We Need Help
For me, the more important something is, the harder it is to say. When something is profoundly important to me, the first thing to go is my voice.
I confess you to you, that for me to witness, to say something about God, about Jesus, or about my faith, I need help. For me to put my faith into action, I need something more than my good intentions and the backing of the crowd.
When I read about Jesus and the work of those early disciples from Luke’s perspective, I see that Jesus promised to give me and you the power to witness. That means that you and I, to be faithful to our call as followers of Jesus, we will have to witness past a lot of obstacles, barriers, and silences.
On the Day of Pentecost, there was a lot of excitement. Simon Peter stood up and got carried away. He stretched out his arms and said, “For the promise is for you, for your children, and for all who are far away, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to him.” (Acts 2:39).
His message was all-inclusive.
It was for everyone.
A little later the Holy Spirit led him to the home of a Roman soldier, Cornelius. I can image Simon Peter saying, “Lord, I have never been in the home of an Italian, a Gentile, in all my life.” And God responds, saying, “Peter, on the Day of Pentecost you said…” And Peter replies, “O God, I was only preaching.”
We need help in our witness.
Casting Out Demons
Do you remember when one of the disciples said to him, “Master, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he does not follow with us”? Jesus said to him, “Do not stop him; for whoever is not against you is for you.” (Luke 9:46-48) Were those early disciples separating themselves into groups of “who is for” and “who is against”?
We need help in our witness.
Remember the story of Jesus teaching? There was a group of mothers bringing their babies to be blessed by Jesus.
When the disciples saw what was happening, they sternly ordered the mothers not to come to Jesus. But Jesus called for them and said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs.” (Luke 18:15-17).
Was the early church trying to decide whether they should extend their witness to persons who could not teach, give, or who weren’t prospects for ministry? Was it too costly to include everyone?
We need help in our witness.
Remember Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch?
Deuteronomy 23:1, (Bias paraphrase) “Any man who by surgery or accident who cannot father children does not have a place in the assembly of God.” The scripture is clear.
Philip encounters the eunuch on his way to Jerusalem. The eunuch is reading from the prophet Isaiah. Philip asks him if he understands what he is reading. The eunuch replies, “How can I, unless someone guides me?”
Then he invited Philip to get in the chariot. Philip tells him about Jesus. As they were going along the road, they came to some water; and the eunuch asked, “What is to prevent me from being baptized?” Philip baptizes him. (Acts 8:26-40).
How was it that those early disciples and the church moved past the barriers of race, gender, nation, and condition?
How were they able to witness past the barriers?
It was by the power of the Holy Spirit! And unless you and I have the power of the Holy Spirit to witness, we will give up in the face of difficulty.
That is the reason I need help. I need the power of the Holy Spirit to be a faithful witness to the resurrection.
Our Next Step
Please continue to pray that I will take people by the hand, walk them around the edges of their inheritance, tell them of the unsearchable riches of God’s love and grace, and then be quiet. I need help to be a witness. Pray that I will receive power to be a witness starting right where I am.
Remember, I am praying the same for you!
This week we’ll be reading, reflecting, and responding to the Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector found in Luke 18:9-14.
- Read Luke 18:9-14
- This Reflection on Reality challenges our assumptions of pride and humility and offers a way of living as a Christ follower in active devotion to God.
- Read Luke 18:9
- In today’s world, who would be those who trust in themselves that they are righteous and who regard others with contempt?
- Read Luke 18:10
- With whom do you identify in this scripture: the Pharisee or the tax collector?
- Read Luke 18:11-12
- How do you show your obedience to God? Through your daily prayer and scripture reading? Through your giving? Through your service? What does it mean to say, “There, but for the grace of God, go I?”
- Read Luke 18:13
- How do you show your reverence to God? Through your daily prayer and scripture reading? Through your giving? Through your humility? What does it mean to say, “God, be merciful to me a sinner?”
Note: “God, be merciful to me a sinner” is the prayer of the person who knows he/she is not righteous. But it was also a standard element of the synagogue prayer prayed regularly by Pharisees and all who worshiped at the synagogue. The Pharisee would pray the prayer because he was righteous.
- Read Luke 18:14
- What does it mean to be justified? Are you justified?
- God’s grace is always amazing grace. When it is calculated, even as “grace to the humble,” it is no longer grace. Who goes home justified?
- Read Luke 10:36-37
- Have you ever prayed, “Thank God I’m not like that Pharisee?” Have you ever thanked God you are not like the people you named on Monday?
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Over the past several weeks, you have prayed that I am a faithful witness to the Resurrection. Today, as I write to express my gratitude for your prayers, I also write to ask for your help.
Through prayer and responding to God’s call to love you and to resource and equip you for ministry, I have grown to recognize and to understand that I cannot be a witness to the resurrection without help.
Here is a plan to read, reflect, and respond to the Parable of the Lost Son found in Luke 15:11-32.
This Reflection on Reality challenges our assumption of being good and earning our salvation. It offers us an alternative understanding of what it means to be a Christ-follower.
- Read Luke 15:25-27
- Reflect and respond: How do you react when you feel like you are not important to the people around you?
- Read Luke 15:28-30
- Reflect and respond: When have you been angry because someone gets something (especially if you have determined they don’t deserve it) that you feel like you have earned or deserve?
- Read Luke 15:31
- Reflect and respond: Can you think of a time you were the center of your own goodness? You never strayed from what you were supposed to do, you never broke the rules, and you deserved to get a little more or better than those around you?
- Read Luke 15:32
- Reflect and respond: Who is included in God’s grace? Is there anyone not included?
- Read Luke 15:25-32
- Reflect and respond: After reading the story of the older son again, how do you respond to God’s compassion?
- Read Luke 15:11-32
- Reflect and respond: Both sons are welcomed home; one who went off to the “far country” and the other who has always been with his father. As the older son, would you go to the party for your younger brother?
What Parable is Next?
Over the past several weeks, I have asked you to pray that I am a faithful witness to the resurrection of Jesus. I have asked you to pray that I become the resurrection, that the presence of Jesus be seen and experienced in the life I live. The following story helps to illustrate my desire to be that faithful witness.¹
Many years ago, there lived a young and gifted woman named Sophia. She had received a vision in which God spoke to her as a dear friend. In this conversation, God asked Sophia to dedicate her life to the task of translating and distributing the Word of God through her country.
Now, the printing press had only recently been invented, and the only Bibles to be found were written in Latin and keep under lock and key within churches. Sophia was from a poor farming village on the outskirts of the city, so the task seemed impossible. She would have to raise a vast sum of money to purchase the necessary printing equipment, rent a building to house it, and hire scholars with the ability to translate the Latin verses into the country’s common language.
However, the impossibility of the task did not sway her in the least. After having received her vision, Sophia sold the few items she possessed and left the village to live on the streets of the city. She began to beg for the money that was required, as she dedicated herself to any work that was available in order to help with the funds.
Raising the money proved to be a long and difficult task. There were only a few who gave generously, most only gave little, if anything at all. In addition to this, living on the streets involved great personal suffering. Gradually, over the next fifteen years, the money began to accumulate.
Shortly before the plans for the printing press could be set in motion, a dreadful flood devastated a nearby town, destroying the homes and livelihood of many people. When the news reached Sophia, she gathered up what she had raised and spent it on food for the hungry, material to help rebuild destroyed homes, and basic provisions for those who had been displaced.
Eventually, the town began to recover from the natural disaster that had taken place. Remembering the vision that God had planted deep in her heart, Sophia left and returned to the city to start over again.
As the years passed, the task of making and saving money took a toll on the beautiful Sophia. Many were impacted by her love and dedication, even though the people were poor, the money began to accumulate once again.
However, after nine more years, disaster struck again. This time a plague descended upon the city, taking the lives of thousands and leaving many children without family or food.
By now Sophia was tired and ill. Yet, without hesitation, she used the money that had been collected to buy medicines for the sick, homes for the orphaned, and land where the dead could be buried safely.
Never once did she forget the vision that God had imparted to her, but the severity of the plague required that she set this sacred call to one side to help with the emergency. Only when the shadow of the plague had lifted did she once again take to the street, driven by her desire to translate the Word of God and distribute it among the people.
Finally, shortly before her death, Sophia was able to gather together the money required for the printing press, the building, and the translators. Although she was, this time, close to death, Sophia lived long enough to see the first Bibles printed and distributed.
Even though she got the Bibles translated and printed only once, it is said that Sophia accomplished her task of translating and distributing the Word of God three times during her life. The first two were more beautiful and radiant than the last.¹
The Resurrection is the Presence of Jesus
Using the Word of God as a focus, this story reveals the reality of the resurrection with this question: “Is the resurrection something to be proven or is the resurrection the presence of Jesus lived out in and through my life?” The reality of the resurrection cannot be heard or received without the incarnated presence of the living Christ.
For me to say I believe in the resurrection apart from being the place where the resurrection becomes a living, breathing act is inconsistent with my witness. The resurrection is reflected in what I say, in what I do, how I relate to people, how I respond to the social, political, economic, global structures in which I live.
If I attempt to explain the resurrection or to prove the resurrection, I will always end up describing something less than the reality of the resurrection. To say, “He is Risen” is not a statement to be repeated as much as it is an act of faithful living. He is Risen exists in the world only when we live it out by engaging fully in the world in which we live.
Please continue to pray that I am fully engaged in the world in which I live, the communities in which I work, and the lives in which I experience God’s love. It is my hope that one day, you will say, he was a faithful witness to the resurrection of Jesus. We could tell by experiencing the preaching, teaching, healing, caring, loving of Jesus in and through him.
- Story adapted from The Orthodox Heretic by Peter Rollins, pages 13-15.