Each week in the Easter season, St John’s has a gemstone faith word. First we had “Go!” with the Great Commission, and last week was “Belong!” This Sunday it is “Leap!” (Check out the Sermon Series here.) So using the Bible story from Acts 14:8-18, here are 10 reasons why we take a leap of faith and share our faith with others:
Number #10: Leap of Faith. The Apostle Paul was adventurous with Barnabas. They left everything they had in Jerusalem to be the world’s first missionaries. This story finds them in Lystra, (modern day Turkey), but we don’t have to go far to be backyard missionaries. There are next door neighbors, inner city shelters, or coworkers at lunch who need to hear about God’s love. The key is that we take a leap of a faith and step over the threshold to share it. Often, it is easiest to share your faith with someone when we are on their turf and meet people where they are – in backyards, at food shelves, or in the workroom. Taking a leap of faith means we are adventurous with God!
Number #9: We Are Healers. Did you know that? Now, Paul held special healing powers. He was “Looking intently” at the man who could not walk to heal him. My youngest would have said that Paul had some kind of “magic eyes” but really it was because of faith recognized faith. Not many of us are like Paul with laser eyes, but we all have hearts that can heal. Taking a leap of faith means we are healers with hands that work peace, words that reconcile, and love to give a broken world.
Number #8: Expect the Holy Spirit. Paul healed the man who could not walk. That means the Holy Spirit showed up and what followed was a whirlwind. Chaos, actually. People shouted, “The gods have come down to us in human form!” Barnabas they called Zeus, and Paul they called Hermes, because he was the chief speaker. The priest of Zeus, whose temple was just outside the city, brought oxen and garlands to the gates!” Now, if we choose to share our “why God is important to me” speech with others, people probably won’t worship at our feet or compare us to a Greek God. But be ready and expect the Holy Spirit. People in this world hunger to belong and be loved. So taking a leap of faith means to love them and be with them as the Holy Spirit does her work.
Number #7: Speak the Language. I am not sure if Paul and Barnabas spoke Lycaonian. From their delayed response to being compared to Greek Gods, my guess is the spoke something like “Fran-anglais.” Maybe a mixture of Hebrew, Lycaonian and translators? Their actions of ripping their clothes off is from grief that anyone would think that they are God. For us, this ancient practice of ripping clothes off is null and void, unless you want to end up in jail. But luckily, we have love. Sometimes the best way to communicate God’s story is with love. With love, no words are required. Taking a leap of faith then is speaking love to everyone you meet.
Number #6: Be Real. Ripping off their clothes was about grief but it also was to show the Lycaonian people that they, Paul and Barnabas, are human. Paul said, “We are mortals just like you…” No matter who you are, we all know what it is like to cry, to feel pain, to be broken, and we also know what it feels like to be happy, to laugh, and to love. When we decide to share our faith with someone, be human and be vulnerable. We can share our stories, but most importantly, we can listen to theirs. Taking a leap of faith means to be real with each other – it’s how we connect with one another.
Number #5: Write a Faith Statement. That’s the move Paul made here. Immediately, he mentions the Good News for the Lycoanian people. Notice his words were not about Jesus or the need for baptism nor was there an altar call. He spoke simply about who God is to him and for this world. He said, “..we bring you good news, that you should turn from these worthless things to the living God, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and all that is in them.” In sharing our faith with others that’s all it takes – a simple statement. When people ask me why I am a pastor I often just quote scripture. I say something like, “I love God and I love people! Being a pastor is the best fit for me!” Taking a leap of faith means to have your own statement of faith of who God is to you and a willingness to share it.
Number #4: Do not judge. Paul tells the Lycaonian people: “In past generations [God] allowed all the nations to follow their own ways; yet [God] has not left [God’s] self without a witness in doing good—giving you rains from heaven and fruitful seasons, and filling you with food and your hearts with joy.” Paul speaks about a God who freely provides rain and nourishment, freely gives life abundantly, and freely fills the hearts of the people with joy. Notice what Paul doesn’t do? There is no judgement towards these people who are gentiles; there is no condemnation of “You are going to H-E-Double Hockey Sticks for what you believe!” There is no blowing up of temples or bombing of mosques. He only speaks of the good things God is doing in the lives of the people. Taking a leap of faith means to speak and point out the good things.
Number #3: Can I Get a Witness? Just as Paul and Barnabas do not judge or condemn the Lycaonian people for believing in the Greek Gods, they don’t seek out to convert them either. All Paul and Barnabas feel they can do is be a witness to God’s love for them. That’s what God’s people are called to do – to be a witness of God’s love in this world. Conversion is the work of the Holy Spirit, and we can leave that work right there. In fact, there is no need for us to worry about it or even worse for us to coerce someone to convert. Remember, no judgement, no condemnation, and no coercion. Taking a leap of faith means to witness through words and deeds of God’s love for everyone.
Number #2: Words May Fail. Even after Paul’s discourse on who God is as the creator and provider of the world, the Lycaonian people still wanted to offer sacrifices to them. How many times do you have to hear something to remember it? Marketers say the magic number is 7 times. That people need to hear something 7 times in order to remember what was said. So even though it seems that Paul’s words failed, I promise he will tell them again and again. Maybe even more than seven times. I remember at one of my previous congregations, Sunday School had grown stagnant. There was no growth from one year to the next. I asked my colleague, “How do we grow the church?” Her response was “We never stop trying! We never stop telling the story!” Paul knew that, and I hope you do, too. Taking a leap of faith means if at first you don’t succeed in sharing God’s love or story, try and try again.
Number #1: What’s the Worst that Could Happen? Paul lived in a different time period than we do. He went from place to place, country to country to share God’s story with others, and sometimes he was persecuted for his faith. But that’s not my life or your life. So what”s the worst that could happen if we were tell someone about God’s love for them? From experience, I have gotten answers like “That’s nice!” or “Good for you!” or “Tell me more!” The worst thing anyone has said to me is “No!” That’s it, just a “No!” If that’s the worst it could be, what is stopping you from taking a leap of faith to share God’s love with others? I can guarantee you this that someone is waiting. There is someone waitOmg for you to tell them about who God is in your life. The question is then can you take a leap of faith?