A good joke is fun to pass on. Happiness is infectious. Joy travels quickly. Like a pebble dropped into a still pond the ripples move out in increasing larger circles until the entire surface of the water is moving, is dynamic, is dancing because of the one simple act that started it.
When the risen Jesus is preparing to leave his disciples he tells them this will be their job. This is the call of those who have learned from him. They have been disciples sitting at the feet of the teacher, and then they were witnesses of his resurrection. Now their job is to be apostles, ones who are sent, ones who carry this story, ones who tell what they have seen, ones who share this good news as it ripples out from Jerusalem, to the surrounding area of Judea and then Samaria, and finally to the ends of the earth. They are called, and we, as the disciples and witnesses and apostles today, to evangelism!
Oooooooooo – – I said that bad word didn’t I? No one likes to hear that “evangelism” word come up. It’s right up there with “stewardship” on the list of words that should not be spoken. It brings to mind big hair and bad make-up, financial appeals and emotional crowds. It makes us imagine ourselves in awkward conversations and door to door solicitations – “Do you have Jesus yet? Well, do you have *my* Jesus yet?”
But evangelism at its best isn’t about all of these things. Evangelism is just good news. It’s just good news rippling out from one person to the next, like the best joke you’ve ever heard, the most up-lifting story you read on the internet. Evangelism is the spreading of joy in increasingly wider circles, until all of creation is sharing in the dance together.
“You will be my witnesses,” Jesus said. “In Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” It started small. It started in the very city where they were still gathered. It started by answering the questions of a fellow traveler on the road. It started by telling the merchant in the marketplace what the grin on their faces was all about. It wasn’t a pitch. It wasn’t a threat. It wasn’t pressure to make sure someone “accepted Jesus as their Lord and Savior or they were going to hell.” It just started by one person telling another the joyous, good news they had witnessed.
It spread on the road when they went back to Galilee. It spread like ripples on the water through Judea as they traveled back home, and even into Samaria on the tongues of those who had heard their stories in Jerusalem. Until over days and weeks and months, then years and decades and centuries, this good news, the greatest story ever told of God’s love for God’s people, has been reaching the ends of the earth. Even so, the ripples can’t stop now. The joy still needs to be shared.
Whether it’s by telling stories and joining in service with the children in our midst, or providing food to those who are hungry in our community, or creating space where questions of life and death and faith can be asked by those who doubt, or sharing resources to alleviate poverty around the world – – the good news of God’s love, our own experiences of God’s welcome, they are ours to share. Let’s be the pebbles. Let’s continue the dance.