Phrases like that used to make me nervous. I was raised in a moderate, mainline congregation where we expressed our faith in Jesus by how we lived, not by talking about it with others. I’m not really sure why. Somehow, along the way in the second half of the 20th century, talking about religions and politics became taboo. One of the problems with embracing diversity as it played out was that we did so by not really talking about the things that made us different. Wierd. I never was entirely comfortable with that position, but lived according to those principles anyway.
All that is changing. Several years ago I decided to reclaim the term Evangelical from those who most wanted to use it. It is a biblical word meaning good news, and too often those who used the term were often experienced as tellers of bad news. As Paul says in writing to the Romans, “I am not ashamed of the Gospel (literally, ‘good news’)- it is the power of God for salvation to all who believe – to the Jew first, and also to the Gentile.” I am not ashamed!
I am an introvert (though many of the people who know me find this difficult to believe). Being introverted is about where one is energized, not about the ability or comfort speaking to strangers. For me, the discomfort that came with talking to people was (and sometimes still is!) about self-esteem issues. I’m worried about what they might think about me, rather than thinking about what Jesus thinks about them. Ego and selfishness are burried deep within low self-esteem. One way through that is to stop thinking so much about self and begin thinking about others and how much God loves them and wants to commune with them. And if it is true (which I believe it is) that the good news about Jesus is in fact power from God for salvation to all who will believe, receive, and live it, then we really have something wonderful to share with folks – the love of God revealed to us in Jesus. And that is something to celebrate!
So, Celebrate Jesus. Celebrate that God has come into the world in Jesus, the eternal Word of God become flesh for our salvation. We are saved not simply because Jesus died. We are saved through the life, death, and resurrection story (Trinity always shows up!) Different folks are compelled and transformed by different parts of that story at different times in their lives. That’s part of the good news itself – that the Salvation Story is broad and deep and provides multiple points of contact – this is one of the affirmations of the story in the Acts of the Apostles. Jews connect in one way, Samaritans connect in another, Gentiles in yet another, but all connect with God through Jesus.
I think several things have converged for me in the last year.
- I have been praying increasingly for the opportunity/ability to share faith with unchurched folks.
- I have been drawn into a ministry supporting New Church Planters.
- I attended NCP training as a part of that, which immersed me in a community of people dedicated to reaching others with Good News.
- I have made intentional choices to spend far more time out in the community. My theme for this is Jeremiah 29 “Seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you, for as the city is blessed you will be blessed.”
- I have increased the amount of time I spend in prayer each week.
- I have resumed working with a spiritual director who is helping me grow in my faith and prayer life. One goal we are working on is seeing an increase of God’s power revealed in my life and ministry.
- I have begun to see people differently – more focused on recognizing others as people Jesus loves – not thinking about what I can get from them, or what the church might get from them, but what we have to offer out of what God has given to us.
What do you think God might want to do in your life? How can you become a living celebration of Christ?