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.
Stop Waiting. Now is the Time.
After 40 plus years of ministry in The United Methodist Church, I feel like I am with the disciples after the resurrection and before the ascension.
Jesus has been with them presenting “himself alive by many convincing proofs…” (Acts 1:3). The disciples ask him, “Is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?” (Acts 1:6). Jesus responds, “…you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” (Acts 1:8).
For some reason, I feel as if I have been waiting for the institution to give me, you, and our churches the power to be in ministry.
Please don’t misunderstand me. I love The United Methodist Church. Early in my life, the church became a parent to me. My faith was born and has been nurtured in the church. But I have grown to recognize that the church as an institution does not give me or you power to do anything except institutional things.
The Power to Witness
The disciples asked Jesus if power was to be given back to Israel and Jesus responded by telling them that they would receive power, but not the kind of power they were expecting. The function of the power Jesus was offering to the disciples, for you, me, and our churches is the power to witness.
I think the power to witness was essential for those early disciples. It would have been easy for them to disqualify themselves. Take Simon Peter as an example. How could he ever open his mouth to another person and say anything about Jesus after what he did? You remember what happened, don’t you? He stood in the courtyard and said, “I’ve never heard of Jesus. I’ve never been around him. He’s not a friend of mine.” Peter brought a curse upon himself. He took an oath. “I swear, I have never been with Jesus!”
Can you imagine what it would be like for Peter to stand up to preach and have someone from the ninth pew say, “Aren’t you the one who denied him three times the night he was in trouble?” Can’t you hear another person say, “After what he has done, I think he should quit the ministry!”
We Are Witnesses
The power to witness is essential for you and me today. It is easy to disqualify ourselves. Haven’t you heard people in the church say, “I’m not a minister. I’m “just” a layperson. I don’t think I’m qualified.”
Well, who were the twelve disciples? Do you know what Mark says? “All abandoned him and fled in the hour of his death.” (Mark 14:50). They ran away! But, once they received the power, they began to preach. They began to give witness to Jesus and his resurrection. They even said, “We are witnesses…” How could that be?
The first thing the Holy Spirit did for those early disciples and does for each of us is to remove the continual spirit of disqualification. The truth is none of us are qualified. Although it is all good, your education, your certification, your experiences do not give you qualification. It is the power of the Holy Spirit who loosens the tongue and enables you to speak and act.
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!