If I said the word “Evangelism” I wonder what you would hear.
The Dictionary defines it as spreading the Christian Gospel by personal witness or zealous advocacy.
Some might define it as “being on fire for the Lord” and going out and trying to convert everyone…
Jesus defined it as working in the vineyard.
Anyone out there drink wine… or how about this, ever visited a vineyard? It's really interesting to see how the grapes are grown. I used to live in wine country in Quebec, half of the people I knew were trying to make a go of it, starting their own vineyard… I have also been to a couple in Nova Scotia… There is the Jost Vineyard, which is in a place called Malagash, and there is another one down near Wolfville Nova Scotia, Pres D’en Haut.
Most people don't think of Nova Scotia as wine country, it is a pretty harsh climate all in all, and grapes need warmth and sunlight… these two are located in what is called a micro-climate, they are places where the temperature, because of sea air and hills, and what have you, remains pretty constant for a longer period of time.
Jesus is always talking about vineyards. It is a metaphor he uses all the time… so in case you have never been, here is what you need to know – they are chaotic… Grape vines do not grow in a straight line, they need to be supported on trellis… grapes are fragile, if the birds don’t get them the frost might.
Ah, but then again, anyone who has eaten a fresh grape right off the vine knows, it is worth it.
Branches (Story Time)
Adapted from Sermons4Kids.com
Object: Two branches that has been broken from a tree -- one with leaves withering, the other without any leaves at all.
- Recently I was working in the yard and I found this branch underneath a tree. I guess it had been broken off by the wind. It still has some buds on it…- Do you think that if I took it and planted it in the ground it would come back to life? No, that wouldn't work, because the branches get the nutrients that they need to live from the tree.
- Branches cannot live or grow without the tree.
Jesus said something similar… he said, "I am the vine and you are the branches….”
What do you think he meant?
I think we are supposed to stay connected to God. We will be stronger, we will grow, we will do great things.
The Tree of Life
So here is another question for you… anyone ever been to the Animal Kingdom Park in Disney World in Florida?
In the centre of that the Animal Kingdom is a massive tree, which they call, the Tree of Life. It is really a towering statue, shaped like a tree, branches, leaves, everything… but the Trunk, which is as big as a house, is carved with intricate animal carvings; presumably, of all the animals, insects, birds and fish on the earth… or at least most of them.
It is pretty symbolic. It shows we are all connected, all part of the same tree… unfortunately, it is also fake. Last week a branch, or two, or three… you get conflicting stories, fell off and almost hit some people sitting on a park bench.
There is a difference between being glued onto the “tree of life” and being a part of the real vine.
We are a part of God’s vine. We are strengthened and supported by that connection.
I don’t suppose you have heard the radio ad lately for Ronald McDonald House… it is really effective. It starts out and says look at your finger. Well… look at your finger. How much can you lift with your finger? A light shopping bag perhaps…. Now look at your hand. Do you know that your hand is 40 times stronger than your finger….
It goes on to make the point that families are like that, stronger together, and so when a child is sick and their family is with them at a Ronald McDonald House…
Well, that ad is not far from what Jesus is saying, we are the branches attached to the true vine and because of that… we are stronger.
Ah… you might ask, but what about those times when we do not feel strong? What about the people who do not feel that connection? Are they any less connected? No, of course not, everyone is a part of the vine, we are all, as it says in another passage, children of God… and God’s love is flowing out from the vine for anyone and everyone…
Part of our job, then, as the faithful few is not just to recognize our connection to God and live our lives that way but it is also to help others live as if they are branches too; to help others to feel connected to God.
So how do we do that?
Christians often think that they must go out and convince others to believe. We forget that God is at work in the hearts of people, drawing those who will listen into relationship.
As the reading from 1 John says, the love of God comes from God; we cannot instill it.
Our role is to have our eyes open to the places where we can help a person to hear and respond to that voice that is already calling them from within.
The story of Philip and the Eunuch is a great example of this… it is a random encounter, it is a moment in time on a bus, or a subway, or an elevator… when this Eunuch, a court official for the Queen, notices Philip reading a Bible….
I heard of someone who wore a cross pin on their lapel for exactly this reason. In case anyone notices.
Of course, the thing is, Philip jumped right in there and started talking about his faith.
In the world of business, they teach you to prepare an ‘Elevator Speech’ … think of it this way, suppose you have the best idea for a movie out there, or the perfect invention… and all of a sudden you find yourself on an elevator with Steven Spielberg, or Donald Trump. You have one minute to sell them your idea… go.
The thing is, you should have it practised, you should have it memorized, when Spielberg says, “I wish someone had a really great idea,” you need to be ready.
This, my friends, is evangelism 101. “You go to church? Why?”
Philip had his elevator speech ready, and it was so effective, that the Ethiopian wanted to be baptised right there, right then…
And it really isn’t hard. The thing I have noticed is that people are already curious about why you do the things you do. Everyone loves a story. So what if we were just more open about what we believed, where we went to church, why… what if we were a little more prepared for the questions and had good answers worked out?
See, Evangelism is not hard, and it is not hitting anyone over the head with a hammer… It is seeing what needs to be said in the right time, and the right place and doing it.
It is talking to the strangers, feeding the hungry, helping someone out when they drop their keys and are holding a bag of groceries… it is a hundred little things that show people the love God has put in our hearts.
Back to the vineyard; Jesus once hinted that we were to take care of the vineyard while the owner was gone. Later he says we are the branches that are meant to bear fruit.
Out of the chaos and beauty of our lives, there is a lot that really is up to us. There is just no way around it. God works through us…. Plain and simple.
So… how are you going to go out there and cultivate?