One of my favorite prayers in the Anglican tradition begins like this: “O God, you have made of one blood all the peoples of the earth, and sent your blessed Son to preach peace to those who are far off and to those who are near.” One of the reasons I love this prayer is that it reminds me that the good news about Jesus isn’t just for people in some far-flung region of the world who have never heard about Jesus. The gospel is also for our neighbors down the street. Our call as Christians is both to the four corners of the earth and the street corners where we live.
This weekend we will have an opportunity to participate in the proclamation of the gospel to those who are far off and to those who are near. On Saturday (November 3), we will have our 2nd Annual Outdoor Service & Cookout at the Downtown Amphitheater. The following Sunday (November 4), we will celebrate All Saints with the Director of Hope on a Thousand Hills in Rwanda, Fr. Brandon Walsh. I can’t think of a better way to celebrate All Saints than by joining together with a saint from our sister parish in Rwanda.
We are called to reach both those who are far off and those who are near. But sometimes it is easier to think about mission and outreach as something that happens over there, and not something that happens right here. In all my experience of inviting people into Christian community, I have realized that it is much easier for me to invite a complete stranger than it is someone I have known for a while. It just seems awkward, especially when you have known them for years and have never invited them before. Why now? How do you steer the conversation to a topic you have never broached and you know they will never broach? What if they say no to your invitation? Will it forever ruin your relationship? Will you just be that one annoying friend or neighbor they want to avoid?
I call this dilemma the Meat Loaf Principle. You may remember the song by Meat Loaf, “I would do anything for love, but I won’t do that.” Many people, myself included, will do anything for their friends and neighbors. They will spend all day helping them move, take care of them in a time of crisis, even help raise their children. But then they never will invite them to church. They would do anything for the love of their neighbor, but they won’t do that. Even though the most loving thing we can do for our friends and neighbors is to bring “those who are near” into a relationship with Jesus Christ.
That’s why it’s important for our church to continue having low-pressure events where we can invite our friends and neighbors, without them feeling like they are rejecting us or our church if they never come back. One-off events that are different from our normal Sunday routine are a low-risk way to invite a friend or neighbor you have never quite figured out how to invite to church. It gives you the perfect excuse for broaching a topic you have been avoiding. Besides, who doesn’t like a cookout and picnic on a beautiful November day in south Georgia? Let me encourage you to step out in faith and invite someone to our Outdoor Service & Cookout this Saturday, November 3rd at 5:30 pm. It is going to be a really great time. If you would do anything for the love of a neighbor, do this. I’ll do it too.