Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Evangelization is Crazy Stuff

We’re going to talk about a scary word today. At least it seems scary to some people: EVANGELIZATION

Just saying the word can perhaps cause two spontaneous images to pop into the minds of many:
rock star preachers in pin-striped suits who seem really ticked.
2. nicely dressed folks knocking on doors on Saturday mornings. These are pretty extreme. Neither are very appealing. The first is too imposing, the second is too... inviting. Uncomfortably inviting.

I think the spin doctors of the media culture like to paint evangelizing Christians as nice but nerdy solicitors leaving something in our door rather than as Navy Seals saving us from drowning. The funny thing is, evangelization is more akin to the Navy Seal than to the nice guy.

Many Catholics are painted as people leading lives of quiet desperation, doing lots of spiritual gymnastics, surrounded by their statues and stained glass rather than as walking tabernacles bringing Jesus into the dreary workplace, malls of mediocrity, and money-hungry marketplaces of the world to shake them all out of their complacency.

I think we have no idea what evangelization really is anymore. We live in such a pluralistic society. Anything and everything goes in the spheres of values and beliefs, paths to peace and self-contentment.... "as long as it makes you happy." But what does that mean? Happiness?

We all know what sadness is. And we know what bad news is. It nearly suffocates us if we watch the news for more than 15 minutes, or read the first five pages of the newspaper. But the root meaning of evangelization is that in the midst of all this bad news there has come "good news." Would you like some?

There were these 12 guys once. They had a real paradigm shift and left their jobs when they met this "evangelist" who claimed to have "good news" in the midst of the world's perennial bad news. He was an itinerant preacher who didn't have a cent to his name. They walked all over the place. Talk about getting out of your comfort zone! Then he died, tragically. The government didn't like him, so they grabbed him right in front of their eyes and had him beaten senseless, publicly mocked, and brutally murdered. The end.

They didn't know what to do next, so they ran away. They locked themselves up in a little apartment in the city and waited for the craziness to settle. Maybe in a year or two they could move on, start a new life somewhere, who knows. So much for that "good news" about the meaning of life and hope and forgiveness. Then when they least expected it, and reportedly they were NOT expecting it, he shows up again. Whoa.... He says the bad news is over. In fact, if you trust him, there is no such thing as bad news anymore... ever. This blows them away, completely.

Then a couple of weeks later, a wind from Heaven blows into their nostrils, and with the animating spirit that filled the lungs of Adam, the first man, they get up, get fruitful and multiply, evangelizing like crazy. People thought they were drunk they were so dang happy. They were arrested, beaten up, persecuted. They didn't care. They kept talking about this thing that happened. It was the man they followed. He wasn't dead after all. He somehow came back from the dead. This "good news" was so good, they kept talking about it for the rest of their lives.

And, get this: the people who listened and believed them got a blast of that same Wind from Heaven BAM! right into their old, selfish, sin-smoky lungs. Then the message spread like wildfire. And today, from the 12 (a new guy subbed in for Judas), we've got about 2,000,000,000 people in the world banking on this good news. That's roughly one-sixth of the world's population. Ridiculous, right? Well.... yeah. It's crazy. It's anything but a dull knock at your door, a nice philosophy to believe in, or a new flavor of ice cream to taste when you've had a bad day. This is everything we've ever wanted: a rescue, a romance, and a fairy tale that came true. The good news is that Death is no more, and the Door to Life has swung wide open. And God is crazy in love with us and not way off in space somewhere. He walked our earth and breathed our air and took away our sins and has sent us a million other love letters just waiting to be opened. Evangelize that!
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