Sharing Our Faith
Given by Rev. April S Blaine, Sunday, March 16, 2014
This week, I have been thinking about babies! I had the incredible privilege of holding two newborn babies, born into the lives of people in our Summit community over the last 2 months. The first was Caleb Wesley, born to Rebecca King, the second was Collin Wesley born to Meghan Western, who has come and danced for us multiple times here at Summit. And then this week - tiny Evelyn Utley was born 6 weeks early to Britany and Adam Utley members here at Summit – all are doing well.
And as I had the chance to hold these precious children, to share in some of the joy that their parents were feeling at their safe and healthy arrival in the world, I was also reminded anew – how utterly fragile and dependent we are at birth. From the moment each one of us arrived into the world – we have needed others – to care for us, to love us, to nurture us, to teach us, how it is that we are to live in the world. Our story has very HUMBLE beginnings.
We are journeying through the Season of Lent – and we are using a Discipleship Guide that was put together and created by a pretty large number of voices in this community. We wanted to highlight some of the key areas that we as followers of Jesus want to grow in – areas where God is constantly inviting us to stretch and to grow. And during our time in the Season of Lent – we will be journeying through each of these categories one by one. Last week was Knowledge – today is Sharing Our Faith – Next week will be Relationship with God, the 30th will be Relationship with Others – and then we will end with a week on Service and a week on Giving.
And as we were creating this – we soon found that some of these things were related. Service and Giving both had to do with what it meant to be a GENEROUS person in the world, Relationships with God or others – obviously both had to do with RELATIONSHIPs and Knowledge and Sharing our Faith – were both part of what it meant to be a person growing in WISDOM.
Now, I don’t know about you – but I don’t throw the word WISE around very lightly. I have a lot of people who I would describe as knowledgeable and intelligent. I have a lot of people who I would describe as skilled and articulate. But, I have a very small number of people who I would describe as WISE.
I want you to think about that term – WISDOM.
The definition - the quality of having experience, knowledge, and good judgment
And I want you to think about a person in your life – who embodies that for you.
How many of you thought of someone over the age of 50?
Right – there is nothing that says younger people cannot be wise – but the development of wisdom is a process – one that we are growing into over TIME.
And part of our task during this season of Lent – and particularly as we reflect about Wisdom – is to think about what happens from this moment that we enter this world as vulnerable babies – completely dependent on others – to becoming the kind of person that we imagined – the person who is wise – knowledgeable, experienced and of good judgment –
My suggestion today – is that to become this kind of person in our faith journey – requires KNOWLEDGE – but it also requires growing in this area of SHARING OUR FAITH –
An area that might (for many of us) make us very uncomfortable – is an important and essential part of the journey toward becoming WISE.
So, let’s start with our story today.
my all time favorite story in Scripture
You have this woman. We do not know her name so she is called simply –
The woman at the well.
Did you catch in the story?
She is there at what time of day?
Why is this unusual?
What does this say about her social standing?
This is a WOMAN on the margins.
How many of you have experienced a moment on the margins? A moment where you were alone. Where you felt you were on the outside looking in?
So, this woman on the margins – excluded and ostracized.
Meets a man – who breaks through barriers and class and decides to speak to her – he engages her in conversation.
And he offers her what?
What a beautiful metaphor of exactly what we need when we find ourselves in that place of isolation – where we feel alone –
What a beautiful thing when someone reaches out TO us – with kindness and compassion and offers us something that will renew and refresh –
THIS is GOOD NEWS.
And then Jesus does a very curious thing – he invites her to share her story. And people have lots of thoughts and ideas about why Jesus does this – but here’s my theory.
I think Jesus knew that the VERY thing that would keep her from accepting this living water – the VERY thing that would stop her from experiencing refreshment and renewal was her ability to come to terms with her own story. To not be afraid to name it and to say it.
And so in this very gentle way – he invites her to tell him a part of her story.
And he simply says – You are right. What you have said is true.
You are right. That is your story.
But as the conversation continues – it becomes clear that the invitation to drink of this living water – to find new life in the Spirit – is an invitation to her – knowing everything about her past.
And by the end of their conversation – you see her connecting the dots
Not only about who Jesus really is.
But also WHO She really is.
And she drops her water pitcher and she doesn’t walk – but she runs – in the heat of the desert in sandals – she runs – back to the village to tell the others.
The GOOD NEWS.
About 7 years ago, when I was a youth pastor, I took my youth to a conference – and it was a conference specifically designed to teach kids about sharing their faith.
On the first night of the conference, there was a skit. And the skit had 2 teenage actors. One of the actors was a “good little Christian” and the other was a “heathen” – which in this context meant that they were smoking and drinking and swearing. The good little Christian had an opportunity to tell them about their faith but chickened out and then the heathen – through too much alcohol. Dies on stage.
The narrator of this gruesome play then came out and started snapping his fingers every 5 seconds. And he said – every 5 seconds – someone dies and goes to hell. Don’t you want to stop that from happening? And then he snapped and snapped and snapped away.
So, that was the first night – now, you may ask me why I brought the kids back the next day – which is a valid question – but on the second day of this conference – we were then asked to take our youth door to door in a particular pre-scripted zip code – with this skit as our motivation and tell them about our faith in Jesus and why people should accept Jesus as their Lord and Savior. So they wouldn’t go to hell.
And one of the youth over lunch that day – spoke out in frustration – and she said, “I don’t share faith because of fear. I share my faith story out of love – out of an experience of life change and transformation –
I share it out of humility – I share it because it is TRULY good news.”
So, instead of knocking on other people’s doors that afternoon – something remarkable happened with our youth.
We started telling our OWN stories.
We started sharing our OWN journeys.
We started putting words to the ways that God had been at work in our lives even before we might have even been aware of it.
We started connecting OUR stories with God’s story of love and grace.
Part of the remarkable thing that seemed to happen for the woman at the well on that fateful day – was that she had an unusual opportunity – in a safe place – with a gentle and kind invitation to connect her own story with what she knew about God.
I think its interesting what she shared with people –
Come and meet a man who told me everything about myself.
Her Story came face to face with God’s story of love and grace – and she was changed forever.
This, my friends, is the heart of what it means to share our faith.
Not some list of beliefs, but our own STORY – and how God has made us new.
Wise people are certainly people with knowledge. They have taken the time to learn and to study and to think critically. And as Dee pointed out last week, wise people know that knowledge comes in many forms.
But Wise people also have come to terms with their own story. The joys and the struggles of their lives have come face to face with the story of God’s love and God’s grace – and it has made them new – and it has stirred them sometimes gently – sometimes strongly – to share that good news with others.
So, I want to invite you today to sit and ponder –
Our stories had very humble beginnings – and from the place where we entered the world utterly dependent – until now – SO much has happened.
Where has your story come face to face with God’s story of grace and love?
How has it changed you?
Can you put words to it?
Have you shared it with others?
Not necessarily – strangers on the street – but have we shared it with people we know and love?