We Are All Witnesses

The multi-story banner hung in Cleveland for years, the city's hero that they thought would bring them an NBA championship with arms spread wide like a Savior. The Nike banner read, "We are all witnesses." Undoubtedly, the world was witness to the greatness of the young Lebron James and would soon know how great a player he was (and is still today). Yet, the city of Cleveland would experience it in a way that others could not for Lebron was from Ohio, and he chose to return home to his own. And they rejoiced…for a time.


Lebron


The problem with putting our trust in individuals, especially celebrities, is that they are always going to let us down in one way or another. It may be a snide remark that we didn't expect, a decision that cripples our once starry-eyed view of them—there will always be a time where we feel let down. With celebrities we run an even greater likelihood because we don't really know them, their personal lives are not ours to know and so we tend to view them through the lens of the media or, even worse, the characters they play. Either way, just like Cleveland felt when Lebron left for Miami, we too feel let down when we hear of so many politicians, actors, musicians, and even friends and family choosing poooooorly.

The disciples of Jesus felt let down following his crucifixion and death. They felt overjoyed to learn that their disappointment would lead to unending joy and faithfulness on God's part to never let them down. Even though they met the risen Christ and spoke with him, ate with him, and proclaimed to their fellow disciple, Thomas, that he was risen, still the disciples moved back into their former routine perhaps waiting for Jesus to do more.

And then it happened…

Jesus appeared to the disciples yet again as they fished along the shoreline rather than throwing out the lines of grace to the world around them. He reminded them of the ways in which he taught and led them during his earthly ministry and called them once again into his presence. And then he sent them out to be witnesses for the world. Unlike the world and Lebron James, Jesus' followers knew him well. They knew his life and love for them and the rest of the world. They knew that he wanted them to share his grace with folks and to for all persons to enter into a relationship with him and to share the same eternal life that he showed them through the resurrection.

You see, to be "witnesses" doesn't just mean that we see something happen. It means that we share it with others around us. To be a witness in court is to share what you saw and experienced—what you know. Being a witness doesn't mean sharing someone else's ideas and stories, it's sharing yours.

So what's your story?

How have you experienced the grace of God?

How are you sharing it?

God bless you and yours,

Pastor Doug

Harvey and Hatred

This week was marred by one of the most devastating hurricanes in history, a thousand-year-event, flooding multiple cities and wreaking havoc on Southern Texas and Western Louisiana. In the midst of Hurricane Harvey, as we see so often in tragedy and disasters, humanity united. Neighbor helped neighbor, African-Americans helped Irish-American helped German-American helped Jewish-American helped Syrian-American and so on. The hatred and violence that we've too much of recently faded into the miasma of human need and suffering. It's helped me to view some texts from the Hebrew Scriptures a bit differently—good often comes from tragedy, disaster, and war.

Often in the Hebrew Scriptures prophets and priests interpret doom and tragedy, war and threats of war to be the wrath of God upon the people for their sins, usually injustice or idolatry. The prophets and priests offer God's word of redemption and hope through repentance and humility and a vision for a new kingdom, a new world. This week, we have seen such a hope—a dream of a new world where neighbors help one another because of the humanity of each, regardless of race, gender, sexual identity or social class. There are countless tales of people risking themselves to help another, heading out into dangerous waters to rescue the perishing. And it would seem that the hatred of Charlottesville is forgotten for a time.

The question, of course, is why? Why is it only for a time? Why do we bond as human beings through tragedy and create division between one another in times of 'peace'? Why do we wait until people are hurting to offer help and assistance?

Perhaps the prophetic warnings of the Hebrew Scriptures are more about reminding the people that they shouldn't accept injustice or war or wait until people are in pain to help. In reaching out to one another and building bonds of peace we create a new world in which racism has no room to flourish and hatred pales in the face of human kindness.

Here's how an early Church preacher put it:

But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off
have been brought near by the blood of Christ.  

For he is our peace;

in his flesh he has made both groups into one

and has broken down the dividing wall,

that is, the hostility between us.
 

He has abolished the law with its commandments and ordinances,
that he might create in himself

one new humanity in place of the two,
thus making peace,
 

and might reconcile both groups to God in one body through the cross,

thus putting to death that hostility through it.


So he came and proclaimed peace to you who were far off

and peace to those who were near;
 


for through him both of us have access in one Spirit to the Father.


So then you are no longer strangers and aliens,

but you are citizens with the saints



and also members of the household of God,

built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets,

with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone. 


In him the whole structure is joined together

and grows into a holy temple in the Lord;
 

in whom you also are built together spiritually

into a dwelling place for God.


The Holy Bible: New Revised Standard Version. (1989). (Eph 2:13–22). Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

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