I was at Giant this morning and they had a display of Oreo’s at the end of one aisle.
Have you noticed the varieties of Oreo cookies there are now?
(I guess I haven’t bought Oreo’s in a long time)!
There were what I call the “Classic” Oreo’s with
chocolate cookies and vanilla cream in the middle…
But there were also Oreo’s with
chocolate in the middle,
mint in the middle,
peanut butter in the middle,
and a new one I’ve never seen before…
Oreo’s with strawberry cream inside!
Well I had to buy some.
When I got home I tried one or two (or three…)
And they are the most delicious Oreos I’ve ever had!
The strawberry inside reminds me of strawberry Quik I used to have when I was little.
And it’s strawberry – strawberries are healthy, right?
They were SO good…that I had to bring you some.
Here, try one!
Why is it so much easier to invite some to try Oreo’s than to try church?
Why is it so much easier to recommend a new movie or restaurant than recommend a church?
Why don’t we think twice about ‘sharing’ something we like on Facebook,
and yet shy away from ‘sharing’ church?
Sometimes I think it’s because we make it too difficult.
We think we’ll have to answer a lot of questions that we don’t know the answer to.
Or we think we’re being too pushy or too personal.
Or it’s been so long, we’re not really sure why we come to St. James – so it’s hard to figure out why others might be looking for something like this community.
In our reading from the gospel of John today,
we hear of three people who invite others.
And they make the invitation in three different ways….
First there’s John the Baptist.
Did you notice that John the Baptist does not actually baptize Jesus in the gospel of John?
John sees Jesus being baptized however;
he sees the dove descending from the heavens,
and then John points him out to his disciples.
“There he is!” he says, “There is the Son of God.”
Not pushy. Not intrusive.
Just sharing with others what he experienced.
So maybe you’re a little like John the Baptist.
You notice things.
You watch things.
You’ve seen how God has acted in your life and in the life of this community of faith.
If you’re a John the Baptizer kind of evangelist,
then maybe you’ll take an extra step and just tell someone what you’ve seen.
Maybe you’ll say something like this:
“When my husband was sick, it helped in his healing to know that St. James prayed for him.” or
“The youth from St. James helped poor families in West Virginia and New York fix up their homes last summer.”
Not pushy. Not intrusive.
If you’re a John the Baptizer kind of evangelist, you’ll simply share what you’ve seen.
Next there’s Andrew.
Andrew doesn’t get a lot of press in the Bible.
His biggest claim to fame seems to be that he’s the brother of Peter – Simon Peter.
But in today’s gospel reading, we hear Andrew introducing Peter to Jesus.
Andrew is the kind of evangelist who has a lot of friends.
In his book, “The Tipping Point,” Malcolm Gladwell would say that Andrew is a “Connector.”
He’s the kind of guy who can’t go anywhere without stopping to talk with someone he knows.
If you want to know if you’re a Connector, Gladwell has an easy quiz.
He gives people 250 random last names from a Manhattan phonebook.
You get a point for each last name that is shared by someone you know.
If the name is Johnson, and you know someone whose last name is Johnson, you get a point.
Most people on his quiz get a score of around 30-40.
Connectors get a score over 100 – their social circle is 3 or 4 times the rest of us.
Connectors like Andrew hear about something exciting
and they share it with all of their connections.
They like to be the ones with the news to share.
Maybe you’re a Connector.
You’ve got 1000 friends on Facebook and followers on Twitter.
Your phone contact list is pages long.
God can use people like you.
Maybe you’ll send out a tweet about worship today.
Maybe in one of your many conversations you’ll have this week,
you’ll be intentional about mentioning the topic in your Sunday School class.
If you’re an Andrew type of evangelist, you’ll be the one to introduce someone you know to Jesus.
Well the third kind of invitation we hear about today is the invitation given by Jesus himself.
When two of John’s disciples start to follow him,
Jesus says, “Come and See.”
If you have a hard time putting things into words like John the Baptist,
and you’re not a Connector like Andrew,
you can imitate Jesus with the simplest of invitations, “Come and see.”
Five and a half years ago, you invited me to “Come and see.”
After these years, here is some of what I saw
and what others will see too – but of course only if you invite them.
I saw the importance this community places on the Word of God,
as Sunday School classes and Bible studies were attended and pew Bibles were purchased.
I saw the heart this community has for its neighbors,
as you leaped in to help with Gettysburg C.A.R.E.S. and continued to serve and support local ministries such as the Rescue Mission, SCCAP, the Soup Kitchen, Mission of Mercy, Lutheran World Relief, World Hunger, the food pantries, and so many more.
I saw the love this community has for each other,
as you visited with and prayed for and baked cakes for and brought communion to and knitted prayer shawls and made quilts for the sick and hurting.
I saw the generosity of this community,
as you supported youth trips and building funds and disaster relief and childcare scholarships and day-to-day operating expenses.
I saw the hope this community has for the future,
as you were willing to welcome a new contemporary service, bring your children to choir and youth group, watch skits and dances and children’s sermons during worship and take part in social media.
I saw the passion this community has for music,
as you sang and played and blew and strummed and chanted and drummed and rehearsed, and rehearsed, and rehearsed.
I saw these things – the Word, heart, love, generosity, hope, passion, – and so much more.
As I think about it, St. James is a little like this Oreo cookie…
from the outside it looks just like any other.
But inside, there is a surprise – a most delectable surprise!
Thank you for allowing me to experience the inside of St. James.
You are not the same as any other church.
Don’t take this community for granted and don’t keep it just for yourselves.
Invite someone else to “Come and see” what’s inside too!