Nancy and I spent the past weekend with our son Justin and his wife Megan at their home in Frederick. Come Sunday morning, Justin and I decided to try and surprise our former vicar Matthew Beers at one of the churches he serves in Thurmont, Maryland. We drove up for the 8AM service and were disappointed to find that he was on vacation, and a Lutheran campus chaplain at the University of Maryland Baltimore Campus was the supply pastor for the morning. In spite of our disappointment in not getting to see Pr. Matt, we were pleased by the sermon for the morning.
The visiting chaplain, Pastor Laura, told Maria’s story. Maria was a young woman who had grown up in a household where no faith of any kind was present. She made contact with the campus ministry early last fall through some public picnic events which included group discussions among campus ministry members and other students. Those discussions inspired Maria to try a few chapel services, and then some Bible studies, and ultimately led to her baptism later in the fall at a campus worship service.
The story reminded me of the world in which we live as Christians in the 21st century. The reality of life today is that one out of every four people you meet claims absolutely no religious affiliation, according to the reputable Pew Research Trust. What that means for us as Christians is that this is not your grandma’s church anymore. We can no longer presume that the people we meet will have any understanding of the Christian faith, nor any faith engagement with it. You are meeting more and more “Maria’s” every day in your life, whether you realize it or not.
So I would invite you in this coming week to pray a bit differently than you might normally pray. Instead of remembering those you love, or asking for strength for yourself, or lifting up people that you know are struggling, why not pray for those who have yet to meet Jesus in their lives. Pray that the Christians they encounter in life will not obsess about doctrines or worship practices or church ministries they love, but will simply embody Jesus to those they meet. Consider praying that God might use you to be that person who embodies Jesus to another person who has never met Jesus in someone they encountered. Ask God to fill the vessel that is your life, for the purpose of pouring it out into the lives of others.