Sunday, July 14 2019
“Mostly evangelism is not what we tell people, unless what we tell is totally consistent with who we are. It is who we are that is going to make the difference. It is who we are that is going to show the love that brought us all into being, that cares for us all, now, and forever. If we do not have love in our hearts, our words of love will have little meaning. If we do not truly enjoy our faith, nobody is going to catch the fire of enjoyment from us. If our lives are not totally centered on Christ, we will not be Christ-bearers for others, no matter how pious our words” (Madeleine L'Engle).
Last Sunday in my sermon, I talked about warming hearts in our worship and hospitality to our guests as the two key ingredients to our evangelism at St. John’s. When our worship warms our hearts we are filled with joy and peace. When we welcome a guest or stranger in our midst and treat them with kindness, we bring the Kingdom of God near.
This Sunday Jesus teaches us another lesson on how to treat our neighbor. We all know the story of the Good Samaritan. A lawyer asks Jesus what he must do to inherit eternal life, so Jesus tells him a parable. A man is robbed and beaten on the road to Jericho and neither the Priest nor the Levite stops to help him. A Samaritan went to him, bandaged his wounds, took him to an inn and took care of him. Jesus tells us that this is what it means to love our neighbor and that we should do likewise.
In today’s Gospel you are asked to love the Lord with all your heart, soul and mind and to love your neighbor as yourself. The question that Jesus asks us is, “Who is your neighbor?” The point of the passage is that Christ calls us to deepen our relationship with God so that we might understand what it means to love our neighbor. This story is not just about helping others, but about mercy and compassion that can only come from God above. Our hearts are warmed when we help others, but we create barriers like racism, sexism, and homophobia to retain the privilege that we enjoy. In today’s Gospel, Jesus tells the lawyer that he must break down the prejudices that we all have in order to love our neighbor as God intends.
Jesus Christ died on a cross for our sins that we might understand the love, mercy, and compassion of God. When we follow the way of the cross through self-giving love we feel the peace that passes all understanding. The lesson from Deuteronomy tells us that when we love God and our neighbor we receive the “abundant prosperity” of God. While some would say this means fame, money, and power, I believe that God's abundance is the warming of the heart. It is the joy of following God’s will that brings the Kingdom of God near to us. Maybe the most important person that you can evangelize is yourself. Deepen your relationship with God and love your neighbor and you will receive riches that cannot be measured in dollars. You will be blessed with strength from on high that will get you through all of the valleys that are sure to come in this temporal life and you will surely inherit eternal life.
In Christ’s love,