Sunday Homily - February 7, 2021 - Evangelism is Teamwork

St. Peter and St. Paul Icon


I.

For the majority of my life thus far,
 I've been very fortunate to play sports
  with some very good teams.

As a middle schooler,
 I started training in Traditional Taekwondo,
  and I ended up going with my school 
   to compete at tournaments around the state of Arkansas.
    
In junior high and high school,
 I was extremely fortunate to play on a football team
  that had winning records every year I played.

In college,
 our rugby team made the national tournament in 2014
  and ended our season ranked #7 in the nation
   in National Small College Rugby.

But the thing I remember most vividly about all of it
 is not really the games,
  or the practices,
   or even our biggest accomplishments.
    The most vivid thing I know and remember
     were the names and faces of my teammates.

Because we were a team.
 I was one of them,
  and they are one of us. 

To feel the cohesion and togetherness
 brought on by a mutual goal
  that we put our blood, sweat, and tears into
   was fundamentally formational to our relationship.

We were not individuals.
 We were a unit.
  I was one of them.
   They were one of us. 

And likewise when you have a team,
 you also learn how to be together.
  There are always those teammates that drive you nuts,
   but when it comes game time,
    and someone from the opposite team takes some extracurricular activities
     with one from your unit,
      more than a few of us would almost instinctively step in
       and step up for our teammate.

They are part of us.
 And I have their back through thick and thin.

Now, sports is not the only place where people have this experience.

There are undoubtedly some of you who have had this relationship
 with your colleagues at work.
  Any work organization that involves teamwork
   can bring about this same level of cohesion:
    they are my partner on this taskforce.
     I'm one of them.
      They are one of us. 

And this powerful cohesion cannot be brought about
 unless the teammates give themselves over to three things:
  acceptance,
   responsibility,
    and trust. 

No team can survive
 if the teammates don't accept each other fully,
  failures and all. 

Likewise, no one can join a team
 without first making a concerted decision
  to do the things necessary for the good of the team.
   We have to take responsibility for ourselves.
    As one famous NFL head coach is known for saying repeatedly,
    "Do your job."
     [quote by Bill Belichick, Head Coach of the New England Patriots on America's Game: The 2016 New England Patriots]

But another, far deeper thing 
 that must occur for a team to really become special
  is deep trust of one another.
   Trust that those whom you work with
     really do have your back
      and really do desire the best for you.

And it is upon this foundation of
 acceptance, 
  responsibility, 
   and trust,
    that the Apostle Paul implores the church
     to go into the world and share the Gospel with all who will listen.

II.

Evangelism
 is what St. Paul is talking about to the Church at Corinth
  in our reading from 1 Corinthians.

But it is evangelism of a kind
 that is supposed to be based upon this vital aspect
  of team building.

After all, St. Paul says pretty clearly that the proclamation of the Gospel
 is not about boasting of his efforts
  nor is it about making money or paying the bills.
   But rather, the whole point of the Gospel,
    the Good News in Christ Jesus
     is that it is exactly Good News for absolutely everyone!

And it is because Christ Jesus himself
 came to us and became incarnate of the Virgin Mary
  to actually become one of us.

Christ accepted our humanity in such a full way
 that Jesus came to create a new team of accepted people:
  those that the world would not choose to be the first-string lineup.
   But rather they are made up of those whom God had already accepted through Christ,
    to then go and accept others into the team of the Church,
     knit together into the perfectly accepted and living Body of Christ.

St. Paul simply continues that work
 that Jesus Christ Our Lord began.
  And St. Paul parallel's the work of Jesus
   and likewise the work of all Christians
    in the responsibility of laying himself down
     and allowing himself to work to be with those people
      to whom he deeply desired to hand on this Gospel.

Instead of demanding that others be like himself,
 he instead, as Jesus did,
  chose the responsibility to become like them.
   As Paul himself writes:
    
"For though I am free with respect to all, I have made myself a slave to all, so that I might win more of them. To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though I myself am not under the law) so that I might win those under the law. To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (though I am not free from God's law but am under Christ's law) so that I might win those outside the law. To the weak I became weak, so that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that I might by all means save some." 
     [1 Cor. 9:19-22 NRSV]

But St. Paul doesn't do all of this for nothing.
 No, rather St. Paul has a deep and abiding trust
  in Jesus Christ who called him as an apostle to the Gentiles
   that, in the end, both Paul and those won to faith by his handing on of the Gospel
    would be raised again from death in the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Indeed, it is a Gospel that is meant for all
 because it is that Gospel that saves the souls of those found in Christ
  and indeed is the blessed hope that we, like them, will be raised again one day.

III.

What St. Paul did,
 and the work he did for the Gospel,
  is meant to be an example for us
   as to what we are to do as followers of Jesus as well. 

We are, indeed, to preach the Gospel
 in whatever manner we can,
  by the use of the spiritual gifts
   that Jesus has entrusted to each of us. 

We won't all share the same mission field,
 but we most certainly have the same mission:
  that Jesus Christ might be known and be made known to the whole world.

And that starts by us,
 as a team,
  working toward that same goal.

We are to constantly polish those three essential practices:
 acceptance,
  responsibility,
   and trust. 

We are to accept all those who wish to call upon the name of God,
 whoever they may be. 
  And we are to practice that acceptance, 
   even for those for whom it is hard for us to accept,
    because that's exactly the acceptance that Christ Jesus has given us.

Likewise, we also have the responsibility to move outward toward those
 whom the world has deeply rejected,
  because those are exactly the ones for whom the Gospel is especially for.
   We have a responsibility,
    dare I say an obligation,
      to make a concerted effort to share this Gospel
       with those whom we might at first glance 
        deem unworthy and unfit.
         If the Holy Scriptures have taught us anything,
          God ALWAYS uses those whom the world sees as unworthy and unfit
           to accomplish the very salvation of the world.

And finally,
 we are to exercise our trust muscles.
  We have to be able to trust that God will accomplish His will
    in spite of what our eyes may see or our ears may hear.
     We have to be able to have that trust
      that Jesus really is doing something new in the world,
       and really is active in ways that we can actually see
        if we but ask for that faithful vision to see the world how God sees it. 
         And as we trust in Christ,
          we also must be able to trust each other
           to have each other's back as part of a team,
            and that each part of this team
             will do what is best for the whole Body of Christ.

We have to be able to look at each other
 and know that we are one team,
  one unit,
   one body.

And it is all because Jesus 
 chose to become one of us and save us from death itself,
  that we could spread this Gospel to the ends of the earth.

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. 


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