A Discipleship Elevator Speech?

By Sharron R. Blezard, January 8, 2014

Lectionary Reflection, The Baptism of Our Lord, Year A
January 12, 2014

Then Peter began to speak to them: ‘I truly understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him…’ Acts 10:34-35

Today the Church celebrates the Baptism of our Lord, and the most obvious lectionary choice is Matthew’s short gospel account of the event.  However, neither Matthew nor Jesus spends much time dwelling on the baptismal event: just five verses and Matthew moves on, and Jesus immediately heads for the wilderness to be tempted by Satan. We can take the cue and give Jesus’ baptism it’s due, but then “walk wet” right out of the water and into proclamation. But how? Here we can segue to the Acts passage, where Peter brilliantly summarizes his faith to a Gentile (i.e. non-synagogue) audience.

As with Jesus and Peter, we have work to do, dear friends. We have good news to share. We need to make sure we are equipping one another for the work of God here on earth in whatever context we find ourselves. Time is precious. Time is elusive. Time is fleeting. Jesus knew this. Peter understood it. And just as Peter did,  it’s time to make sure you have your discipleship “elevator speech” ready to roll.

Huh? Yes, your discipleship “elevator speech” (borrowing a term from corporate culture). Notice in Acts how Peter concisely describes the broad sweep of the gospel of Jesus Christ. How many Christians can actually articulate the basics of their faith in the time it takes to ride an elevator in a high rise office building—two to three minutes at the most? The answer, unfortunately, is not very many, and it is certainly not realistic to assume that one Sunday sermon is going to give folks the tools to do so. However, what this one Sunday sermon or small group discussion CAN do, is to ignite a holy curiosity and start the process.

Peter’s “elevator speech” to the Gentiles came as a result of his prophetic dream and his encounters with non-Jews. He was shaped by these things, and in turn, he shaped his sharing of the faith in a new way. He drew on context, experience and on the firm foundation of his faith to craft a simple explanation for his audience. We need to facilitate a similar process within our communities so that each one of us can take into our neighborhoods, workplaces, and chance encounters the good news of Jesus Christ and—importantly—how this good news makes a difference in our lives.

Yes, celebrating the Baptism of Jesus is a good place to start. Remembering one’s own baptism is a mighty fine springboard for action, but we need to move forward with Jesus into the wilderness of our own faith journey. In baptism we are incorporated into God’s family, we are signed sealed, and delivered, but we are also sent. And in that sending we learn, grow, and share in community; in effect, we walk wet into ever-wider witness, just as ripples flow outward from a stone cast into a pond. Unfortunately, we often lack the words to articulate the story.

Today, Peter gives us a good example of how our faith journey can be shaped, crafted, refined, and articulated effectively. Every one of us has a faith story. Each disciple is on a faith journey. The joy is in the sharing. Jesus came to you, and Jesus comes to all people. So let us shake off the living water, drink the wine of salvation, eat the bread of life, and tell the story. Every second counts.

About the Author

The Rev. Sharron Riessinger Blezard is an ELCA pastor currently rostered in the Lower Susquehanna Synod. She came to ordained ministry after teaching secondary and college English, working in non-profit management and public relations, and moonlighting as a freelance writer. See more posts by .

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