Today we are beginning something new, sort of a series of series. Last summer, we gave you the opportunity to ask questions you’ve always wanted to ask. And this summer, we are doing something similar. We gave you the opportunity to pick the theme or topic for our summer services staring now and going until the end of August.
In the series that we are starting today, we are reflecting on how to pray for or witness to people who believe differently than we do, people whose ideas of what is true are different from our own. In our series we will be looking at how to pray for Muslims, for Sikhs and for people in our own families who don’t believe in Christianity anymore. Today’s message is about how to pray for Mormons, or Latter Day Saints as they prefer to be called. And today’s message is in the form of a reading theatre. Enjoy!
(Morgan comes walking in with a baseball bat on his shoulder.)
Leah: Hi Morgan!
Morgan: Hi Leah!
Morgan: Oh, I am going to convert some Mormons today!
Leah: You are going to do what??
Morgan: Convert some Mormons.
Leah: Oh! Do you mean Latter Day Saints?
Morgan: Latter Day what?
Leah: Latter Day Saints. Their church is called the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and I think that they prefer to be called Latter Day Saints.
Morgan: Oh,… well that’s who I am going to convert.
Leah: And how are you going to do that? And why are you carrying that bat?
Morgan: Oh, this bat is part of my master plan. This bat represents truth. So what I am going to do is go and find a Mormon, er, Latter Day Saint, then I am going to hit him over the head with the truth until he comes around to my way of thinking.
Leah: Do you really think that your approach is going to work?
Morgan: Well, I don’t know.
Leah: How many Latter Day Saints have you converted so far?
Leah: How many Latter Day Saints do you even know?
Morgan: ah,… none?
Leah: So do you really think that hitting people over the head with truth will move them to change their beliefs about what is true?
Morgan: (downcast) I guess not.
Leah: So why do you do it?
Morgan: I guess if I was really honest I would have to admit that I am scared.
Leah: What are you scared of?
Morgan: I am scared of the Latter Day Saints. They seem so confident, so sure of what they believe. And I know what I believe, but I am not sure that I could defend what I believe to a Latter Day Saint.
Leah: So you’re feeling a little threatened by the Latter Day Saints.
Morgan: That’s part of it. But there’s more. I don’t know that much about the Mormon faith, but what I know seems so strange. There’s all that stuff about Joseph Smith. And I went on one of those tours to the new Mormon temple and it all seemed a little weird to me. There were all these special rooms and strange rituals that they do.
Leah: So you don’t feel comfortable having a discussion about beliefs with a Latter Day Saint?
Morgan: I don’t feel comfortable at all having a discussion about beliefs with a Latter Day Saint.
Leah: Well, let’s apply some of that truth to our own lives. Is it okay if I read something from the Bible to you?
Leah: I have the Bible on my JPhone.
Leah: Yeah, it came out after the…
Leah: Right! Anyway, there’s this story in the Bible, in John chapter four, about Jesus and his encounter with a woman at a well. Jesus and his disciples were journeying on foot and one day, around noon when it was very hot out, they stopped by a well. Jesus rested there while the rest of the disciples went into a nearby town to get some food. While they were gone, here’s what happened:
Narrator: (4:7) A woman, a Samaritan, came to draw water. …,
Jesus: “Would you give me a drink of water?”
Narrator: (4:8) (Jesus’ disciples had gone to the village to buy food for lunch.)
Woman: (taken aback) (4:9) … “How come you, a Jew, are asking me, a Samaritan woman, for a drink?”
Narrator: (Jews in those days wouldn’t be caught dead talking to Samaritans.)
Morgan: Why wouldn’t Jews talk to Samaritans?
Leah: Mostly because they didn’t believe the same things. The Jews believed that the Samaritans had perverted God’s truth: who God was, how to worship him and where to worship him.
Morgan: Just like us and the Latter Day Saints.
Leah: Exactly! But Jesus also showed this woman respect. In that day, religious teachers weren’t even supposed to talk to women, but Jesus did.
Morgan: So why did Jesus do that? He was a devout Jew.
Leah: What do you think Jesus respected her and talked to her?
Morgan: Because he loved her?
Leah: Yes, because he loved her. And he did more than just talk.
Jesus: (4:10) … “If you knew the generosity of God and who I am, you would be asking me for a drink, and I would give you fresh, living water.”
Woman: (4:11) … “Sir, you don’t even have a bucket to draw with, and this well is deep. So how are you going to get this ‘living water’? (4:12) Are you a better man than our ancestor Jacob, who dug this well and drank from it, he and his sons and livestock, and passed it down to us?”
Jesus: (4:13) … “Everyone who drinks this water will get thirsty again and again. (4:14) Anyone who drinks the water I give will never thirst–not ever. The water I give will be an artesian spring within, gushing fountains of endless life.”
Woman: (4:15) … “Sir, give me this water so I won’t ever get thirsty, won’t ever have to come back to this well again!”
Morgan: (excitedly) Jesus is offering eternal life to her!
Leah: Yes, he is! Because he loves her, he offers her everlasting life with him. And then the story takes a turn:
Jesus: (4:16) … “Go call your husband and then come back.”
Woman: (4:17) “I have no husband,” …
Jesus: “That’s nicely put: ‘I have no husband.’ (4:18) You’ve had five husbands, and the man you’re living with now isn’t even your husband. You spoke the truth there, sure enough.”
Morgan: Ouch! That must have hurt.
Leah: Sometimes the truth does hurt. But notice how he applies it. He does it lovingly and gently. And he tells her the truth in a way that she will receive it.
Morgan: But what Jesus did won’t work for us! Jesus has supernatural knowledge about that woman and what she has done. We don’t have that kind of knowledge. Jesus is God and we are not!
Leah: That’s true, Morgan. And it is important that we always remember that. But there are some things that are true about Latter Day Saints that we do know. Can you think of any?
Morgan: Well, God created them and God loves them.
Leah: That’s right! And we also know that they have the same soul cravings for destiny, intimacy and meaning that we do. When respect to our humanity,our brokenness and our need for God, we are all in the same boat. And we can bring that truth into our conversations with Latter Day Saints.
Morgan: So our attitude towards Latter Day Saints is very important.
Leah: It is extremely important! But not only Latter Day Saints. No one will invite us to speak truth into their lives unless we speak with authenticity and love. We have to live it and we have to care. Otherwise it is all just words: blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. There is enough of that already in the world.
Morgan: So what happens next?
Woman: (4:19) “Oh, so you’re a prophet! (4:20) Well, tell me this: Our ancestors worshiped God at this mountain, but you Jews insist that Jerusalem is the only place for worship, right?”
Jesus: (4:21) “Believe me, woman, the time is coming when you Samaritans will worship the Father neither here at this mountain nor there in Jerusalem. (4:22) You worship guessing in the dark; we Jews worship in the clear light of day. God’s way of salvation is made available through the Jews. (4:23) But the time is coming–it has, in fact, come–when what you’re called will not matter and where you go to worship will not matter. “It’s who you are and the way you live that count before God. Your worship must engage your spirit in the pursuit of truth. That’s the kind of people the Father is out looking for: those who are simply and honestly themselves before him in their worship. (4:24) God is sheer being itself–Spirit. Those who worship him must do it out of their very being, their spirits, their true selves, in adoration.”
Woman: (4:25) … “I don’t know about that. I do know that the Messiah is coming. When he arrives, we’ll get the whole story.”
Jesus: (4:26) “I am he,” …. “You don’t have to wait any longer or look any further.”
Morgan: So they do end up talking about religion.
Leah: Yes, they do. But notice that she is the one who starts the discussion. And also notice that Jesus listens to her and specifically addresses her concern, which was worship. He is not trying to convince her about all the truths of the Jewish faith.
Morgan: But people don’t do that with me. They don’t ask me questions like the woman asked Jesus.
Leah: Well, what if you asked them questions?
Morgan: What do you mean?
Leah: What if you asked them questions about their faith? It is very easy for a Latter Day Saint and a Christian to have misunderstandings when talking about faith because Latter Day Saints often use the same terms as Christians but have different meanings for those terms. You could ask them about their faith and that might give you an opportunity later on to talk about what you believe.
Morgan: Thanks! (Pauses) It seems to me that Jesus’ approach was very relational. He started with love, he listened and he spoke the truth with gentleness and respect.
Leah: Yes he did! And I think that his approach still works today. In fact, that’s what God calls us to do in 1 Peter 3:15
But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect,
And you don’t need to be afraid Morgan! 2 Timothy 1:7 (NIV) says:
For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline.
Morgan: Thanks, Leah! I guess that I can put this baseball bat away.
Morgan: Why do I need a glove?
Leah: So you can catch all the opportunities that God is going to give you to love Latter Day Saints.
(Presented at Walnut Grove Lutheran Church, Langley BC on 6 June 2010.)