Thursday, October 29, 2009

Some Pastoral Reflections - November 2009

Jesus went throughout the Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the Good news of the kingdom and curing every disease and every sickness among the people. St. Matthew 4:23

“Extra, Extra, Hear all about it!!!” Such was the proclamation of the newsboys back maybe a century ago. Of course their “news” was a mixture of good and bad news from around the community, the state and the world. We too have something to proclaim, but for us Christians it is Good News – the Good News of Jesus Christ, crucified and risen again.

Last month I began a series of reflections on the name of our congregation. While we usually refer to our community as “Peace Lutheran Church,” the official name is: “The United Evangelical Lutheran Church of Peace.” Last month I wrote a few words reflecting on “Peace.” (You can read this reflection on my blog if you missed it – see below for the URL). This month I want to take a couple moments and write about the word “Evangelical.”

What comes to mind when you first hear this word? Does the word hold positive or negative connotations for you? For many of us, unfortunately, the first thing we think about when we hear this word “Evangelical” are people handing out tracts, pushy door-to-door visitors and television preachers. If that is what you think of, then probably “Evangelism” means primarily proselytizing or trying to convert others to our version of Christianity. But this is not what “Evangelical” really means. To be Evangelical – or to engage in Evangelism is not primarily trying to convert folks to our way of thinking. But this has become the image we associate with “Evangelism.” Perhaps this is why it is so hard to recruit folks to serve on the Evangelism committee in many parishes, because the impression is that it is all about proselytization.

But that is not what this word means. “Evangelical” means Good News. And as stated above the Good News is the Good News of Jesus Christ, crucified and risen again. So to be “Evangelical” or to engage in “Evangelism” is to proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ. But this doesn’t only mean talking, it doesn’t mean passing out tracts, going door-to-door or any of that. It might include that if done with care and grace and respect, but that would only be a tiny part of what being “Evangelical” is all about. Being “Evangelical” is really a way of being in the world. When we “proclaim” the Good News of Christ, we might sometimes talk about our faith – but the most important way we “proclaim” is in the way we act and relate to others. We “proclaim” the Good News when we are open to others; when we are kind, gracious and caring; when we reach out to others in service; and when we give of our time, talents and treasures. “Evangelical” is a way of being Christian in the world.

That our forebears have chosen to call this church “Evangelical” means to me that they understood this calling; that they understood that the members of this community of Christ would engage in “Evangelism” – reaching out in love and service to the community. Evangelical is a word then that defines all of the ministries of the this congregation – Worship, Music, Sunday School, Confirmation, Food Pantry, Wednesday All-Stars, Property and so forth. For in each of these ways we are proclaiming the love and grace of God through our Lord, Jesus Christ.

Pastor S. Blake Duncan+

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