It’s late this year, but Easter is almost here. Trees are blooming, flowers are springing up from the ground, and that sign is on every other corner:
“A Community wide celebration of Jesus rising from the dead. Easter @ The Mathewson. Join us at 10 am.”
I could grumble, and I’m sure some do, about religion and advertising and proselytism. I could moan, and many will, about church attendance on special holy days versus any other Sunday. I could dig at denominational differences and points of theology between my Christian faith (Catholicism) and theirs (Methodism).
But not today. Today I want to congratulate First United Methodist Church of Sedalia on their graceful invitation to our community to hear their Christian message and their faithful adherence to the Great Commission of Christ in the Bible.
It’s never really bothered me to be “evangelized” by someone whose faith is a little different than my own, or even a lot. I enjoy seeing the Latter Day Saint missionaries walking through town. I’ve taken literature from the Hare Krishnas (yes, they still exist!) at music festivals. I’ve had some eye-opening conversations with atheists. I’ve attended services with the Methodists, Word of Faith Christians, African Fellowship refugees, Unitarian Universalists and even an obscure Buddhist group that turned out to be kind of a cult. This one time I embarrassed myself by asking an observant Jew in a bar what he believed about resurrection, but nevermind I’m getting off track here...
The point is, as long as people aren’t arrogant, demeaning, or threatening I have a great time listening to what they have to say. What people believe or don’t believe and why is endlessly fascinating. It underpins everything else in life, from culture to morals to politics. Even food and clothing reflect what we think about religion.
What I can’t understand is people who have a faith, learn it, believe in it, and then do their darnedest for the rest of their life not to let anyone know about it, either in word or deed. I’m not talking about bragging, or being obnoxious, or wandering around with a sandwich board and a bell screaming, “The end is near!” I’m talking about being afraid to discuss matters of faith or even downright averse to it.
Famous magician and outspoken atheist Penn Jillette once said, “I don’t respect people who don’t proselytize. I don’t respect that at all. If you believe there is a heaven and hell, and people could be going to hell or not getting eternal life or whatever, and you think it’s not really worth telling them this because it would make it socially awkward. How much do you have to hate somebody to not proselytize? How much do you have to hate someone to believe everlasting life is possible and not tell them that?”
It’s a good question, but I think the answer lies less in hate and hellfire and more in apathy. Speaking now to the Christians reading, when’s the last time you went out to do a work of service for your community? When did you last talk to someone who isn’t of your faith about what you both believe? It’s going to be the holiest weekend of the year next weekend. Can anyone tell that you’re excited about it? Have you invited anyone to come see for themselves? For Pete’s sake, the people of First Methodist are beating the pants off the rest of us at this “going into the world and preaching the good news” business this Easter. And good on them. Someone needs to be preaching.
No matter what you preach or teach or do in the community, the best type of evangelism there is is a good example, and First Methodist’s signs are that small, friendly example all over town. Thank you to all of you for your witness. You’ve definitely set my heart on fire to be better at sharing my faith, so here goes:
If you have ever been interested in Catholic Christianity, if you get bored coloring eggs the night before Easter or even if you’re just lonely for company, please join me at Easter Vigil Mass at 8:30 p.m. Saturday, April 20 at Sacred Heart Church.
The church will be gorgeous, there is bonfire and candlelight, and the Scriptures for that day are some of the most awe-inspiring of the year. Best of all, the celebration of Christ’s death and resurrection is something I can say with confidence I’ve never seen better anywhere else (begging the pardon of the Methodists). I’ll be the kooky lady in the blue headwrap. If you stop by, come say hello.