“Now when Jesus came to the area of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Human One is?” They replied, “Some say John the Baptist, others Elijah, and still others Jeremiah or one of the other prophets.” He said, “And what about you? Who do you say that I am?”-Matthew 16:13-15 CEB
A couple of weeks ago, a few colleagues and I were sharing a meal at a local restaurant. As we concluded the meal, I asked the server about the dessert options. The server begins to share, in a very dry and unenthusiastic manner about the dessert, which was a baked chocolate chip cookie topped with ice cream, drizzled with chocolate, lathered with whipped cream, and topped with sprinkles and a cherry (if only their verbal description was as enticing as it reads). Now, if there was a dessert menu and I read about it, I would have ordered it without a thought. However, it was the way the server presented this dessert, which did not appeal to me to even try it. To give context, I contrasted the server’s description of the dessert and the way they were sharing with great delight about the various wings the restaurant offered; which became a deciding factor for what I ordered. This experience had me thinking deeply about this text from Matthew 16:13-15 and our narrative as a Christian witness, and as members of The United Methodist Church.
I love that Jesus asked the disciples a direct question about what THEIR narrative about him is. Jesus states, I know what you are saying that others are saying about me, but “Who do you say that I am?” Yes, it is easy to repeat the narrative of others, but it takes real reflection and a deepening relationship to put meaningful words to a personal description of Jesus.
I would just wonder, what are we saying, individually about Jesus that would cause some to be curious about our faith? I would wonder what we are offering as a narrative about The United Methodist Church to present some to be turned off and turned away from engaging in the life of our collective global ministry together.
I would say, from my experiences, I have witnessed congregations shift from vibrant to barely struggling, because the negative narrative from a few members began circulating, and people were not willing to offer their time and presence to the drama in the church, when so many try to escape life’s drama by looking for hope from The Church. Additionally, I have experienced the simple excitement of a few who shared about the exciting ministries of their congregation that created a curiosity of some in the community to see what the talk was all about. It was this fire of excitement that sparked revival with the addition of new members, professions of faith, and expanding God’s Kin-dom. So, what are you saying about your local congregation that would plant a seed of possibility for someone to want to “come and see”?
Friends, what we say and how we say it matters. How we present the witness of being faithful followers of Jesus Christ makes a difference. The narratives we continue to spread can be the health of us or the death of us. I would encourage us to pray before we speak ill against another and those within the Body of Christ. I would encourage us to be mindful of the stories we share, particularly those that perpetuate false truths and blatant lies, because they indeed cause harm.
I would remind us that we are “living epistles”, so that our life’s story embodies what it means to be a product of God’s Love and a witness to God’s Grace. How are we as walking billboards for Jesus? Do our visible signs show the Good News? As faithful followers of Jesus Christ, how are we creating a ripple effect of disciples who make disciples that transform the world?
So, what will you claim as your story about faith in Jesus Christ, your membership in The United Methodist Church, and your service in a local congregation? How will you share with enthusiasm, that would pique the interest or raise the curiosity of another to want to know more about this Jesus, The United Methodist Church, and your local congregation? The question remains…WHAT WILL YOU SAY?
Sharing in JOYful Service and Witness…
Rev. Dr. Aleze M. Fulbright