Lawry’s Prime Rib is the BEST prime rib on the planet.
Hands down. And I’ve looked around. Some places are good, some are even great, but the overall experience at Lawry’s Prime Rib in Beverly Hills is absolutely the best. Now, if I want ribs, Lawry’s isn’t the place. If I want great pasta, I wouldn’t go there. But if you want the most tasty, dripping-with-goodness, explode-in-your-mouth-with-flavor prime rib in the universe, Lawry’s is where you want to be. Not only is their prime rib an event by itself, but they have the most amazing sides to heighten your flavor parade. From the spinning bowl salad to the Yorkshire pudding to the creamed spinach, it’s all spectacular. And the service? It is beyond top notch. I think my favorite is when they pull the entire table away from the booth so you can sit down without having to squeeze your way in. But the best part is sharing it with someone who’s never been there before. There’s nothing quite like seeing someone else discover for themselves what you knew all along. It’s so satisfying when they can’t imagine what life was like before it.
Now if you asked me how they make the prime rib so good, I couldn’t tell you.
If you wanted to know why the spinning bowl salad has that perfect blend of flavors, it would be as much a mystery to me as it was to you, although I would guess “beets” or maybe the dressing. And if you wanted the secret to their raspberry English trifle, the best I could do would be to shrug, because the truth is I’m not an expert on these things. I could take a guess and I might come close because I do love to cook, but I’m not a chef. I’ve never had culinary training. The finer points about the art of creating with food is still largely unknown to me. But I think I could still convince you to at least give it a try. My testimony about how great it tasted, my enthusiasm for the service and the atmosphere, the fact that I’ve returned again and again for nearly 30 years would probably weigh heavily in your decision to come with me next time I went (and if any of you ever want to go, just let me know). Just because I don’t know some of the details or that I might not understand the cooking techniques involved probably wouldn’t bother you in the slightest. So why is it we don’t feel equipped to share our faith as easily as we would our favorite places to eat?
We have this crazy idea we have to be seminary graduates to share our faith.
That somehow we have to be experts in theology to tell other people why Jesus is so awesome. We get intimidated because we think if we try talking about our faith, people are going to expect us to have all the answers, but that isn’t true. They might be skeptical, they might be fearful, they might even have questions you can’t answer, but that doesn’t take away from the power of your story. No one expects you or anybody else to know any more about religion than you do about a restaurant. Think about the number of things you talk to people about everyday – the schools we attended, places we’ve visited, favorite vacation spots, our favorite sports teams. Rev. Mike told me that my love of the Dodgers wouldn’t work up in Berkeley and I told him this is simply a new mission field. I know that once you become True Blue, you’ll see the error of your ways. Sharing about your faith should be no harder than sharing about your favorite place to eat. It’s simply sharing your own personal knowledge about something. That’s all it is. Being a witness is simply sharing your own personal knowledge about something. It doesn’t mean you have to be an expert or have any special training. It’s a personal account of things that have happened to YOU. And who could be a better witness to what has happened in your life than you?
Let’s go to the Bible and hear what God has to say about it.
We are going to read from Acts, chapter 1, verses 3 through 8. This is the passage right before Jesus leaves the Earth to return to Heaven and he’s speaking with the disciples one last time. He has proven himself over and over again during a period of forty days and is about to go up to Heaven when he gives the disciples one more command.
4On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. 5For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”
6So when they met together, they asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?”
7He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. 8But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
“You will be my witnesses.”
I think it’s remarkable Jesus didn’t go to the rabbis or other leaders of Israel to share his message of love, salvation, and forgiveness. You have to remember, as far as we know, none of Jesus’ core disciples were religious leaders of any kind. They were fishermen and tax collectors and whatever else. The Bible isn’t clear on all of their occupations, but it’s probably true that they didn’t have any training in the books of the Torah any more than any child would have learned. They didn’t have special knowledge of God’s Word EXCEPT for having experienced a life with Christ. And that’s all that was needed. Jesus didn’t single out the really smart people and say “you will be my witnesses.” He points to all of them, because they have their own unique perspective on what has happened in the life of Christ and how it affected them. They can offer the kind of personal testimony that is compelling and honest because they have experienced it for themselves. And that’s what Jesus wants. He wants a group of believers to go out into the world and share from their own knowledge and experience of God. Christ knows that the most effective witness is a personal witness. The most effective sharing of the Gospel is our OWN story of how Jesus has made a difference in our lives. Jesus knew that the best way to spread the Word wasn’t going to be with billboards along the Roman road or publishing an editorial in the Roman Times; it was going to be through people like you and me. That’s still true today even in our Internet age. He knew the best way to get people to believe in him was through those who were closest to them. We have far more influence in our own social networks than anywhere else and that’s what is going to make the most difference, when friends and family hear from us the impact that Christ has made on our lives.
Some of us have developed the notion that sharing our faith is an imposition.
People have said to me, “I don’t want to push my religion on other people.” And I have to ask “Why not?” We feel completely fine pushing everything else from our favorite spatula to our favorite brand of eggs – why not our favorite religion? Your favorite spatula isn’t going to be of any use when you die, but preparing for your eternal life in comparison seems pretty important. Why is it so hard to talk about then? Maybe because it is such a sensitive subject. Like politics, it seems nearly impossible to change someone’s mind about religion once they’ve made a choice. But does that mean we shouldn’t try? Before you say “No, we shouldn’t try,” I want you to consider something – Silence is a form of communication. Saying nothing is as much of a choice saying something. Saying nothing conveys the idea that we don’t care or we don’t have an opinion or it’s not important enough for us to share our thoughts. And is that the message we really want to get across? Are we so scared to share our thoughts about Christ that we would rather sit idly by while others make choices that lead them away from knowing the truth about God? We see it all the time. New age crystals, wiccan practices, all sorts of alternative paths to God… except they’re not. Ask yourself this. If you were stuck in a foreign country, is it easier to find your way by guessing the right way to go or having a friend that you trust guide you there? That’s all sharing your faith is about, being that guide through a world filled with choices that lead nowhere.
I think what happens is people get confused about what it means to share their faith.
I hear the excuse quite often that “faith is personal.” I completely agree with that. So does Jesus. But while faith is personal, it is not private. Faith is personal, not private. Meaning that your faith is a personal journey and a story only you can share. And only you are the expert on faith in your life. But faith was never meant to be hidden away like some secret treasure or worse like something we are embarrassed by. Christ makes is abundantly clear in the Great Commission that our primary goal as Christians is to share our faith – “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit (Matthew 28:19).” And he told us in our reading this morning, “…you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the Earth (Acts 1:8).” We must not be afraid to share our faith. Too much is at stake. Let us commit to praying about one person who could really benefit from being closer to Christ. Think of one family member, one friend who is far from God who you might invite to church to experience God the way you do. And then do it. Let God use you to share his love, you never know where it may lead. In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
 Definition from Merriam-Webster’s Online Dictionary.