"So make up your minds NOT to prepare your defense in advance;
for I will give you words and a wisdom
that none of your opponents will be able to withstand or contradict."
I'll let you into one of my nightmares,
because that is exactly what you want right this minute.
I am an introvert
and the idea of getting up before a crowd, a judge, even standing here now,
without anything prepared to say,
is terrifying to me.
Down right terrifying.
When I was in high school I was terrified of public speaking.
I remember my first public speaking class,
when I wasn't able to complete a short speech
because I thought I was going to throw up.
At the time I knew I wanted to become a priest
and I knew from watching the priests of the church I went to,
that I was going to have to speak in public someday
and that I needed to work on it.
I asked God for help
and God provided opportunities and coaches and mentors
to help me learn how to get up here on a weekly basis and speak,
in a very open and public way.
And I certainly cannot take credit for all the Words I speak.
God gives me more words and phrases than I could ever imagine.
I have spoken eloquently in ways I could not imagine coming out of my own mouth.
I swear, sometimes things come out of my mouth and inside I say,
wow, that actually sounds pretty good, where did that come from?
Or, even better,
Whoa, I didn't know I knew that...
thank you God!
Thursday Eucharists are the best.
I pray for something to say, I listen to the readings,
and God works miracles every week.
I used to get really nervous
and worry that I was going to stand up here and look like a fool.
Sometimes I do think I stand up here and look like a fool,
I have decided that for the sake of Jesus, for the sake of God,
I'm okay with looking like a fool.
I'd rather look foolish for the Gospel than look all calm cool and collected
and feel dead inside.
In the gospel passage for today,
Jesus in Luke tells his disciples that all sorts of crazy things are going to happen
before the end of time.
Persecution, wars, siege, earthquakes, famines, plagues,
In the combined book of Luke-Acts,
we see all these things.
Paul ends up in jail multiple times,
the early Christians were persecuted,
there were wars going on,
famines across the land,
all of this is stuff Luke knows is coming in the second part of his book.
He makes sure to have Jesus tell the community,
its going to be okay.
God will be with us.
we aren't plagued so much by people who persecute and oppose us,
the Church is more in danger from those who have no clue about it,
those who feel they don't need the church,
those who are indifferent to the Church's word for their lives.
Our defense does not need to be for our lives, but for the church's life.
It is not in defense, but in inviting in others.
The part that always gets me though,
is that part about not needing to prepare ourselves ahead of time.
I know some of the things written in this passage
are truly terrible,
and for some of you might be more terrifying.
But for me, its this line about testifying about Jesus,
being a witness to Christ,
without any prepared speech.
However, I can also witness to the fact
that we don't need to prepare and practice our elevator speeches,
when we trust in God to give us the words we need
to talk to the person in front of us,
God gives us better words than we could ever write.
God knows how to approach them,
God knows them better than we could ever.
If we pray for the ability to talk to others about Jesus,
God will give us more words and wisdom about it than we can ever imagine.
God gives us the promise
that no matter what happens,
God will be with us
and God will see us through.
Even if we end up looking like a fool for Jesus.
We are going to do an activity today.
None of you have anything prepared at the moment,
so this is perfect timing.
We are going to pray first together,
and then you're going to take a look at the insert in today's bulletin.
Let us pray,
Eternal God, who created the universe and all that is in it with your Word, help us to speak your love and truth in this world, help us to reach out to those around us, trusting in you to supply our words and actions, knowing you know their hearts better than we ever could. Help us to speak your invitation into relationship, we pray this through Jesus Christ our Savior, Amen.
So now I want you to take a moment,
think of the answers to these three questions
on the insert in the bulletin.
What special knowledge do you have? That's your head.
What are you good at? That's your hands.
What are you passionate about? That's your heart.
I want everyone to stand up and find someone else in the room
you don't particularly know well or at all
and I want you to introduce yourself like this:
"Hi, I'm Elizabeth, I'm know a lot about bicycles and penguins, I am good at cross stitching, and I am passionate about spiritual practices. How are you doing today?"
So, go ahead, I'll give you a couple of minutes
(watch them start conversations)
Before I'll let you sit down again, I want you to invite this person to church.
I know, I know, you all are already here in church!
This is practice.
Remember an invitation needs to be specific:
where: St. John's,
when: 8/10 am on Sunday,
what: a church service
Its okay if they say no. Its great if they say yes.
Either way, we have planted a seed
and God will take care of watering it and making it grow.
How quickly we can get into conversations with other people when we know a little bit about them?
Did any of you find new connections?
I hope so. I hope some of you will continue your conversations later too.
Thankfully, even when our witness falls on deaf ears
or our witness gets us in trouble
or changes our community,
God promises to be with us and to help us
To give us the words to say, to give us the courage to speak,
to comfort us in the tough and occasionally awkward moments.
As Paul says, the church is made up of many members and many different talents,
not all of us are called to be evangelists,
but all of us can invite others into our community,
all of us are called to work towards the building up of the kingdom of God.
Learning and practicing gives the Holy Spirit the invitation to come into our lives
and open us up to new opportunities
so that when the time comes, we can open our mouths with the words God gives to us
and speak eloquently for the good news of Jesus Christ.