Friday, January 26, 2018

The Challenge of Gospel Living: Proclaim

Will you proclaim by word and example the Good News of God in Christ?
Book of Common Prayer 1979, p. 305

Epiphanytide is a season of exploration and experience. We explore the self-revelation of God in the person of Jesus Christ. We experience the presence of Christ in our midst as we remember how he began his earthly ministry. 

St. Peter's is preparing for my sabbatical leave, this coming summer, and with each season we are deepening our experience of being a faith community with a set of activities and invitations to reflection on both our personal walk with God in Christ, and our communal experience of the holy. This Sunday, as the readings point to the challenges we must face when the holy is truly in our midst, we are also challenged to accept the invitation to proclaim by word and deed the Good News, the Gospel, of God in Christ. It is a general direction to a particular end. What we say and do, in life, matters. When we speak and act in service to the good news of the inbreaking kingdom of God, we are stepping up to a commandment and accepting a commission to the very why and wherefore of our being, our redemption and our meaning as people of faith.

One cannot be faithful to God in Christ unless we are willing also to proclaim that faith in word and deed. 

Say it.

Do it.

Without proclamation, we are just vessels waiting to be filled and poured out. We lack connection to the purpose for which we were formed and purposed. 

Well and good, but when that commission impinges on our desire to either control how and when we connect to others, or whether we connect at all, then we stumble and fall as we seek to get up and follow Jesus on His way.

Jesus, in Mark's Gospel, models a way of embracing the summons to proclamation in ways that are at once both alarming and confirming. They alarm, because he does not hesitate to call for repentance. They alarm because his summons to, "Come, follow me," entails those who do to drop what has been their life's direction and align it now with this man from Nazareth in Galilee. They alarm, because he does radical things, such as performing an instantaneous exorcism in a synagogue on the Sabbath. They confirm, because with every action, and with the reaction of the world around him, there is evidenced a dynamic entrance of One Who Is Not Only Coming, But Has Arrived.

Are we ever truly ready for that moment of decision? When the savior beckons, we like to think we will affirm God's "yes" to us with an adventurous acceptance. Of course, we will follow the source of all things to the destination we all long for, the very kingdom of the God in the here and now! Yes?

Really?

Truth is, we for the most part would prefer a buffer between us and God. The holy, unfiltered, was enough for people to recoil in fear and terror. As evidenced in the Hebrew Scripture, when the holy draws near, we humans tend to dissolve into dust....at best. We ask Moses, or the prophets, or a Judge, or a King to step into the breech between us and God. We then fall into the pitfall of assuming that God is just far enough away that we can avoid God's summonses to proclaim, at least until we find them convenient or at least less perilous to our persons and our reputations.

That is not how God rolls, though. 

God's love and God's invitation to us to live in that love requires not only that we be willing to follow, but also to invite others to the journey. We are challenged to challenge.

As I pastor and lead people of faith, I find that to be one of the greatest hurdles people face as they begin to grow and flourish in a life of faith. It is not enough, they discover, to just BE a Christian, a follower of Jesus the Christ and a child of God. One is also called upon in that being to proclaim God to the world  That is the heart of the paradox of being a lamb who is found and tended by the Good Shepherd who is the Christ...we are also called to become shepherds to the other lost sheep, to those who have wandered far from the sheepfold of the Almighty.

We are called to works of service and mercy, not just because they are the right thing to do, but because in performing them we are proclaiming. We are called to speak up, rejecting shame and anxiety, in the assembly in order to give others the experience of the Word as it is being revealed through us.

We are called, and with that calling we are commissioned.

That is the heart of the challenge of Gospel living....to proclaim.

Why? Because, simply, we cannot NOT do so as we follow Jesus.

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