If evangelism is being somewhere, with someone, and looking for Jesus who is already there, somewhere, then what I’m doing is, pointing myself and someone else to Jesus and saying, there’s our life and life to the full, let’s go receive our salvation, our liberation, our freedom and enter into the joy of our Master. Now, if that’s evangelism, then I’m asevangelical as it gets.
A Provocation: Fifth Sunday After Pentecost: Luke 8:26-39
JUNE 10, 2016 ~ RICHARDWSWANSON
8:29 For many times it had seized him; he was kept under guard and bound with chains and shackles, but he would break the bonds and be driven by the demon into the wilds.
8:35 Then people came out to see what had happened, and when they came to Jesus, they found the man from whom the demons had gone sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed and in his right mind. And they were afraid.
8:39 “Return to your home, and declare how much God has done for you.” So he went away, proclaiming throughout the city how much Jesus had done for him.
All sides of every conflict are convinced of the need for swords to defend themselves against all of the other sides. It won’t do to team up with the side that fits us best and propose solutions that simply assume the victory of our chosen side. That just leaves us all in the grip of the demon that breeds murderous violence.
Legion, ripping through all restraints, brings us to moments of mourning again and again.
This is the latest, not the last.
In the passage from the gospel of Luke, the demon exits the scene, drowned with the pigs. The man is delivered.
We are left waiting for our own deliverance. It does not appear to be coming any time soon. So we wait. Gay people, straight people, trans people, all people wait. Muslims, Christians, and Jews have practice in waiting. We all will have to learn to wait together if we are ever to be set free from the Legion of murderous demons that has seized us all.
But this scene from Luke gives us a glimpse of a time when we might sit together, clothed and in our right minds. It will not be easy. It has not ever been easy, not even after the coming of the messiah.
When I say I am a Christian, what I mean is that I believe/I trust Jesus and am following in his way of being in the world, to love God and love neighbor, in a spirit of openness, welcome and compassion. That I have adopted Jesus’ mission to be an answer to the Lord’s Prayer, when we pray, “God’s kingdom come, God’s will be done, on earth at it is in heaven,” as we can imagine God’s will is in heaven.
So, we are in it. Right in the midst of it.
I imagine a part of us could easily be done with it; but, we know we’re not. Now that we are in it – we might resign ourselves to say – too much is invested. Too much of ourselves has now been thrown into the mix to stop at this point. Might as well push through.
But that’s not me. Just for the record and for whatever it’s worth. Each of us throwing ourselves into the mix is what was so beautiful.
I’ve spent time in quiet, praying and reflecting on a meeting (though that’s not really what is was) held Sunday night with a group of leaders of the church who want to take seriously Who We Are as a congregation. Like a lot of work like this, we come with convictions and experiences and wisdom – not to mention our own pain and brokenness. Add in the Spirit, the Holy Spirit, and the mixture creates a real nice color. That’s what I witnessed after we came together.
When people come together around work to clarify identity in this way, it feels like a lot is at stake. And I would say there is. Why would we want to gather if not much was at stake in the work we are gathered to do? Not all work that feels tedious is unimportant work. I just think sometimes what’s at stake is easily missed.
I realize something this morning about the purpose of what we are doing. I thought I knew. I thought it was about coming out with a “document” that was well worded and helped us and others understand who we really are. A document that expresses everything about us. It is about that, but that’s not really what’s at stake.
I realize (more now than I ever have) that work like this isn’t about expressing our identity; it’s about seeing our identity in action. It’s not about articulating it just so (although words are important), but about practicing our identity with and for each other.
What is deeply at stake (and I would say we hit the bull’s eye) is engaging in work about our identity in a way that takes seriously the other person. That takes seriously that the other person brings convictions, experiences, wisdom, pain and brokenness. That takes seriously another’s need to tell their story and to be heard.
The work done last night was to speak and to listen, which opens avenues for us to know each other. What’s so great about that? Well … that produces the mixture of trust. And trust is a most beautiful color.