A Sermon Preached on The Third Sunday after Trinity
The Anglican Church of St. Thomas the Apostle, Kefalas, Crete
July 7, 2019 11:00 am
I have two pieces of good news about the coming Apocalypse (and when I say Apocalypse, I mean it as a good thing, the Christian Apocalypse, which is the revealing of Jesus as the Son of God in his return to Earth, and his establishment of the kingdom of God – not the various other types of apocalypses, such as global warming, nuclear disaster, Brexit, Trump, or anything written in the “Left Behind” series).
First, when the Son of Man comes in power and glory and the Kingdom of God is established, there will be no need of preaching, because everyone in the kingdom will already know God and will not need to have anything explained to them. There will simply be praise. Yay!
Second, for much the same reason, there will be no need of evangelism. Again, there will simply be praise.
But we’re not there yet. Until then, we will need evangelism and preaching.
So how do we do it?
First, the simpler the implementation the better. There is a blessing in having buildings and paid staff, but that is not the essence of church. The essence of church is people entering into relationships with other people, and into a relationship with God in Christ.
When the Communists took power in China in 1949 one of the first things they dd was force all the foreign missionaries out. There was great concern across North America and Europe that the Communists would try to destroy the Christian faith in China, and, indeed, many were persecuted, and Mao Tse-Tung and the Communist Party sought to erradicate all religion, including Buddhism, Taoism, and traditional Chinese religions grounded in Confuscius. When China began to open up in the late 1970s and early 1980s, the western world was astonished to find that not only had some Christians persevered, but they had thrived. They did not have buildings and clergy as we would know them, but they did meet in small groups in private homes. Whenever the churches got too big for the house, tempting attention from the Communist authorities, they would split up. Thus, over time, the Christian communities, without seminaries or General Synods or parsonages or endowments, slowly grew, so that they were more in the 1980s than in 1949. Some estimates put the Christian population in China at up to 80,000,000 people.
So, while having a priest, these buildings, and a car is all helpful to the mission of the gospel, those are not the things that make up the gospel. Proclaiming the kingdom of God is.
Second, real evangelism deals with the evil in the world.
- There are wolves out there who would attack the lambs of God.
- Satan has fallen like lightening from heaven, but is active here on earth in the lies told by the powerful, in the comfort so many have with oppression and violence, and that tells us that we just need to take care of ourselves and not pay attention to the needs of others.
- The powers of evil tell us that there is no hope, and that creation is doomed, whereas we proclaim a new creation beginning with Jesus and acting is us, the body of Christ.
- The powers of evil tell us that there is nothing but cold chaotic matter with no rhyme or reason to human life, whereas we celebrate the world transfigured by the Spirit and the offering of Jesus in the world, no matter how much that world rejects him.
Finally, we work in pairs, or larger groups. I’ve never really understood why clergy are sent singly into parishes and congregations – I’ve always preferred working as part of a team. In a sense, with the ordination last week, we have returned to a biblical model. As laity, too, we need each other when witnessing to the gospel in word and in deed.
So, as we enter these summer months, let us not just rest and be complacent, but may we consider the tasks before us. May we work together, keeping the gospel simple and straight forward, and not shrink from facing up to the evil that would thwart us.
As Jesus has done, and as the disciples did, so may we continue.