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Tuesday, September 11 2012

Mark 7:24-37

          I suppose if I were to poll all of you in this room today – and I were to ask you, “Who here is afraid of public speaking?” I would guess quite a number of hands might go up.  Am I right?  Fear of public speaking is near the top of the list of things that many people are afraid to do. 

          Sometimes the same thing can be said when it comes to sharing our faith with someone else, one on one.  Now, there are some folks who find this somewhat east to do – and some who don’t. 

          The truth of the matter is – we do share our faith.  One way or the other – we share our faith.  And I find that there are essentially two ways that we tend to do this.  One of those ways is as a congregation here in this place that we call Zion Lutheran Church.  We hear the Good News of God’s love and forgiveness made known to us through Jesus Christ every week here in this place.

          And what a wonderful thing it is for me to know that I am not the only one making the Good News of Jesus Christ known here.  This weekend we celebrate the beginning of Sunday School.  Thank God we have able and willing teachers – teachers who love children and want to share their own faith with them.  Willing to take the time to invest in these youngsters for the sake of Jesus Christ. 

          Sunday night we start another season of confirmation ministry.  And I really want to thank those adults who are serving as small group leaders – small group mentors – who are partners with me – and quite frankly with all of you because they too are willing to share their faith with 8th and 9th graders.

          AND it’s not just the youngsters who are growing and learning – but those of you who are no longer children.   You young adults – and – you not so young adults – let me invite you to check out the Sunday morning and mid-week educational opportunities we have designed with you in mind.  Because I am convinced that we never outgrow our need to hear from others and to share with others what this thing called faith – what this thing called discipleship – what this thing called maturing in Christ – are all about.  We never outgrow our need to grow in Christ.  And I include myself when I tell you that.

          So thank God for our teachers.  Pray for our teachers.  And pray for their students as well.

          I hope you are aware that – like most Lutheran churches – we place a heavy emphasis on getting the word out through preaching and teaching.  But thank God this ministry is not limited to preaching and teaching.  Because all of you who are involved in the ministries of administration, leadership, the caring ministries, the music ministries, social outreach ministries, building maintenance ministries, youth ministries – these are all ways in which we share the faith – and each one is crucial.

          And because of the resources that you generously give to all of this – your financial gifts – your gifts of time – all of what we do here is made possible because you believe in what we are doing here – and more importantly you believe in the One for whom and in whose name we proclaim the Good News in the many ways in which we do that.  Every one of you is an important partner in this faith sharing ministry. 

          So that’s one way we share the faith.  We do this together as a congregation.  But there is still another way.  A second way.  And again, this way may not be so easy for some as it is for others.  What I’m talking about is the one on one way of sharing faith.

          Listen.  In our Gospel reading today, there is a man who is deaf – he has a speech impediment as well.  Although we’re not told, the impediment would suggest that he may have been able to hear at one time – as a young boy, but having become deaf early on, lost his ability to speak clearly. 

          The point is – and this is what I do not want you to miss – the point is that this man has friends.  These friends bring him to the One – the only One – who can do something about his situation.

          And of course, Jesus has compassion for the man.  Pulls him aside privately – puts his fingers in his ears – and this might sound kind of gross to us – but he spits on his tongue – and enables the man to hear and to speak clearly.  This is a true miracle.

          Now folks – if this were to happen to you – what would you do next?  Anybody?  What would you do?  Yeah!  You’d tell other people what happened.  You’d tell other people what Jesus Christ has done for you, right?  Of course!  But what does Jesus tell the man and his friends?  “Tell no one.  Don’t tell anyone about this.”

          Yeah, right!  I mean, can you imagine?  “Jesus!  I can hear again!  I can speak again!  Let me get this straight.  You don’t want me to tell anyone about it?  Are you nuts?”

          And we’re told that the more Jesus ordered them not to, the more zealously they proclaimed it!  To anyone who would listen!

          Now folks, let me ask you.  What has Jesus done for you that you would be willing to tell somebody else about?  What has Jesus done?  If you don’t know the answer, then just ask yourself, “Why am I a Christian?” and take it from there. 

          The man and his friends proclaimed with zeal what it was that Jesus had done for the man.  They could not be silenced.  What Jesus had done could not be hidden.

          You see – whether you like it or not – whether you agree with me or not – when it comes to your life – the Gospel – the Good News of Jesus Christ – cannot be hidden.  It speaks for itself.  Now, I know, there are some settings where we might want to hide it – sometimes we want to hide our faith – as though we might be embarrassed.  I understand that.  I know what that feeling is like.

          The point is – you are a walking billboard for the faith.  Authentic Christian lives are the best advertising we have for proclaiming the faith.  Words are important too.  But just remember –as you’ve heard me say before – people would rather see a sermon that hear one.

          And again, you’ve heard me say – quoting St. Francis of Assisi, “Proclaim the Gospel at all times.  If necessary, use words.”

          I trust that you are as concerned about the ongoing life and health and growth of the church as I am.  We are living in a time of increasing population, and declining church attendance.  This is a statistic that is across the board in nearly every denomination.  So when people ask me, “Randy – what are you doing over there in Clarence Center that is making Zion grow?”  I simply state it’s a great combination of pastor and people.  But the best reason I can give is that it is because of invitation and reputation.

          One resource I read says that, “A study of new members who join churches has revealed that the vast majority of them were moved to join a church because someone invited them. This is by far the best method of achieving results. The personal invitation is the most effective tool of evangelism. Whom have you invited to your church?

          “The deaf-mute was healed because he was brought to Christ. We do not know why he did not come of his own accord. There are people around us today who, when asked why they do not attend any church, will answer, ‘Because we have never been asked.’ Who is there to whom you should be giving a friendly invitation to attend church? Who is there in your wide social circle who can honestly say that they have never been asked to a service of worship, to meet Christ, the Creator and Savior of the world?”

          The point is that we share the faith through the ministries of this congregation.  But we share it as individuals as well.  One on one.  You don’t have to argue about it with anyone.  Just share your story.  Let them witness who you are and how you live your life.  Then invite them to come and see. 

          Listen.  Maybe “…you remember the Mercedes TV commercial a few years ago that showed a Mercedes crashing into a concrete wall during a safety test? An engineer in a white lab coat walks over after the crash and kneels down to examine the damage, which is minimal. A reporter then asks the engineer about Mercedes’ energy absorbing car body. After the engineer tells all about the unique design the reporter asks him why Mercedes doesn’t enforce their patent on the design, a design evidently copied by several other companies because of its success.

          “The engineer then replies matter-of-factly, ‘Because some things in life are too important not to share.’   How true this is. There are many things in life that fall into this ‘too important not to share’ category. Advances in science, in medicine, in technology.  But all of these pale in importance to that of sharing our faith.”

          Who do you know who needs to meet the Savior?  A simple invitation is all it takes.  You invite, and together we’ll find a way to make church – this church – and the message we proclaim – hold value for their life.

          Which shouldn’t be too hard.  After all it is the Gospel – the Good News.  And by the way – as you hear me say so often – do you know anybody who has enough Good News?


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Zion Lutheran Church
9535 Clarence Center Road

PO Box 235
Clarence Center, NY 14032
Phone: 716-741-2656

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