John-Peter Demsick’s article here The Fools – is perfectly timed for me! I have been teaching “Telling Our Stories” at Church on and off through out the fall, weaving this idea of witnessing in and through our parish calendar. First there was Back to Church Sunday, and then our annual Harvest & Missions Weekend, and lately Billy Graham’s “My Hope”.
We have paused for a couple weeks to talk about worship, and a couple of weeks to talk about my recent mission trip to Asia, and because we have had an unusually high number of funerals, we have also addressed taking care of ourselves in times of grief. Part of this weaving things together was and remains intentional: witnessing should not be an activity that we only do on special occasions, rather as Demsick encourages us, it should be part of how we live.
Consider for example worship. We set aside particular times for worship every week (our parish has five such times, twice on Wednesday, once on first and third Saturdays and twice on Sundays). But, you will hear “Praise the Lord” and “To God be the glory” bursting out of all sorts of conversations–in the middle of mid-week Bible study, at the hospital beds, and even in the parish kitchen. We mark certain times during the week for worship, but we worship all week long.
Likewise, we can and should set aside particular times and activities with evangelism as a key purpose. And we should discover and practice how to talk about Jesus throughout the week.
In fact, evangelism and worship go together! If the Lord is part of our lives, in a real tangible way, then we will pause to praise him or to brag about him to others throughout the day. But if we live as practical secularists, who only see God when we are in his house, then we don’t have much to say to our friends–or even to God on Sundays.
So let me finish by giving Jesus the glory: over the last two months, we have had eight deaths in the parish and two more dear ones outside the parish. I have experienced it as a time of revival. Don’t get me wrong: it has truly been and still is a matter of walking through the valley of the shadow of death, walking and weeping. Yet, there in the valley, my Shepherd walks with me. I have been renewed in my faith in Jesus, in my understanding of his death and resurrection, and in the urgency of my life–that God’s heart breaks for people, for us, and yes, for those who have yet to hear the Good News.
It is amazing therefore to notice that God gave me the gift of going to Asia right in the middle of this valley–and so the grief is in contrast to the joy of bringing the encouragement of the Gospel to our brothers and sisters who still do not have a Bible in their own language. The Lord has walked with me–and I look forward to walking with him in the weeks, months and years to come. To God be the glory.