by Pastor Sarah Stadler
I’m going to start by telling you something that might be shocking.
I dislike how many Christians do evangelism. At its Greek root, the word evangelism simply denotes the practice of sharing the gospel. While that practice is certainly something we want to do, we want to share the gospel, the details about how we share the gospel are important, at least to me. Just as people of other religions do, many Christians believe that we have a corner on the market of truth. Right? I personally have strong opinions about who God is and what God is doing in the world, and when I meet someone who has a radically different understanding of God, perhaps someone who believes that God condemns certain people for being who they are, that belief rubs me the wrong way. That person rubs me the wrong way, making it difficult for me to listen to their sharing of the gospel. Interestingly, the people I most often meet who have a radically different understanding of God are other Christians, not people of other faiths…but that’s a sermon for another time. Given that most of us believe that we are right most of the time, and given that humans are limited in our understanding of truth simply because we’re human and not God, the practice of sharing the gospel is complex. What if I don’t understand the gospel or can’t articulate it in a neat sentence or two? What if someone asks me a question about scripture or doctrine that I simply haven’t studied? What do I do with my own questions and doubts as I go about sharing the gospel? Do I ignore them and carry on as if I were completely sure? And if all that were not enough, here’s the biggie: what if what I think about God is inaccurate? I mean, what if all of us are wrong? Because there is the possibility that we are. Now, I personally don’t think we’re wrong, but since we’re human and finite and limited in our ability to understand truth, we must be honest: we could all be wrong. Our reading of scripture could be wrong; our doctrine could be wrong. We could be wrong.
Sorry. Just realizing my sermon isn’t very inspiring so far. Hang in there.
We can argue about doctrine and interpretation of scripture all day long. But our story from the gospel of John awakens us to a possibility, a way of sharing the transforming power of God in our lives, a way of sharing the gospel. Instead of sharing doctrine or whatever we think we must believe, instead of sharing what someone else teaches us about God, we can learn from the man born blind and share what we have experienced.
When Jesus happens upon the man born blind, he reveals to the disciples the glory of God by giving the man sight. But instead of a nice, clean, simple command, Jesus spits in the dirt, makes mud, and spreads the noxious combination on the man’s eyes. Jesus commands him to go and wash in the pool of Siloam, and when he does, the man sees for the first time in his whole life. Now begins the interrogation for no one knows what to do with the man born blind who now sees. How did it happen? He is asked time and again. And time and again, he says: Look, Jesus put mud on my eyes, and I washed. Now, I see. But the Pharisees don’t believe him, and they further question the man asking him who he thinks Jesus is. The man first tells them he thinks Jesus is a prophet, but later when the Pharisees ask him if he thinks Jesus is a sinner, he responds: “I do not know whether he [Jesus] is a sinner. One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see.”
I love that the man says that he doesn’t know for sure who Jesus is but that there is one thing he does know: though he was blind, he now sees. This response cuts through our human desire to explain God, to try and prove that we are right about the creator of the universe, to have all the answers. But no one, no one can argue with this man about his sight being restored. He knows he was blind, and he knows he can now see!
So it is for us. We each have seen God show up somewhere in our lives, or maybe we just wonder if it was really God who showed up. Regardless, we have a story to tell about our lives. We have a story to tell about what happened, about what’s happening now. I see God all over the story of my life! Do I know for sure what God did or didn’t do? No. But when I tell others about what has happened and is happening in my life, I cannot help but share a story of God’s great love for me, a story of God’s dancing spirit moving me. That is a testimony I can share in full confidence because the truths of my life are my truths. Like the man who says: “I do not whether Jesus is a sinner. One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see,” like this man, I can tell you what I’ve experienced. And the only way that I can make sense of my experience is to see God in it.
So, I invite you to tell part of your story this morning by turning to someone sitting near you and telling them the answer to this question: What is one turning point in your life that brought you here today to church? If you would prefer to silently reflect on this question, you may do so. But please, if possible, turn to a neighbor and share the answer to this question: What is one turning point in your life that brought you here today to church? To church in general or to church specifically today?
This is how we share the gospel. These are our stories of what God has done, stories we can share. We may not, we actually do not know all of who and what God is, but like the man born blind, we know what has happened in our lives. We know that, though we were blind, now, we see.