Last week I asked you to pray that I would be found guilty of being a Christian. In a way that was a foolish request. I was baptized at age 6 and confirmed as a member of the Methodist Church at age 11. I received a call to ministry at age 14 and my first appointment as a preacher at age 20.
For the past 44 years, I have faithfully preached the gospel, introduced people to Jesus, led congregations into their communities to feed the hungry, provide shelter for the homeless, care for persons with HIV/AIDS, etc.
To ask that I be found guilty of being a Christian was foolish.
What Does it Mean to be a Faithful Witness?
In another way, I was asking you to pray that I am a faithful witness to the Resurrection of Jesus. Luke, over and over, uses these words to express the life and work of the early disciples:
- “…of that all of us are witnesses” – Acts 2:32
- “To this we are witnesses…” – Acts 3:15
- “And we are witnesses to these things…” – Acts 5:32
- “We are witnesses to all he did…” Acts 10:39
I want you to pray that I am a faithful witness.
The question is, “What does it mean to be a faithful witness to the Resurrection?” Here are a few possibilities.
Possibility #1: To Believe the Resurrection is True
Is it to believe that the Resurrection is true?
For many people today, belief in the Resurrection simply acts as a guarantee of eternal life. We talk about Jesus being raised from the dead and how he is going to take us all to heaven one day. I must say I don’t believe God raised Jesus from the dead to prove that he could raise a few cantankerous saints.
God could do that.
The belief in our own immortality is persistent. It seems, that for many of us, belief in the Resurrection is actually a barrier to the reality of it. We can find people within the church who affirm the Resurrection for selfish and self-serving reasons. It is all centered on the desire to enter heaven. I believe God raised Jesus from the dead for a different purpose.
Possibility #2: To Live the Truth of the Resurrection
Is it to live the truth of the Resurrection? In and through the Resurrection, God established permanent residence on earth. The Resurrection places Jesus on this side of the grave, here and now, in the middle of this life.
Jesus is not standing on the shore of eternity inviting us to join him there. He is standing beside us, strengthening us in this life.
The good news of the Resurrection is not that we shall die and go home with Jesus, but that Jesus has risen and has come home with us. On the morning of the resurrection, God put life in the present tense and gave us the power to live in the here and now.
The early disciples proclaimed, “He is risen!” not because the dead rise. They made this proclamation because they were alive and were doing the things he had taught them to do.
Being a faithful witness to the Resurrection is to proclaim, “He is risen” by doing the things he has taught us to do. In and through the Resurrection, our lives are reshaped to conform to his life. Because of the Resurrection, our minds are reshaped to conform to his mind, and our living is reshaped to conform to his living.
Possibility #3: Being the Living Presence of Christ in Everyday Life
The good news of the Resurrection is Jesus has risen and has come home with us, bringing all his hungry, naked, thirsty, sick, prisoner sisters and brothers with him. What if being a witness is not related so much to what we believe but is the primary way we respond to the hopelessness and brokenness in the communities in which we live?
Does the living presence of Christ show through our living?
The good news of the Resurrection is Jesus has risen and gives us the courage to confront the evil powers of this world. The evil powers of racial bias, gender bias, cultural bias, economic bias, residential bias, educational bias do not stand a chance against the power of the Resurrection.
What if being a witness is not based upon an affirmation of Christ’s living presence, but upon the incarnated presence of Christ in each of us? Would that mean that our faith in the Risen Christ would be seen in the way we love and care? And not only in how we care for each other in our church families but for everyone. By everyone, I mean all who are hungry, naked, thirsty, sick, prisoners – all our sisters and brothers Jesus already loves.
Be the Resurrection
What if we, as Christians, are not called to believe in the Resurrection but rather are called to be the Resurrection? Christ’s presence will be witnessed in what we say and do.
This season of the Resurrection, I continue to hear the words of Peter Gomes:
“…the resurrection is a continuing event which involves everyone who dares be involved in it. Easter is not just about Jesus, it’s about you.”
Jesus has already claimed his new life. What about you? Easter is not just about the past, it’s about the future. Your best days are ahead of you. The proof of the resurrection is in your hands and in your life.
“The proof of the resurrection is in your hands and in your life.” Please pray that I am a faithful witness of the Resurrection! And know that I am praying for you.
O God, raise Jesus in our lives so that all we do is a witness to your love and presence. So let it be!
On Friday I celebrated my 64th birthday. As I often do, I took an assessment of my life and ministry. Although I am generally pleased, I decided one thing. If I am to make the difference in the world I believe God created me to make, I must be more clearly focused.
The stories of Holy Week are fresh in my mind. Simon Peter denying that he knew Jesus. Judas betraying Jesus and feeling guilty. Pilate washing his hands of any responsibility of Jesus. The soldiers and the crowd taunting Jesus and crying out for his death.
With these scriptures fresh in my heart and on my mind, I asked myself, “How am I responding to God’s work in my life?
- denying it?
- trying to work against it?
- washing my hands of my responsibility with my actions or lack of action?
Is There Enough Evidence To Convict?
My assessment also came after reading the book, “The Orthodox Heretic” by Peter Rollins. Through my reading and reflection, I focused on a question he raised, “If Christianity were illegal would there be enough evidence to convict you?”
I asked myself the following. If I were really to…
- take the teachings of Jesus seriously
- live a life that reflected the radical message of love that gives a voice to the voiceless and a place to those who are displaced
- stand up against the systemic oppression perpetrated by those in power
- speak into the evil of racism
- stand for health care for everyone and to call into question the cost of prescription drugs
- work for gun safety
Would I find myself on the wrong side of the people in power, of many people in the church, and of those who make the laws?
I realized, again, that I have basically kept my faith private. I have a lot of knowledge about Jesus and his radical message of love. But, I express my faith in safe and sterile ways. To put another way, I do a lot of talking but not a lot of walking in regards to being Christian.
To Be Found Guilty
For the remainder of my ministry, I want to live an authentic faith that is expressed. I want to live not only in my acceptance of a belief system but is expressed in dynamic sacrificial and loving action. I no longer want to fool myself into thinking that my private beliefs are somehow more important or reflective of who I am than how I live my life publicly. And when I say publicly – I mean in a relationship with my family, friends, colleagues, neighbors, strangers, enemies.
I want to be related to the people who are involved in the actions that bring God’s redeeming presence and power into reality. By God’s grace, I want God to work through me to bring about what God intended for this world in which we live.
If I am to be found guilty of being a Christian, I want to have the mind, heart, and attitude of Christ. I don’t want to do anything “out of selfish ambition or vain conceit.” By God’s grace, I want the humility to “value others above” myself. I want to look beyond my own interests to the interests of the others. In a relationship with the people around me, I want to have the heart, mind, and attitude of Christ Jesus:
Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be used to
his own advantage;
rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a human man (male),
he humbled himself
by becoming obedient to death—
even death on a cross.
Life & Ministry
I have made peace with the fact that I may not see the full result of any ministry I have been graced to participate. But I understand that I honor God by offering myself in living this way. I don’t want to deny it or work against it. I don’t want to turn away from the work God has for me to do.
So, I am committing myself to hold back evil – in all the forms it presents itself. I am committing to repair systems and structures – especially the church that has helped make me who I am. And, I commit to being a healing agent for people who are broken and suffering. I am committing myself to be about the business of peacemaking. I will constantly be about the work of disrupting the façade of peace so the authentic peace of Christ can take root and grow.
Please pray with me and for me as I grow into this stage of my life and ministry. Pray that I am who God intends for me to be. I invite you to pray so that I can be who God needs me to be at this point and time in history. Pray that I can and will make the difference that God has created me to make.
Then, together, you and I will work so God’s love for all people will come on earth as it is in heaven.
Pray that I am found guilty!
For the past 30 days, we’ve shared a prayer with you each day. Starting the year with a daily discipline of prayer and reflection has been a gift. We hope you have received the prayers and used them to deepen your journey with Christ. The resource section of this site is for your reference. We hope you’ll find the prayers and worship resources helpful to you. Most of all, we continue to pray that as you follow Jesus, you will continue to become the person God created you to be.
Over the past year, I have written about unbelievable and unspeakable acts of violence that continue to unfold in our country and world. On Friday, another act of violence unfolded in one of our airports. This time we heard reports from Ft. Lauderdale.
As I reflect on these reports, there are too many to name: a few weeks ago, we were hearing reports of violence at the Ohio State University; at the end of the year we learned over 700 homicides occurred in the city of Chicago in 2016; and daily reports occur on the evening news of violence in our city. I pause once again, finding myself asking the question,
According to the account in the New York Times, it was just before Christmas several years ago that David Storch, a music teacher, borrowed a copy of the score of Handel’s “Messiah” from the Brooklyn Public Library. Through a clerical error, however, the transaction was not recorded. There were several other requests for the score, and the library staff, unaware that it had been checked out, spent many hours searching in vain for it through the stacks.
“O Holy child of Bethlehem, descend on us we pray Cast out our sin and enter in, be born in us today. We hear the Christmas angel, the great glad tidings tell; O come to us, abide with us, our Lord Emmanuel. -From “O Little Town of Bethlehem”
God is sending you out to get the word out about the love we know in Jesus. What propels us to go into the world? You have everything you need. You are one of God’s beloved. Go share Christ’s love with the people in your community. Read more