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How can I keep from singing?: Week 2 | Day 3

“Evangelism” has become something of a dirty word in our moment, but it actually just means proclaiming good news. Br. Jim Woodrum reflects on what being an evangelist means to him.

Question: What is God doing in your life? How can you be an evangelist of the Good News?
Share your answer in the comments below or using #5marksoflove
Activity: Listening Hand


Transcript: In the Anglican Communion’s five Marks of Mission, the very first mark of mission is, “Proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ.”

A word that we might think about in proclaiming the good news is Evangelism or Evangelist, although in our day and age, this word has taken on kind of a negative connation.  It evokes images of conquering, and winning, and converting someone to our way of thinking about God.  But in actuality, it just means proclaiming good news.  It comes from the Greek word Euangelion, which means proclaim the good news.  It’s where we get the word angel from.  You may be familiar in the gospel of Luke where God sends the angel Gabriel to the Virgin Mary to announce to her the great things that God is going to do in restoring relationship for all of humankind, and it begins with her.

So the first thing that Mary does is she goes to her cousin Elizabeth to share this news.  It’s absolutely astounding.  And she finds that Elizabeth also has some good news that she is going to bear a son also, even though she has passed the age for bearing children.  And I imagine these two ladies sitting together and just exuberant with joy about what God is doing in their lives.  Gabriel, the angel, Mary, and Elizabeth all become Evangelists sharing the good news.

It kind of brings to mind a Baptist hymn that I grew up with from my childhood called How Can I keep From Singing.  And it goes like this:  “My life flows on in endless song above earth’s lamentation.  I hear the sweet though far off hymn that hails a new creation.  Through all the turmoil and the strife, I hear the music ringing.  It finds an echo in my soul.  How can I keep from singing?”  And I think this hymn expresses what Evangelism is all about, that somehow God is doing something in our life, and how can we not share that.  That’s Evangelism.  That’s the first mark of mission.

So a question for your prayer might be what is God doing in your life, and how can you become an Evangelist of that good news.

– Br. Jim Woodrum

Question: What is God doing in your life?  How can you be an evangelist of the Good News?

Week 2 Activity: Listening Hand
Who has been a channel of God’s grace for you? In conversation or over email this week, reach out to five people to find out how they came to know God’s love. How does the Good News shape the way they live? Reflect on how you are inspired by their witness and examples.

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20 thoughts on “How can I keep from singing?: Week 2 | Day 3

  1. I’m sorry but men don’t just get it. Mary knew that Elizabeth was pregnant and in her 6th month because the angel had told her! she did not just find it out when she got there. There is no way that Mary would have traveled all that distance just to share the “good news”. She probably went so that she would have some support in this terrifying event. Do you really feel it felt like good news? she was going to give birth and tell people it was God’s child….oh, yeah- everyone would believe her. Your first pregnancy is always scary (not that the others aren’t too- but it is all an unknown with
    the first)- Mary must have been overwhelmed….and. I think, God knew that- and that is why the angel told her about Elizabeth. And you think they sat around being exuberant with joy? Elizabeth was also scared- giving birth in old age is dangerous. So you had two scared women moving fathhfully into the futufre supporting each other. Please try to understand the reality of life!!

    • Yes! I agree. Proclaiming the good news is often about just being with someone in their state of bewilderment, sorrow or fear. Sometimes there are no easy answers. The good news is that someone cares enough to share that time with you. We cannot fix it but we can share it. I agree the angel sent Mary to Elizabeth so that they could be there for each other

    • I didn’t necessarily think she knew about Elizabeth ahead, but I definitely think she went for a womanly consult of the OMG variety! This is when a girl needs a sister!

  2. When I am feeling up, God is there to help me celebrate. I find too many people don’t have enough good spirits to truly celebrate the happy times…for our selves and for others.
    The Good News provides a litany for rally.

    When I am down…and sometimes REALLY down…God is there to give me a shoulder to lean on, inspiration to tune up my spirit, and a hopeful look to a brighter future. God is with me, even when sometimes I am not “with” Him. The Good News provides a comforting promise…especially the “New Covenant” we speak of in the lead in to Eucharist.

  3. I resonant with Br. Jim’s Baptist hymn. Before walking into church, on the left wall was Augustine’s quote: “he who sings prays twice”. That thought was first in my mind since I started singing in the choir in about 6th or 7th grade and it’s never left. When the Sister Act movies started, my heart swelled a little more and my intention grew stronger; that intention that no matter what song I’m singing, it is sung for God’s glory and sharing his love such that any heart may hear..

    • I sing with Ensemble Women’s Choir in Victoria, British Columbia. Each year we commission a new piece by a Canadian composer. Last season we commissioned Sarah Quartel who created a fabulous setting of Robert Lowry’s ‘How Can I Keep From Singing?” composed in 1869. The piece is joyous and uplifting. We love singing it and our audiences truly enjoy it. Currently there is no recording of our piece but when one is made I with share it with SSJE.

  4. God’s love and encouragement are so personal, it’s hard to know how to share it. My gratitude bursts forth, with surprise and delight, and I want to practice giving it on to my fellow parishioners, at least, in our Lenten group using this wonderful program at Church. It is such a precious gift, for me life saving, and it’s very hard to think of just turning around and passing it on. But people have been doing that for me! For decades. I do understand.

  5. Sometimes when I have tried to share what God has done for me, the other person seems to end up saying “Well God has never done anything like that for me, I must not be as favored or as close to God ect….” Thus I have kind of stopped sharing that. Other times, if the person just doesn’t have a close experience of God, my good news really doesn’t speak to them. So I am still trying to figure it out. Someone suggested that if I share a personal testimony of what God has done, I tell it as if it happened to someone else, so the other person can see it more objectively. Or to continue encouraging even if the other person doesn’t have a close relationship with God, because we never know when the “seed” will land and germinate. This evangelism is not easy, telling good news is not easy in this world of skepticism, trolls and negativity.

  6. I believe that “spreading the good news” is for me to tell the truth about myself and my faith experiences provided in so doing I am not putting others in harm’s way. How and when I tell is also important…….I have to have humility; I have to not be prideful or boastful, I must not impose myself on others, I have to know and respect my boundaries and those of others; and the delivery should be appropriate to the situation….serious, humorous, empathetic, through poetry and my banjo. I do not always have to say “God”, “Jesus” and “Amen” or use biblical imagery to tell or promote the “Good News” of love, caring, harmony, and peace.
    Thanks also Sallie for interpreting a Biblical passage in a realistic fashion….I am finding this a very valuable and instructive way to appreciate the messages in the Bible, in this case giving mutual comfort in the face of great fear.

  7. I have lived a relatively fortunate life. I have been successful as a student, an athlete, and in my career. I have an amazing family. However, lately I have been faced with some pretty tough challenges personally and financially–hard times if you will. It has been frustrating and stressful to say the least, but at the same time I still have a peace amid the storm. It is very strange, and I have a hard time articulating it, but I believe it is the presence of God letting me know that I am loved and not alone. Things might not be a bed of roses right now, but I am loved…and I am not alone. Sharing this with people, whether through words or through my demeanor, is sharing the Gospel.

  8. After being down for a week with a virus, I’m feeling great today! I have been looking forward to a bridge game this afternoon and book club tomorrow evening. After receiving emails this morning, reminding me of the compromised health of one friend in each group, I recused myself from both activities. My MD had assured me I had not been contagious for at least five days. The women who reminded me of the poor health of my two compromised friends felt like angels, reminding me of our oneness. Though not contagious, my presence would cause discomfort and fear in others. My response to recuse myself felt like a tiny bit of evangelism. Br Jim, I loved you hymn, thanks for sharing it.

  9. When I hear the word “Evangelism” my mind seems to begin building a wall. Some family members went through a period of what they perceived to be strong evangelism. Some discarded all music and reading material that was not of a religious nature. Some believed that they had “special gifts”. Some prayed over my sweet, elderly grandmother who suffered from acute Arthritis and when she did not immediately healed, they believed it to be because she was not “saved”. Most family members have softened their views but it left such a horrible memory for me. It was years before I attended church again. I did so because I had children and wanted God to be part of their upbringing. It ended up educating me as much as it did them. I found God described as loving rather than angry, forgiving rather than vengeful, welcoming rather than strictly judgemental, etc. That’s not to say that God would never be angry or impatient with us … but that’s not his first response or his desire for us. Parent and child relationship is one of love. I can certainly relate to that so that’s how I would SHARE the good news.

  10. So what IS God doing in my life? Well, I can only say that God will guide me when I need guidance, usually in subtle ways. (Although occasionally I’ll receive a real wake-up scream.) God is showing me the ways to be more loving, kind, and forgiving. (God also works through my wife as an example, which is really very effective.)

    How can I be an evangelist of the Good News? Well … I find that what has been the most effective for me, is simply to be friendly, kind, caring, fair, and forgiving. Threat everybody with respect, and make fun of no one. Follow the Golden Rule. Yet .. still maintain my “cool” rather than coming off as Mr. Goody two-shoes. These things seem to speak louder than words, and I’ve found that people trust me and look up to me … and sometimes even come to me for “counseling” for personal, often spiritual things. This seems to to be much more effective than “preaching”, at least to me. And it also brings me closer not only to that person, but also a little closer to God.

  11. God is showing me that His love is eternal and unconditional. God loves me for who He made me to be, and is joyful when I become more myself; when I am fully alive. He is inviting me to learn more about myself, and thus Him, by doing an MDiv.
    I can be an evangelist of the good news by telling others of all that God has done for me, in terms of healing, wholeness, and joy.I can let people know of the wonder of Gods’ unconditional love which never ceases whatever we do or don’t do.

  12. I’m definitely not the type of person to proclaim or share the good news with others. My spiritual journey is very private to me and it’s something I treasure for myself. I would never go around to others and proclaim what God is doing for me. However if someone asked me how I felt about having God in my life then I’ll certainly share that with them. Each persons experience is so unique but for me it boils down to being open to what God is trying to show me every day. Sometimes I feel like I get the connection & other times I’m too selfish and get caught up in the business of life. But I’m slowly seeing and recognizing the good news that he has for me,

  13. Through life’s darkest moments God is there. But also through the good days God reveals himself through sunshine and storm. The key for me is to have a ongoing relationship with God daily. So when the storms of life come. You have a pattern a relationship with God that he is not your last effort but your first effort when your strength h is the lowest God is with you.

  14. “My life flows on in endless song above earth’s lamentation. I hear the sweet though far off hymn that hails a new creation. Through all the turmoil and the strife, I hear the music ringing. It finds an echo in my soul. How can I keep from singing?”
    These words became an epiphany for me. Caring for and supporting my wife Bonnie suffering from eventual terminal through love, compassion and humor is my joyful ministry. Joyful because every day we are together is a gift from God. How can I not sing?

  15. We are sent out into the world at the end of the Eucharist service to share the Gospel message. The apostles were sent out, and we, as disciples, are no different. The recent Gospel on the Transfiguration makes that pretty clear; the three disciples couldn’t stay on the mountain top and immortalize the event they had just witnessed. One way of sharing is to live a Christ-centered life, but I think more is expected and, I think as you suggested, we wish to do more to share the Good News with others. I think the most compelling story we can tell is the one we have lived. And, in a way, our stories (although all different) are the same as Jesus’ story because they are both about dying and rising.

  16. The many ways that my life has been blessed by God keeps me singing. Living my life with authentic joy is my evangelism.

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