Sixth Sunday After Pentecost
Sunday, July 8, 2012
The Rev. Kealahou C. Alika
“Sent with Power”
They always go out two by two. This time it was not two young men from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints but two young women who were Jehovah’s Witnesses. One of them recently came to the door of my home in Wailuku.
She was very cordial letting me know that Witnesses were scheduling a weekend conference. She invited me to attend an event that was open to the public.
I thanked her even though I knew I was not going to be able to attend because I had another commitment. She handed me a flyer, smiled and continued on her way.
Whether or not one agrees with the teachings and beliefs of Witnesses or Mormons, it would be difficult for any of us not to admire their courage and perseverance in proclaiming their faith. I imagine that time and time again they have found great comfort in the words Jesus directed to the disciples whom he sent out two by two.
Jesus said, “Wherever you enter a house, stay there until you leave the place. If any place will not welcome you and they refuse to hear you, as you leave, shake off the dust that is on your feet as a testimony against them.” (Mark 6:10-11)
I have often wondered what it was about the Mormons and Witnesses that prompts many to reject them so quickly. To say that there are differences in theology and doctrine would be an understatement. Whether or not we feel we are being coerced or emotionally manipulated, they are least committed to sharing their faith with others.
Before returning to Hawaii twenty-one years ago, I served for six years as an Administrative Assistant for Mission & Evangelism for the Presbytery of San Francisco, Presbyterian Church (USA). There were those who believed that mission was “outreach in deeds” while others believed that evangelism was “outreach in words.” Others would emphasize healing as mission and proclamation as evangelism. But such distinctions are artificial.
If mission is about “doing” and evangelism about “speaking,” they are inseparable. We may not be Witnesses or Mormons, but if we are to be true to our calling as disciples of Jesus Christ then we ought to be about the work of healing and proclamation. As someone pointed out there has to be integrity and balance between “doing” the word and “speaking” the word. (Feasting on the Word, Year B, Volume 3, Bartlett & Taylor, Westminster/John Knox Press, Louisville, Kentucky, 2009, page 214)
As clichéd as it may sound, the truth remains: “If we talk the talk, we would do well to walk the walk.” In other words, if we proclaim the good news of God’s healing presence in the world, then we ought to be about the work of healing.
I have always felt anxious about whether or not I was meant to cast out demons and to cure those who were sick by simply anointing them with oil. Whether or not I am able to do so, whether or not you are able to do so, depends in large measure on our understanding that it is through God we are sent with power to proclaim and heal.
When I was a relatively young college student over 30 years ago, I belonged to a Christian fellowship and study group in which we were trained to go out into the community – two-by-two. I was living and going to college in Honolulu. Our destination on weekends was Waikiki.
Our training was based, in part, on our reading from Mark. We went out onto the streets of Waikiki two-by-two. While the effort was laudable, it was also lacking in its ability to strike a balance between word and deed. That is the challenge we face. How do we encompass healing as our mission and proclamation as our evangelism?
In our reading from The Gospel According to Mark we discover that “talking the talk and walking the walk” is difficult whether we face the rejection of those who know us well or those who do not know us at all. In a way it was easier to approach strangers on the street. Whatever the outcome, it was likely that we would never see each other again.
Still, I always felt some anxiety and embarrassment of having to approach complete strangers; that somehow they became objects of mission rather than as human beings with whom to establish a more lasting relationship. I also felt that there were other ways for us to bear witness to our faith and that walking the streets of Waikiki and engaging some unsuspecting visitor was not my idea of mission or evangelism.
Anja Pressler of Coronado, California comes to us today to be baptized. Anja was born and raised in Germany. Over the years she has had opportunities to worship with us. Her baptism today is a reminder that if we are to be witnesses of the faith we share, it will come through the authority of Jesus Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit. Through her baptism, through our baptism we receive the Spirit who enables and empowers us to heal and to proclaim the saving power of God in Jesus Christ.
Thanks be to God. Amen.