As the rubric at the bottom of page 888 of the Book of Common Prayer reminds us, “Any Reading may be lengthened at discretion. Suggested lengthening are shown in parentheses.” This Sunday, our Gospel lesson has one of those “suggested lengthenings”; taking us well into Jesus’ rules for his apostles. The part where he tells them not to take a bag or a cloak or extra sandals gets plenty of press, but what is often overlooked are his instructions on what should happen should you get arrested.
“they will hand you over to councils and flog you in their synagogues; and you will be dragged before governors and kings because of me, as a testimony to them and the Gentiles. When they hand you over, do not worry about how you are to speak or what you are to say; for what you are to say will be given to you at that time; for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.“
Worry seems to be the number one deterrent to evangelism. Those of us in 21st century America don’t have to worry about getting flogged or dragged before the authorities. Our worries tend to be much more superficial. We worry about offending someone. We worry about embarrassing ourselves. We often worry that we won’t have any idea what to say. We worry when there is absolutely no need to. Jesus has shown us what we need to eliminate the worry of evangelism. In Baptism we are given what we need to eliminate the worry of evangelism. If only we would tap into the Spirit of God that is ready to be at work in our lives, we have no need to worry about evangelism.
It isn’t so much that we can just open our mouths and the Holy Spirit will make us say what needs to be said. Instead, if we invite the Spirit into our relationships, and begin to see the other through the eyes of God, then all our our interactions will be fodder for evangelism. It isn’t about having the perfect apologetic, understanding the hypostatic relationship of the Trinity, or knowing precisely how the Cross saves us. Instead, through the Spirit, it is about how the Kingdom of God is at work in our everyday lives. It is seeing peace when others see anxiety. It is choosing love when others would choose hate. It is showing compassion when it would be easier to ignore the needs of the other. When the Spirit is at work in our lives, then these things happen naturally, and the deeper conversations of faith just happen because faithful living is happening all the time.
Jesus promised his disciples that the Spirit would speak for them in front on the authorities, but I am a firm believer that the Spirit is always at work, sharing the love of God with everyone we meet. Our job is to allow the Spirit to work, to free ourselves from worry, to live lives of the Kingdom, and to be willing to share the Good News.