"God did not give us a spirit of cowardice" [2 Timothy 1:7a]
Thanks be to God that here in Canada, we Christians don't need the kind of bravery that Timothy did when Paul was writing to him, back in the Roman Empire. In those days (and of course in these days in various parts of the world) it was an extremely dangerous thing to be a Christian. A lot of bravery was required.
But nonetheless, at least a bit of bravery is asked of from us too, today, here in Canada. These words may not mean to us what they meant to Timothy, but they remain sacred Scripture, and they speak to us today: "for God did not give us a spirit of cowardice, but rather a spirit of power and of love and of self-discipline." All very nice sounding - but then Paul goes on to the challenging part: " Do not be ashamed then, of witnessing for the Lord..." [2 Timothy 1:7-8a]. And there's the bravery piece.
Now, in our congregation at St. George's, there are folks who know this exhortation, and are accustomed to it: "of course we witness for the Lord! That's what being a Christian is all about!" But for a lot of us - possibly for a good majority - witnessing for the Lord isn't something we think of doing on a regular basis in our lives. Perhaps we keep our church lives and our work/home lives rather separate, in a tidy kind of way; like different dishes on a plate, and we don't like the flavours to mix. Perhaps we don't feel comfortable talking with workmates about our church lives. Perhaps we don't want to be known as one of "those" Christians. Or perhaps it's just too awkward to have that kind of conversation with anyone - you know - out of the blue.
Back in April, Kirk Osadetz, Sola Adenekan and myself had an incredible 2-hour meeting with a guy named Michael Harvey from England. Back 14 years ago, folks from his Diocese approached Michael (a layperson), and asked him to lead an initiative to help bring people back to church. Now, Michael works in 19 different countries helping churches reach out and touch more people's lives. And how is this miracle achieved? In the easiest way imaginable. The #1 reason why a person will try out a church for the first time is a personal invitation from someone that they know. But knowing this fact isn't enough - because almost every one of us has a very good reason why they won't turn to someone they know and invite them to church! And that very good reason boils down to this: we are afraid. We're afraid of opening the conversation; we're afraid of how to "do it"; we're afraid of the awkwardness, we're afraid of being rejected, etc. etc. etc.
But here's what Michael Harvey says (and it's brilliant): maybe that fear that we almost all feel is actually the sign that God is calling us to grow this way. Maybe, God is asking us to do something that we're scared of (something that is not actually dangerous), and to learn to trust God just a little more. And maybe, if we were to try it, we'd discover that God was actually with us all along. And maybe - just maybe - it would be something powerful in our journeys of faith, learning to trust God like that.
Wow. So often we think of "discipleship" as being "making disciples of others". But what if the discipleship piece here isn't about what happens to others, it isn't about the yes or the no. What if the discipleship piece is what happens inside of us as we (try to) have these conversations?
So: on July 8, we are welcoming the Bishop for a service of Confirmation; to be followed by a Stampede Breakfast. Kirk and Sola are moving ahead with strategies to invite the wider community, and a broad circle of "lapsed parishioners". And what if each one of us too starts thinking about who we can invite - who God might be calling us to invite. What if we were to pray, "God, show me who, in my life, you are calling me to invite". And then, what if we were to do it? Then it would be in God's hands who he brought through the door, but we'd at least have tried. After all - even here, God asks us for a little bit of bravery.
And so what if we were to say, even tentatively, "uh, okay Lord. I'll give it a try." I think we should.