What works best? Proclaiming the good news of salvation loudly, so that as much of the world around one as possible, can hear? Or doing good works in quiet humility and letting one’s deeds speak for themselves? Today, some people take to the airwaves to let others know the good news of Jesus Christ. Others work quietly in soup kitchens, food pantries, or shelters for the homeless. Some do both. So what works best? Well, “What works best” is a trick question. The truth is that God is made known in all manner of places, by all sorts and conditions of people, doing all kinds of different things.
The prophet Elisha heals the Shunammite woman’s son in the privacy of a room in her home in the Old Testament, hardly a public venue. Yet, in Mark 1:29-39 Jesus heals Simon’s mother-in-law while in the home of Simon and Peter. The apostle Paul boldly speaks of his commission to preach the good news of Christ—free of charge—to all he encounters so that they may share in the blessings of the Gospel. Who is to say what works best? It makes sense in this season of Epiphany to acknowledge the light of God that animates all of creation. It is the power of this divine light that heals the sick, brings new life where death has occurred, and allows those who walk in the darkness of despair to be bathed in the light of hope. In all that we do, God’s power can make a difference. It is not always about great fame, renowned persons, or high profile events.
A drunken man showed up at the door of the Auckland City Mission in New Zealand: he was welcomed with open arms, given three square meals a day, and successfully participated in their recovery program that addressed his physical, psychological, and spiritual needs. Soon thereafter, he was reunited with his family and returned to his law practice. This mission was quietly supported by the Anglican Church and others. It was staffed mainly by volunteers. It may not exist now I pray it still does) but there are many such places in our cities throughout the world. Often we are unable to see them. I suggest that you take some time to look at the work of our neighbours from Anglicare, Centacare and Uniting Care (just to name a few) on the streets of Sydney as they, through their work, bring the love and compassion of God to bear on human lives.
And in all these places, as with the Nuns of Mother Theresa, none of these persons or groups undertake their work seeking to be famous or even to be fantastically rich. They did and still do their work with great humility. It is they who have made a difference in this world. It is interesting to read that after Jesus healed Simon’s mother-in-law, the whole city gathered at the door of the home and he healed many who were sick and cast out many demons. Yet, in the quiet of the next morning Jesus went to a lonely spot to pray. When his disciples followed him there, he told them that they would now go to the next towns to preach there also because, in his own words, “that is why I came.”
I remember a warden/elder in a small parish who when his term in the position ended announced that he was going to become a member of the team which sets up the sanctuary, the altar and areas for worship. He said he wanted to do something that was as important and to his own surprise, as well as the surprise of others, he concluded that this group provided that opportunity. “You see,” he said at the annual meeting, “as senior warden/elder God gave me the opportunity to witness the importance of ALL of our work.” He eventually assumed the role of leader of the team! He had discovered that it was not all about what one does “up front” but also what one does “behind the scenes.” This was a blessing for him and for the parish. Preaching does not always take place from a pulpit on a Sunday morning. Sometimes our actions do speak louder than words. In public and private deeds, in the spoken word, and in prayer, Jesus, Paul, and even Elisha were called to bear witness to the light. And, like them, so are we.