There is the story of a man who wanted to share the Gospel, the good news of Jesus Christ.
He went to a very devout, religious monk, named Francis.
“Francis, I too have the desire to share the Gospel as you do.”
Francis was only too eager to help the man to share the Gospel.
“Come with me,” said Francis. “We will share the Gospel together!”
And off they went to share the Gospel, the good news of Jesus Christ.
There mission to be evangelists.
First, they met a poor man on the road.
He was a beggar.
He approached the beggar and began a conversation.
Francis spoke to and took time to listen to the beggar and also to share what little food he had with the beggar.
But never once did the Gospel message come up during the encounter.
Next, they came to a small village.
Immediately they met a woman selling cloth.
Francis stopped to talk to the woman and to listen to her.
“I am sorry we have no money to buy your cloth but I have ears to listen to you,” said Francis.
The woman spoke for a long time to Francis.
All the while the man with Francis noticed that not once did Francis speak the Gospel to the woman.
Then they travelled north from the village into the country.
On the way they met one traveler after another.
Each time Francis stopped to talk to and to listen to the person.
But each time the man with Francis noticed that not once did Francis speak the Gospel.
By the end of the day the man was angry at Francis.
“Why did you take me all over to show me how to share the Gospel when not once did you share the Gospel?!”
Francis looked at the man and sighed.
Then he said, “Preach the Gospel at all times and if necessary, use words.”
There is a way in which our very lives and the way we use our lives, the way we interact with one another that gives great witness to the Gospel.
None of us here are perfect but we all can see that living in the ways of Jesus and acting as he would act is a better way to live and more than that -by doing this is can even be a way of speaking the faith with our very lives.
Forgiveness is better than revenge.
Generosity is better than greed.
Love is better than hate.
Embodying Jesus’ message with our lives and with our actions is a way of sharing the Gospel.
Words are important.
All week I use words to communicate the Gospel.
Someone comes to me to talk to me in my church office and I use words to communicate the Gospel.
I have a funeral service and at the service I use words to speak the Gospel -Christ crucified, Christ risen.
On Sunday mornings I use words.
Right now, I use words to tell the Gospel message of Jesus Christ.
Most of my work is in using words to share the Gospel but it is not the only way.
I need your help to do the work of evangelism.
-The spreading of the Gospel to others.
That is why in the church we talk about the priesthood of all believers.
Together we all communicate the Gospel.
While I will use mostly words to share the Gospel you all will share the Gospel in many other kinds of ways.
You all communicate with and are with people during the week that I will never interact with.
These are the people that God calls you to share the Gospel with.
You may use words but you may not.
You may find other ways to speak the faith in real life situations.
We live in a world right now that is a bit divided.
Can we talk to and keep lines of communication open even with people we disagree with?
If we are tired of arguing with our family members or friends on Facebook, can we then maybe have a real conversation with them in person and really take the time to listen to them – even if we disagree.
Can we share the love and compassion and grace of Jesus with those who we do struggle with?
In these cases, we may use words to share the Gospel message but we might not.
One of the things that we learn from the book of James in the Bible, which we recently heard readings from in worship, is that as followers of Jesus we do not only announce the message of the Gospel by using words but we also live the message of the Gospel by living the ethics of the kingdom of Jesus Christ.
Remember what we recently heard in worship from James, the brother of Jesus.
“Faith without works is dead.”
Now we most certainly should use words to share the Gospel but if we are living our lives in Christ than our faith will shine through us.
God will work in and through us so that others may come to know of his saving power in our lives.
If we confess that Jesus is Lord but do not hear the cries of the poor or listen to those who are in need or ignore those in distress than our faith is not shining through and we are not sharing the Gospel.
Jesus said, that if we gain the whole world but lose our souls in the process than we gain nothing.
For example, if we move up the ladder of success and obtain all kinds of riches and glory but leave a trail of pollution behind us meaning we step on people on our way up the ladder and we hurt people and we take advantage of people than in the end we gain nothing and the Gospel message has not gone anywhere.
Then we have not picked up our cross.
At the time that Mark wrote these words in his Gospel people were actually being killed and martyred on a cross for their faith in Jesus.
Today we are grateful to live in a place where we do not have to worry about dying for our faith in Jesus but we do still have the temptation to choose between a theology of glory or a theology of the cross.
A theology of glory seeks to profit from and to gain all that we can.
A theology of the cross seeks to pick up the cross of faith even when it is challenging and hard.
This coming week consider how you might live the message of the Gospel with your words, yes but also by your actions.
See if you can do both even when it becomes hard.
And keep in mind that we do not convert people to Christ that is the work of the Holy Spirit.
Conversion is God’s job – only God can change a person’s heart.
Only God can move someone to seek a relationship with Jesus.
Our work is to live the Gospel with our lives and if needed to speak the Gospel of Jesus Christ with our words.
It is always God’s work but God does use our hands.
It is God’s mission but we join God in mission. Today is God’s Work. Our Hands Sunday.
On this day we give witness to the work of God in our lives through our actions in the community.
Today consider joining in as we participate in this good community work.
Or if you cannot make this event, consider doing something this week as an expression of your faith in Jesus.
And above all let us not be ashamed of Jesus and of his words but instead may his words work in us and transform us.
May the Word and Message of Jesus Christ dwell in us richly this day and always. Amen.