13 August 2017

Evangelism is not a popular word today. Many Christians shy away from sharing their faith because of all the baggage that has been accumulated over the years. But, our faith is public, not private, and as followers of Christ we are called to participate in God’s work of saving the world. This week the Lectionary invites us to explore how we might approach this challenging, but exciting call.

May our faith be strengthened as we worship, and may we be transformed that little bit more into those who reflect Christ’s life and message.

READINGS:
Genesis 37:1-4, 12-28: Jacob loves his son Joseph more than his other sons, and gives a Joseph a beautiful robe. But, his brothers become jealous and sell him into slavery.
OR 1 Kings 19:9-18: Elijah takes refuge in a cave and he is visited by God. he experiences windstorm, earthquake and fire, but God is not in these dramatic events. Then he hears God speak in a gentle whisper and he receives instructions from God.

Psalm 105:1-6, 16-22, 45b: A psalm of thanksgiving and celebration of what God has done as the psalmist remembers Joseph.
OR Psalm 85:8-13: The psalmist commits to listening to God and calls God’s people to stay away from foolishness, while receiving God’s salvation, righteousness, truth and blessing.

Romans 10:5-15: Becoming right with God is not about the law’s requirements, but about recognising the nearness of God’s word and responding to it in faith – which is why it is so important that there are those who will take the message to the world.

Matthew 14:22-33: Jesus walks on water to join the disciples in the boat as they struggle with the storm. Peter asks Jesus to call him to join him, but as he walks toward Jesus he fears and begins to sink. Jesus rescues him, and when they climb back into the boat, the storm dies down.

REFLECTIONS ON THEME:
The readings this week all tell stories of rescue and salvation. In each of them, there is a person who is tasked with bringing God’s rescue to others. In Genesis it’s Joseph who, although he goes through immense suffering, will rescue Egypt (as we know from Psalm 105). In Kings, it’s Elijah who hears God’s instructions (as the Psalmist commits to do in Psalm 85) and rescues God’s people from corrupt leaders. In Romans, Paul celebrates the faith that responds to God’s word, and the ones who proclaim the word so that people can believe. Finally, in the Gospel, it’s Jesus who rescues Peter and the disciples as the storm threatens to overwhelm them, and who, in doing this, leads them to faith. Ultimately all rescuers point us to Christ and call us to respond to Christ in faith. But, at the same time, the Scriptures call us to be the ones who proclaim God’s nearness, and who invite others to find salvation in Christ. It’s a challenging call, and one that has often been understood in destructive, arrogant and hurtful ways. But, when we recognise that beneath the call is God’s grace, and that, as Paul says, it is not our job to question who will “go to heaven” and who will “descend to the place of the dead”, we can embrace God’s call to be those who graciously and compassionately reach out to others with a genuine concern for their sakes.

CONNECTING WITH LIFE:
GLOBAL APPLICATION: There have tended to be two responses to the call to bring salvation to the world. On the one hand, Christ-followers have viewed this in purely spiritual terms, and related to specific beliefs and ideas. The Word is thought to be the Scriptures, and the faith that is needed is purely about Jesus forgiving sins and taking us to heaven. In this scheme, it is important to impress on people that they are sinners and that Christ is the only way to salvation. However, any earthly salvation that might be needed is largely ignored. On the other hand, salvation is seen purely in terms of social justice, in terms of overthrowing unjust systems and creating a world of justice, peace and equity. In this scheme, any need for spiritual rescue, or for consideration of eternal realities are largely ignored. However, in our world, there is a need for both rescues, and for people who are both committed enough and humble enough to proclaim it in ways that are life-giving, welcoming and practical. There is a need to recognise that we are not capable of saving ourselves, and that we need God’s Word in Christ to empower us, direct us and transform us. There is a need to recognise that God’s reign challenges and confronts unjust human systems and to work for a change in how our world is structured. And, there is a need to recognise that all people are loved by God, are made in God’s image, and are eternal creatures whom God longs to bring into loving, healing relationship with God’s self. If we are to participate in God’s saving work, then, it will mean that we need to be both people of faith and people of practical, liberating action. Both people of courageous proclamation, and people of gracious, loving welcome. And it will mean having the humility to realise that it is Christ – not Christians, or even the Church – that must ultimately be the Saviour, and that Christ can choose to do this work in any way Christ chooses – and through any means.

LOCAL APPLICATION: The reality of our world is that many people are tired of hearing the traditional evangelical presentation of the Gospel and resent the sense of judgement and exclusivity with which it is presented. It is tempting for us to see ourselves as obedient servants of Christ who do not reach people simply because they are resistant to God. However, we would do well to consider whether we may have missed what God is really calling us to do, and whether we have reduced God’s message down to only a few parts of the whole. For some of us, the idea of offering God’s salvation to others is the cause of much embarrassment and resistance because we don’t want to be associated with certain groups, preachers or ways of evangelising. But, in every community, every neighbourhood and even every family, are those who would be grateful for us to serve them as Christ did, to work on their behalf to change unjust systems, and to help them find practical ways to address their struggles. In every community are those who want to see our message being lived out in practical ways. In every situation are those who wish that the message of God’s grace and love was presented with the same grace and love it proclaims. As churches we cannot avoid the call to share the Gospel, but we can be more careful about how we respond to it. In Joseph’s case there was no blame placed on Egypt for the famine. There was just grace, love and rescue. In Elijah’s case, there was confrontation with corrupt leaders, but solidarity with the poor and oppressed, not judgement. In Paul’s letter he instructs believers to avoid getting into judgements of who is going to heaven or to hell, and just to be the “beautiful feet” that bring Christ to those who need Christ. And in the case of Christ, Peter and the disciples are invited to trust Jesus more, and learn to trust his rescue which is always available for them, while learning to recognise who he really is – the only one who can offer them God’s eternal life.

RESOURCES FOR WORSHIP:
Prayers:
Loving Through The Storm
Quiet Proclamation
Without You
In The Face Of It All

Hymn Suggestions:
O God Our Help In Ages Past
O Master, Let Me Walk With Thee
A Charge To Keep I Have
O For A Thousand Tongues To Sing
We Shall Go Out In Hope Of Resurrection
You Are God
You Are
God Of Justice (Link to YouTube video)
How Lovely On The Mountains (Link to YouTube video)

Liturgy:
A Liturgy For The Sacrament

Video Suggestions:
Small Boats
The Life Of Joseph
Shine Your Light

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