Easter Blessings Bethlehem,

I would first like to thank you all for making this year’s Holy Week such an amazing experience. Your willingness to embrace the new aspects of worship that were introduced, your excitement around time honored traditions that we have, and the intentionality with which you engaged all of our worship services truly made the journey from table to cross to empty tomb a blessed one.

I’d like to share something that I’ve been mulling over for a little while now. Two weeks before Easter Sunday I had the great honor of officiating the wedding of one of my best friends. Neither the couple, nor many who attended were people of faith. Having grown up in an area that where going to church was not the norm, this was not altogether a new experience for me. In fact, it was a bit of an overwhelming transition for me when I went to seminary to be surrounded at all times by people of faith. But doing a wedding in this setting was definitely something new. After the wedding I found that many people didn’t quite know how to approach me. They knew I was a pastor, which in their mind came with a number of preconceptions. We live in a time where the only exposure to church that some people get is from the media and pop culture, and let’s be honest, oftentimes those portrayals of what it means to be Christian are not the most flattering. But they also knew I was best friends with the groom, which seemed to contradict many of those preconceptions. People couldn’t quite reconcile their understanding of what a “pastor” was, with the person they saw dancing and telling jokes and being friends with people who do not live lives of faith.

As Christians, we are called by God to evangelize, to spread the good news. Now for some, that word “evangelize” can conjure up some discomfort, images of going up to random strangers and asking, “Have you accepted Jesus as your personal Lord and Savior?” But it doesn’t have to be that way. One of my favorite quotes comes from Francis Assisi who said, “Preach the Gospel at all times, and when necessary, use words.” I have no idea how many seeds I may have planted during that wedding weekend, or if anything will come from them, but I know that I conveyed God’s love and grace to those people. Not by scolding them for not believing, or even having a heart to heart conversation to try and convert them. I did so simply by being myself, by loving and accepting them for who they are. And hopefully, I gave them something to think about. An image of what it means to be Christian that runs counter to many of the negative and harmful narratives that exist in the world today.

We are called to share the good news of Jesus, we are not called to convert, or force people to believe, or turn them into tithing church goers, we are simply called to bear witness to the saving grace and love of God. The rest of that is in God’s hands. So, as you go about your day to day lives, I would encourage you to contemplate this image of evangelism, living into the words sung by Christians around the world: “And they’ll know we are Christians by our love, by our love. Yeah they’ll know we are Christians by our love.”

With resurrection joy and hope,

Pastor Sam