It is good to be back in the office! I’m still taking things slowly, but I am definitely on the mend after dealing with pneumonia last week. Mike has been a great nurse, but the longer I was home, the longer my list of spring chores was getting. I have managed to re-landscape the entire yard in my imagination while looking out the bedroom window. Mike is definitely ready to hand me over to Chris, so he can have some peace and quiet and get back to his woodworking.
It’s hard to believe that we are nearing the conclusion of Lent. This week we will be looking at perhaps one of the most difficult of our vows of membership: Witness. Just what did we sign up for when we agreed to this one?
For me, and perhaps many of us, the word “witness” or “evangelism” may conjure images of street preachers, or being confronted with a sincere stranger demanding to know whether or not we have been “saved.” One of the conflicts between mainline and independent evangelical churches over the last hundred years or so, is how we understand the nature of salvation. Are we talking about what happens after we die? Is salvation a kind of fire insurance to save us from a distressful afterlife? Or is salvation about how we are invited to live in the present?
As I write these words, I have to confess that many other words have been written, and then deleted from this page. Or as a former professor used to say, “much ink has been spilled…” I have pages and pages of notes about how to talk about the idea of salvation and witness. It is muddy territory. It is particularly obscure in our time. We have been quietly converted by decades and decades of a certain strain of evangelicalism in the US to a theology that is not biblical– it is, however, pervasive. So pervasive, in fact, that we don’t realize that some of the theology that has become normalized as ancient truth, has actually only been around for a couple of hundred years.
If we are able to “set aside” some of this cultural confusion, perhaps we can separate out what God is calling us to be and do, from the cultural expectation of evangelism and witness.
We are asked to something that is far simpler that we would imagine. We are asked to tell the story. It is a story that doesn’t come with a club. It is a story of grace. It is a story of changed lives. God’s story is about relationship—with human beings—you, me! Salvation is right now! The story we are given to tell is good news. Of love. Of forgiveness. Of abundance. Of justice. Of mercy. Compassion. Unconditional acceptance. Of power to transform the world around us. We are all part of the story.
We tell stories all the time. Stories that we feel compelled to tell—we can hardly wait to “give witness” to finding a new restaurant, a good book that has changed the way we think, an excellent massage therapist, or the new car we just bought, the excitement of the latest grandbaby. Just think how easy it is to tell those stories!
To witness, beloved, at least in my understanding, is to be willing to share the beauty, the grace, the power of what God is doing in the present moment. The ancient stories are important, they are powerful. They have much to teach us. But what is God doing right now? What God moments do we see each day? And don’t we want to share that abundance, that joy, that mystery? Sounds pretty compelling to me. Can I have a witness?!
I am looking forward to being with you in person this Sunday. Blessings and peace, my friends.