James 2:1-5; 8-10 & Mark 7:24-36
In the first week we looked at, through the scriptures, why we evangelise as Christians. The focus was on Jesus’ command for us to do so, founded on the love God has for us and our love towards those folks who are in need of a change of direction, for God’s sake.
In week 2 we focussed on the ‘how of evangelism’. Again the foundations of prayer, relationship building, comforting as well as challenging and ‘doing’ evangelism in God’s strength rather than our own, came to the fore.
Today in Evangelism 103, 104 and 105, using the lectionary readings we focus upon the when, the where and to whom of spreading the Good News.
If we start with the reading from the Letter of James to Christ’s followers, we see some of the ‘to whom’. James is straight forward in his speech – the message is to be spread to everyone. There is not to be any favouritism or discrimination (verse 3). You do not just pick the people most like you to which to tell the good news. Indeed you must tell those most unlike you.
When James says ‘love your neighbour’ in verse 8, the neighbours are the law breakers, the refugees, the Muslims, the outcast, the powerless and the powerful.
In the North West as we (with others) strove to make the Moree Shire a refugee friendly location, there were Christians and Christian leaders who opposed the move – saying that Muslims provided a threat to our Christian town – while we argued that Muslims provided an opportunity to gossip the gospel as we walk across the room to them.
The lectionary reading from Mark’s gospel also reflects that the ‘to whom’ also includes the outsiders.
The woman that Jesus engages with is an unclean gentile, from Syro-phonicia (modern day Lebanon). She is of Greek birth. We are told Jesus bring the Good News to her and to her spirit-possessed daughter.
‘Where’ does this evangelism take place – in Gentile territory – not in a church, not in a synagogue, but in all places where you find people. In the street, in the supermarket, in the Men’s Shed, in Arts and Crafts and Friday Friends, in Jamberoo Chapel SoundSpace, at the ANZAC service and at Carols in the Park.
In the second part of Mark’s reading, the action takes place in the Decapolis (verse 31) – the Greek work for ten cities – the towns around Galilee that were not ‘pure’ by Jewish standards – a place where there were worshippers of Zeus and foreign gods, places of Roman and Greek heritage and influence, places of cultural and social blending.
Yet even here, Jesus opens a man’s ears.
Jesus sticks his fingers in the man’s ears, spits and touches the man’s tongue, then gives a deep sigh (literally a groan) and heals the man.
These are very human actions (similar to many healers of his day also). He didn’t crack open the heaves, or part the sea or create an earthquake – he stood at our level. It is how we are to do evangelism too – to be ourselves and not above those we are with.
So when is it time to tell others about the Good News? The answer is ‘there’s no time like the present!’ It’s always time. Although the boot was on the other foot with the
Syro-phonician woman – she went ‘as soon as she hears about Jesus’ (verse 25).
She didn’t have time to think ‘I’m not in the zone right now’ or ‘I need a coffee first’ or ‘I’ll start tomorrow and when I do it will be with someone I know fairly well’ – no – she applied the Nike slogan and just did it.
Similarly, Jesus just goes where he is sent, to whom he is send and he doesn’t stall (except maybe with Lazarus and for totally different reasons).
We too need to be attitudinally prepared and then practise ‘ephphatha’ – being open to the Spirit.
I’ve told this story before, but I think it’s worth repeating. A woman once approached the great 19th century evangelist Dwight. L. Moody to air a grievance.
The woman said to him, “Mr. Moody, I don’t like the way you do evangelism!”
“Well, ma’am, I don’t really care for it myself. Let me ask you, how do you do it?” Moody asked.
She replied, “I don’t!”
Moody responded, “Well, I like my way of doing it better than your way of not doing it!”
Let’s get to it.