
That's life-changing information. Meeting Jesus is a life-changing experience.
I don't know what the Jehovah's Witnesses are telling, but I know what story we have to tell. And it's a story that hurting people are longing to hear.
This program year we'll focus on what the Gospel has to say about the suffering of the world--about the suffering of the city of New Haven. We'll try on a few new practices--like our Vigil for Victims of Gun Violence on Friday, September 13 (Eve of Holy Cross). And I'll keep asking us as a community to think about how we are sharing the story of God's love.
Maybe we're not called to stand on a street corner. (Or maybe we are?!) But we can certainly share our faith, authentically and honestly, when asked. We can work to live in the discomfort of the questions--offering hope instead of easy answers, faithfulness instead of dogmatic tropes. We can pray and praise and give thanks to God. And we can tell the city and her residents that they are loved.
How are you today sharing what you know about God's love? Are you sharing it with word and deed? What will you try this week, this month, to tell someone that she or he is loved? Where will you go outside the walls of our own community? While you're there, what will you do to proclaim the love of God revealed to you through Jesus Christ?
It's time for us to reclaim evangelism. I'm tired of leaving it up to folks with tired tropes and simple answers that fail. Evangelism is just telling people that they--and we--are beloved of God. That's all. It's Good News indeed.
How will we share it together?
Yours in the Good News of Jesus Christ,