Go home to your friends, and tell them how much the Lord has done for you (Mk. 5:19)
It was a fantastic achievement. The “New Horizon” space-craft’s three billion mile journey across the universe to Pluto a tiny planet on the edge of our solar system. It was “mission impossible” yet accomplished with amazing precession. But what was the point of it? Was it to explore; to seek out new life; to prepare for an even more ambitious mission in the future or to further human knowledge? Whatever it was we don’t need to travel vast distances to discover what is already well known. There are countless people on earth, many right here in this community, in desperate need of nurture, support, friendship and companionship. And we don’t need to travel far from this church to find them. How do I know? When I did my theology degree over twenty years ago one of the tasks I was given was to carry out a community audit in the streets surrounding this church. It involved knocking on doors and speaking to complete strangers within a stone’s throw of this building. I was uneasy at first but when I actually did it I found it a fantastic experience and a real eye-opener. People, within the shadow of this building, welcomed me with open arms; inviting me in to their homes; sitting me down and bombarding me with questions about my faith. Some had eagerly awaited someone like me to make contact. Others had fallen away from “The Church;” some were carrying burdens of guilt; some had been hurt by the Church (as an institution); others were in desperate need and some were searching for answers. What I found was exactly what the text books told me I would find – they were not wrong. I even remember knocking on the door of a Jehovah’s Witness and getting great delight in keeping him talking at the door! (Touché). I was staggered at the response I got but troubled also at the plight of so many whose needs were going unmet. That was twenty years ago so imagine how much greater that need is today. So, what should we do, as we reassemble after the summer break, to address our own “mission impossible?” There is an answer. A man, whose life had been completely transformed by Jesus, was so overjoyed that he resolved to pack his bags, leave home and literally follow Jesus. But Jesus had other ideas: I have a more pressing task for you he said. Go home to where you live and tell your friends what the Lord has done for you. This was not what the man wanted to hear for in many ways staying put is the more difficult option; our neighbours know us; they hear us shouting at the dog and throwing our empty wine bottles in the recycling bin. Yet this kind of personal evangelism is the key to bridging the “3 billion mile void” (and widening) between Church and community. It can be done! I know because I did it and lived to tell the tale. And I’m sure Jesus would say we must do it not in language that alienates but in simple acts of kindness, meaningful conversations and just “being there.” This community is our universe and it’s our mission to reach out to it. We know there’s someone there; but do they know we’re here? Um! The answer is to knock on the door and tell them! Help!
In Jesus’ Name