|Fr. Paul’s Weekly Meditation|
WHAT DO WE MEAN BY EVANGELISM?
Fr. William Rettig, St. Nicholas Orthodox Church – Fargo, ND.
The Lord commands us to ‘go and make disciples, to ‘baptize, to ‘teach’ – to bear fruit, wherever we happen to be. But do we, as Orthodox Christians in America, ‘do’ evangelism? Do we believe in it, as a concept, and a worthwhile one, at that? If we do, does that make us ‘evangelical?’ I’m sure everyone sitting here has heard comments (or perhaps made them, themselves) to the effect of ‘Orthodox Christians don’t do evangelism,’ or ‘that’s a Protestant thing.’ And if by ‘evangelism’ we mean the crusade-like door-to-door ‘sales strategy’ of some of our Protestant Evangelical neighbors, then no, we don’t do that. If by ‘evangelical’ we mean a cultural or political persuasion – a voting bloc – then no, we aren’t evangelical, in that sense.
But to jettison evangelism, simply because its meaning has become confusing in this time and place would be to throw out the proverbial baby – in this case, the gospel itself, with the proverbial bath water. Because, to refresh our memory, what sits at the heart of ‘evangelism’ is the evangelion – the ‘good news’ that in Jesus Christ, God has done, and is doing, and will do, all things necessary to rescue you and I from death, to heal us of our death-bearing wounds, and to raise us up to himself. The very core of the apostolic proclamation! The very content of the exclamation ‘Christ is risen!’
Do Orthodox Christians ‘believe in’ evangelism? You’d better believe that we do! And more than ‘believe in’ it, more than ‘find it agreeable, our Lord commands us to act upon this knowledge: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age.”
A promise, from our Lord to his disciples – now the ones being ‘sent’ – that they will be specially empowered and equipped to do this work – work not just of ‘telling, not of ‘selling the message…’ but of ‘making disciples…’ of ‘baptizing…..’ of ‘teaching them to observe commandments.’ I’ll have us notice: all work that requires attentiveness, that requires patience, that requires ‘stick-to-it-ness.’ Our Lord’s promise ‘and Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age, implies that this is going to take some time… And so, to begin, let’s all suffer a change of mind in what we’ve come to think evangelism is: It’s not ‘selling Christianity, it’s not ‘posting numbers for the Kingdom;’ It’s not ‘arguing others to Christ, or combatively telling our other Christian neighbors that they are ‘doing it wrong’ right out of the gate. It’s not proselytizing, or coercing, at all. It’s nothing predicated on compulsion, but rather, it is predicated on patient, and careful presence. Just as our Lord promises his presence with us; just as it will be the work of the Holy Spirit, who is ‘everywhere present’ to change hearts, and to make them receptive to the love of God, Ours will be the work of follow up: nurturing, growing, maturing.
But all things that require presence. As ‘co-laborers with Christ,’ as ‘God’s fellow workers,’ ours will be a presence-based ministry, as well. And presence just means showing up and doing what needs to be done: Praying; serving those who came; following up with them – urging all of us to be faithful to Christ and his commands. And so any evangelical effort begins with the simple act of being the Church’ in a place. Praying, serving the sacraments and the services of the Church, and by integrating ourselves among – not sheltering ourselves from – our neighbors. This is how we’re made ‘light,’ ‘salt,’ and ‘leaven’ – by shining in the darkness. “You are the light of the world, let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.”
|GREAT LENT 2023! Great Lent begins this year on Sunday, February 26th – Forgiveness Sunday. Mark your calendars, too, for the first week of Lent and the celebration of the Canon of St. Andrew of Crete.|
|IOCC KENTUCKY TRIP: Michaelyn Sloan will be leading a team from St. Luke to participate in the IOCC Kentucky mission trip on the week of March 20-25th. For more information, contact Michaelyn at firstname.lastname@example.org. A Flier for this trip is attached to this email.|
|SPECIAL IOCC COLLECTION FOR EARTHQUAKE – SYRIA This coming Sunday we will take a special collection for those stricken by the earthquake in Syria. You may also give online – HERE.|
|THE FEAST OF HOLY THEOPHANY: Houseblessings have commenced! If you would like to have your house blessed please sign up HERE.|
|CHEESEFARE SUNDAY BRUNCH: On Sunday, February 26th, we will serve Forgiveness Vespers at 12:30pm with the rite of Holy Forgiveness. There will also be a potluck cheesefare lunch served after the Divine Liturgy: bring your favorite Cheese Dish!|
|2023 St. Luke Annual Meeting:Our Annual Parish meeting will take place on Sunday, February 12th immediately following the Divine Liturgy. Reports will be handed out today to members of the parish.|
|FEBRUARY MONTHLY CHARITY: Our St. Luke monthly charity for the month of January will be the COPTIC ORTHODOX CHRISTIAN MISSION CENTER. Please be generous.|
|LUBA’S KITCHEN ANNOUNCEMENT: This is a reminder of the duties of coffee hour hosting. Below are key bullet points pertaining to this ministry. HERE are the guide lines. Debbie has made a signup sheet. The food costs and time/energy of hosting are greatly decreased. The fellowship team is looking for weekly coverage for prepping coffee hour and cleaning up afterwards.For many, many months the bulk of coffee hour duties has fallen on Crys and Matthew, with some volunteers at times. The current process is efficient and as mentioned, less costly to serve as a host as the church bears the bulk of the food costs. Thank you for your participation in this weekly ministry. Matthew, Crys and Debbie|
|DRIVERS FOR ELIJAH’S CHARIOT: Elijah’s Chariot – if you would like to help us drive our elderly to Church for services please let Tammy Tsiones know. Click here to sign up: DRIVERS FOR ELIJAH’S CHARIOT SIGN UP.|
|BOOKSTORE SALE DOWNSTAIRS: Our bookstore sale will now offer the books downstairs in the parish hall for a free will donation. The proceeds from the free will offering for the rest of the books will go to Holy Resurrection monastery.|
|St. Luke Orthodox Church – 9300 W. 107th St., Palos Hills, IL., 60465|