Today we celebrate John Raleigh Mott. John was born in 1865 and was known as an evangelist and ecumenical pioneer. As a young man he worked with various organizations including the World Student Christian Federation and the YMCA. He helped organize the International Missionary Conference in 1910 – one of the broadest gatherings of Christians up to that point. Of Christian mission he said, “It is a startling and solemnizing fact that even as late as the 20th century, the Great Command of Jesus Christ to carry the Gospel to all mankind is still so largely unfulfilled … the Church is confronted today, as in no preceding generation, with a literally worldwide opportunity to make Christ known.” His work developing the ecumenical movement continued, and in 1946 he received the Nobel Peace Prize for his work establishing and strengthening international organizations that worked for peace.
What is interesting about John’s comments from the early 1900s is that they seem to ring true 100 years later. We, too, are not fulfilling Jesus Christ’s command to carry the Gospel to all mankind. Forget around the world – we don’t even want to talk to our next-door neighbors about Jesus. We get so caught up in not wanting to offend that we can’t even share the story in our lives that brings us such joy. So where do we find inspiration despite our fears?
I think our lesson from Isaiah helps with this. “Arise, shine; for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD has risen upon you … Nations shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn.” We forget that our joy, our story of faith when told honestly and vulnerably, shines before others. I have seen that light in each of you here as you share your faith stories. Joy inspires joy, and makes us radiant. We even hear the same in the Gospel lesson. The joy from seeing Jesus interact with the widow causes people to spread the word throughout the surrounding area – their joy became a light to the nations.
Joy is why we celebrate John Raleigh Mott, too. His joy drew people in and propelled him out into the world to share that joy. John invites us today to remember that same joy in ourselves. We will find, like him, that as we go out, people also come to us. Nations shall come to your light – our invitation is to share that light! Amen.