“When Herod saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, he was infuriated, and he sent and killed all the children in and around Bethlehem who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had learned from the wise men. Then was fulfilled what had been spoken through the prophet Jeremiah:
Return, O my soul, to your rest, for the Lord has dealt bountifully with you.”
“Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable to you, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.”
It rained yesterday; in fact, it poured. The entire Philadelphia area was under a flash flood warning. As I drove down route 202 in the early evening, I saw just how much it had rained. The traffic usually backs up around Route 29 in the evening rush hour, but last night, we were at a standstill in front of the Gateway Shopping Center in Wayne. We crawled along and then had to converge from 3 lanes into 1 because of the water that had collected across two lanes of the highway near Chesterbrook. A few brave souls drove through the lake in the middle lane, but no one braved the far right lane where the water had collected over a foot deep against the sound wall.
“Peter said to them, ‘Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ so that your sins may be forgiven; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you, for your children, and for all who are far away, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to him.'”
My husband and I just returned from wonderful road trip to St. Louis and Chicago. We drove out the PA Turnpike to Pittsburgh and then turned south to head for St. Louis. Coming home from Chicago, we came across the northern route, following Route 80 to Cleveland where I found the house I lived in between ages 4 and 9, and then continued on Route 80 till it met the PA Turnpike at the edge of the state.
Out near the Breezewood exit of the PA Turnpike, there is a curious place that has always fascinated me. On the eastbound side of the turnpike, sitting on the land overlooking the turnpike, is a church. Across the way, on the westbound side of the turnpike, is a cement staircase leading from the turnpike up to the road above that crosses over the turnpike. Next to the staircase, at the side of the turnpike, is a sign that announces the church and its mass schedule.
I’ve always wondered about that staircase. The sign and staircase appear suddenly, just beyond the bridge abutment for the road that runs over the turnpike. At 65 miles an hour, the sign and stairway are there and gone alost before you realize it. And if you did want to stop, there is no safe pull-off area to park your car, just the regular little shoulder section of road. The sign certainly lets you know the church is there, but is a stairway with no safe parking area really an invitation that means anything to a traveler? Is a stairway with no advance warning likely to attract anyone to come and draw closer to God?
As I thought about that stairway, I wondered about our evangelism efforts in the church. Do we offer Christ to the world in a way that others can actually take advntage of, or do we simply go through the motions of evangelism, putting signs where no one can act on them, claiming we’ve provided access to God for the unchurched but actually building stairways that no one in their right mind would use? Are we connecting with the world in meaningful ways that enable people to come and see, or are we sitting back in our stained glass towers content to offer Christ in ways that will not connect with the people around us?
Jesus commanded his disciples to “Go into the world, baptizing and teaching.” Some may be more skilled at evangelism than others, but all of us are called to share Christ in some way, whether through an invitation to an ice cream fest, sharing about the church we love, or accompnying a friend to worship for the first time. Don’t let your efforts be limited to signs that pass by too quickly or stairways that can’t be used. Let’s all work together to create meaningful ways for people to experience Christ and find in him the answer to their prayers.
Prayer: Gracious God, you have welcomed me into the kingdom of your love, and asked me to extend that invitation to others. Help me to create meaningful ways for others to hear of your love and to take advantage of your invitation to discover purpose, community and saving grace through faith in Jesus Christ, your Son. Amen.
“When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus.”
“A person’s attire and hearty laughter,
and the way he walks, show what he is.”
“A pastor, a priest and a rabbi walk into a bar…” How many times have you heard some variation of that? And you knew what was coming next. Oh, maybe not the exact words, but you knew that a joke was coming, and you listened with an expectation of laughter and fun around the corner.
Today, July 24th, is National Old Joke Day. Take a moment to share a joke with a friend or neighbor. Laugh with a family member. Laughing, reports WebMD, changes us physiologically: “We stretch muscles throughout our face and body, our pulse and blood pressure go up, and we breathe faster, sending more oxygen to our tissues.” (http://www.webmd.com/balance/features/give-your-body-boost-with-laughter)
I believe Jesus loved to laugh. If you look at the stories of his life, he’s always eating out with people. From Pharisees to sinners, Jesus loved to belly-up to the table and break bread. I can’t imagine his doing that without letting out a good belly laugh at some point. Whether as host or guest (or meal!), Jesus came eating and drinking and, I think, laughing.
So in the midst of all of our serious study of Scripture and commitment to prayer, let’s take time to gather at the table with friends. Remember that God’s first act was one of delight and pleasure – to create a world that would bring delight to the Lord. Let’s be intentional about creating special celebrations, laughing together, rejoicing in each other’s presence, and giving thanks to God for the delight of this day. Then, before you clear the table, turn to your neighbor and ask them if they’ve heard the one about the pastor, the priest and the rabbi.
Prayer: God of laughter and joy, who made us for your pleasure and delight, I pray that my life will bring a smile to your face rather than a frown. Help me to approach the world with the same delight and joy with which you made it, and to rejoice at the wonder of your love in my life as you rejoice at my love for you. Amen.