As the Father Sent Me, So I Send You

Christos Anesti!  Christ is Risen!  Krishti u Ngjall!

“Eighty five percent of all Muslims, Hindus and Buddhists in the world today have never met, or had a personal encounter, with a Christian,” shared Dr. Todd Johnson, the director for the Center of the Study of Global Christianity, editor of the 2010 Atlas on Global Christianity. Imagine, 2000 years after the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, and 85% of all Muslims, Hindus and Buddhist (or in other words, approximately 2.3 billion people) have never met or interacted with someone who call themselves a Christian. In fact, we Christians haven’t even tried to reach out and share with these people the Good News of Jesus Christ’s love, and His victorious resurrection over Satan, sin and death itself

We could focus on people of other faiths, or no faith, half way around the world, but what about such people who live all around us? People of other world religions, and many people who have fallen away from any type of faith, surround us here in the United States. Maybe in our workplace, or as our neighbors, or even as our doctors and dentists and specialists that we use, they are everywhere. Here in Webster we have a Hindu Temple on Old Worcester Rd, which implies that there must be a good number of Hindus in our area. And we can find several mosques in Worcester, as well as temples of other world religions.

Do we seek to befriend these people, and share in a simple and non-threatening way God’s love and Good News? And I’m not emphasizing that we strive to encounter the others for the sole motivation of converting them to Christianity. No. Can’t we simply be friends, but friends who unashamedly witness with our lives, and with our words, about our own love for God?!?

For those of us who attended the many moving services of Holy Week and Pascha, we just passed through what I would call the most beautiful week of the entire year! For those who experienced this week in its fullness and beauty, did you tell another about it – sharing with them what it meant to travel through the passion, and victorious resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ?!?

Dr. Johnson once shared a story with my class about meeting a man from India who had lived in the United States for 40 years. As he entered into a discussion with the man, he learned that this Hindu person had never been invited into the home of any American Christian during his entire 40 years in this country! Four decades and no Christian took the initiative to invite him into their home!

In today’s gospel reading, which recalls the apostles’ encounter with the Risen Lord Jesus on the night of His Resurrection, we hear Christ say to the apostles, “As the Father has sent me, so I send you!”

As the Father has sent me, so I send you! Jesus is telling His disciples that just as the Father sent Christ to live among us, eating and drinking and entering into our homes, encountering others wherever they were, and bringing them the good news of the Kingdom of God, in like manner, Jesus was now sending His disciples to go forth and encounter the other!

We need to constantly study the life of Jesus, and see what He did here on earth. And then, we must realize that He’s calling us to do the same – to go into the home of Zaccheus the tax-collector and thief, to welcome the prostitute woman who approaches Him, to forgive the woman caught in adultery, to embrace the foreign centurion and be willing to go into his house, to sit with the Samaritan woman who had been married five times and was now living with another man. Jesus welcomed all people, and saw the divine beauty in each. He made the effort to go wherever they were, and befriend them!

When He says to His disciples, “As the Father has sent me, so I send you!” we should all pause and ask ourselves, “Am I trying to go out as Jesus went out? Am I trying to enter into a friendly relationship with my co-worker who claims to be an atheist, or my neighbor who is of a different color and religion, or my doctor who is a Hindu, or my child’s classmate, who comes from another country?

Too often in our Orthodox Church, many believers think that the priest alone has the responsibility to preach the gospel and share the good news of our faith with others. What about each one of you? What responsibility, and I must emphasize, privilege, do you have in witnessing our faith to others?

I heard a priest share a story how a student once came to him and said, “I wish I could convince my friend to come to church and talk with you. He doesn’t believe in God, but whenever I invite him to come and talk with you, he won’t agree. How can I get him to come to Church?”  The priest surprised the young man by saying, “It’s ok if he doesn’t come to church. You bring the church to him! You be the church! Show him God’s love through your friendship and actions! Tell him about the good news of Jesus Christ in a simple yet clear way with your own words.”

Today, I want each of us to ask ourselves when the last time was that we told someone – a friend, a neighbor, a co-worker, and yes, especially that non-Christian foreigner - about the love of Jesus Christ? When was the last time we invited one of these people into our homes, and even to come to Church with us? When was the last time we talked excitedly about our Lord’s Resurrection?

Remember, the Resurrection of Christ, which we just celebrated, is the greatest news the world has ever heard!  Death itself has been defeated. We no longer need to live in fear of death. Christ is risen, and life is transformed! Evil no longer has the final say in life. As Christians, we shouldn’t let a week pass, not even a day, without talking to others about this Good News of our faith!

Every baptized Orthodox Christian who has accepted Jesus Christ in their lives, should heed the words of our Lord, “As the Father has sent me, so now I send you.” By virtue of our baptism, chrismation and participation in the Holy Eucharist, all Orthodox have received the good news, and are called to proclaim the gospel of salvation to others.  Once we have received the good news of Christ, and experienced His power, then we are not only capable, but responsible to share this same good news with others.

Mother Teresa once counseled her Missionaries of Charity by saying, “Just go and offer God’s love to someone else. Smile at someone.  Show them the joy that God has given you in your life. Don’t let anyone ever come to you without leaving better and happier.” This is one way we can share the good news of our Lord with others. As the Father has sent Christ, so now He sends us! Go!

Christos Anesti! Christ is Risen! Krishti u Ngjall!

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