Making the Sale?
Romans 1:1–17 | Fifth Sunday of Easter | May 3, 2015 | First Christian Church | Mahtomedi, MN
One of the thing that I both love and loathe is shopping for a car. I like to be able to test drive a car and then imagine that I will be owning this new thing. Sometimes the car buying experience can be great. I remember when I bought a Prius a few years ago, how great the salesperson was. Car buying didn’t feel like car buying. I didn’t feel like I had to take a shower afterwards. Contrast this with an experience that took place a few years before that. I had just stepped out of my car when the car salesman approached me. I didn’t have a chance to see the car that I came to see. He showed me another one that was similar, but not really what I wanted. We took it out for a test drive and it was okay. Now, my plan was to test drive a car, not buy one. The salesman wanted me to buy this car today. It was an okay car, but it didn’t have any of the features I wanted. He wouldn’t take no for answer. He even suggested I take the car for the evening to try it out. I held my ground. I only came to look, not buy. The salesperson had one more trick up his sleeve. He took me into see the finance guy who told me about the wonderful low monthly payment. I still said no. He then kind of tried to shame me into getting the car, telling me it made no sense to walk away from such a deal. I still said no. Somehow, I was able to leave the dealership without getting a car I didn’t want. The salesperson called me for a few days telling me about the good deal I would get, but I never called back.
When my Mom was here in March, she told me about her flight from Flint to Minneapolis. She was seated next to a woman who it turns out was Jehovah’s Witness. My mother was dreading an hour and a half flight with someone pushing her faith on my Mom.
Instead, the two had a conversation. Both were able to share their faith, but not in a kind of used car salesman way. Instead they shared what mattered to them and it was an honest conversation about faith and life. My Mom told me she had a good talk with this woman; it was the sharing of lives, not trying to guilt or force someone to believe a certain way.
For many modern Christians, evangelism is something that strikes fear in their hearts. The reason is that far too often they or friends have encountered a salesperson like the one I encountered 15 years ago. No one wants to be pushy and mean to people. No one wants to have a faith forced upon them.
But, the fact is as Christians we can’t escape evangelism. Christ calls us to go and make disciples. The book of Acts shows the disciples and Paul going throughout the known world to share the gospel or good news of Jesus.
Today, we read the first few verses of Paul’s letter to the church in Rome. This is a church that Paul had not visited yet, even though he wanted to. Paul would end up visiting Rome, but just not under his own will. He came to Rome as a prisoner to stand trial and some think Rome is where Paul was executed.
Paul’s introduction has a lot to say about the importance of mission and evangelism and it is a message that is as important to the church in Mahtomedi than it was to the church in Rome all those years ago.
In the opening verses, Paul greets the Romans by saying that he is a servant or slave of Jesus Christ “called to be an apostle and set apart for God’s good news.” The word apostle comes from a Greek word which means “one who is sent.” Paul was called to be sent out into the known world to preach God’s good news. To be sent, you have to be called and Paul also acknowledges that. Paul is saying that God has called him and sent him to tell the Good News to others. We use words like “call” to talk about pastors and it is easy to think that only folks like me are the ones that are called to be the ones who are sent. That’s a mistake that we pastors should correct, because we aren’t the only ones that are called to do something. Even those sitting the pews are called to be God’s sent people. You are called to be apostles, to be set apart for God’s good news just like I am.
Then we go to verses 16 and 17 where we read that Paul isn’t ashamed of the gospel. Those are strong words for us modern Christians, because we tend to be very ashamed of the gospel. Maybe we’ve had bad experiences in church, or maybe we don’t want to look like weirdos. Whatever it is, we don’t want to upset our family and friends.
The book that we are reading for the book club, Reimagining Evangelism, tells us that most Christians don’t want to share their faith because of what they have seen or been told is the way to share our faith, to make the sale.
But Paul isn’t interested in making the sale. No, Paul’s sharing of the gospel, the sharing of Jesus is because the faith is deeply embedded into his life. Paul is not ashamed of the gospel, not ashamed of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus that he has to tell others, not in a way that is pushy, but in way that he talks about how God has worked in his own life.
We know that Jesus has saved us, saved all of creation. We know that Jesus makes a difference in our lives. It is something that we should talk about, just not like we need to sell this car today to make our commission.
I go back to my mother’s flight. The two women had a conversation where life was shared. That’s what it means to be sent out, to be called by God to share the good news. It is when we share God in our daily lives, when we are not willing to keep quiet, but we aren’t willing to disrespect our family and friends as well. Thanks be to God. Amen.