Sharing is Caring

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 is absolutely the best.  Now, if you want ribs, Lawry’s isn’t the place.  If you want great pasta, I wouldn’t go there.  But if you want the most tasty, drip-worthy, 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. To be fair, it’s more of a special occasion kind of place.  Most of us couldn’t afford to eat there every night, but if my family lived closer, we’d be tempted just because it’s so good.  When you find something so amazing, whether it’s your favorite restaurant, your favorite grocery store, your favorite ice cream parlor, you can’t help but want to tell people about it, because half the fun is sharing it.  When you see people you care about discover for themselves what you’ve already known, it warms your heart.  Who wouldn’t want to change someone’s life for the better?

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, I have no idea.  I’m not a chef.  I don’t have any culinary training and I never went to cooking school, but I do know what I like and why I think it’s special and I’m pretty sure I’ve already convinced some of you to 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 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 how it all works 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?

Seminary was my path but it doesn’t have to be yours. Anyone can share God’s love.

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 great.  We get intimidated because we think if we try talking about why Jesus makes a difference to us, 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 they do about a restaurant.  Think about the number of things you talk to people about to convince them to do or try something new – the schools we attended, our favorite vacation, our favorite sports teams.  I was born and raised in LA, so my favorite team is the Dodgers and serving in the Bay Area can be quite a challenge for a Dodgers fan, but I told a friend of mine I was looking at it as simply a new mission field.  Once people discover the beauty of being True Blue, they’ll see the error of their ways.  Sharing your faith should be no harder than sharing your favorite baseball team – even in the Bay Area.  It’s simply sharing what you know.  In church we use the word “witness” but all that is is sharing what you know.  You don’t have to be an expert or have any special training because 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?

A Bay Area Dodgers fan…a tough spot to be in

But don’t take my word for it.

Let’s listen to God’s Word instead.  This is the passage right before Jesus leaves Earth to return to Heaven and he’s speaking with the disciples one last time.  Over the last forty days, Jesus has proven himself over and over again, but now his time is done and he’s about to leave when he shares with them this one last 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.” – Acts 1:4-8

You will be my witnesses.

Most of us probably would have thought Jesus would go to the rabbis or other leaders of Israel to share his message of love, salvation, and forgiveness.  I mean, they would be most likely to recognize him for who he was right?  They had the credentials.  And 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 what they all did for a living, but we know most of them were regular folk like us.  They didn’t have any training in the books of the Torah any more than a child would have learned.  They didn’t have special knowledge of God’s Word before meeting Jesus. But that’s all they needed; their own personal experience with Christ.  Jesus didn’t single out the really smart people or the really rich people or the really powerful people and say “you will be my witnesses.”  He says to everyone who can hear – poor or rich, powerful or weak – “you will be my witnesses,” because all of us have the ability to share our faith.  Book knowledge alone isn’t going to change the world, it’s each one of us connecting to the people around us in our own unique way.  It’s our personal testimony to Jesus that will make a difference.  Christ knows the most effective witness is a personal witness.  And that’s why he encourages everyone to bear witness to their faith.  Nearly 2000 years before the Internet, Jesus knew 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, or sending out a Holy e-blast; it was going to be through people like you and me.  He knew the best way to get people to believe in him was through personal connections. We have far more influence in our own social circles than anyone else, and that’s what is going to make the most difference, when friends and family hear from us the impact Christ has made on our lives. 

Sharing our faith isn’t an imposition.

Far from it.  Sharing our faith is like throwing a lifeline to some drowning in the water.  If you really feel Christ has made a difference in your life, why wouldn’t you want others to experience that, too?  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 near 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,” I want you to consider something else – silence is a form of communication.  Silence is a form of communication.  Saying nothing is as much of a choice as it is to say 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 God? 

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 it 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.  How you share your faith is as personal as your faith journey.  You have to discover for yourself how you can best do that and it’s different for everyone.  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 pray for God to open a door for you to share what you already know.  Let God use you to share his love, you never know where it may lead. 

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