We all witness to something. In our series at church, we have been discovering how to take the next step on our Disciple’s Path as we move more deeply into our vows to uphold our church by “our prayers, our presence, our gifts, our service and our witness.” For those who are United Methodist, this should sound familiar to you.
Many years ago, we only had to commit to the first four of those vows: prayers, presence, gifts and service. As a matter of fact, my hymnal still has only those vows and I have to remember always to add “witness.” Almost like an afterthought … it was added when we realized that perhaps it wasn’t enough just to do those first four things … we needed to pledge to be witnesses, as well. So it goes at the end, as though we almost forgot it and had to get it in there in order to make our commitment complete.
What I have discovered over many years of ministry, however, is that WITNESS is primary. It is the culmination of all that we do. It isn’t just an afterthought. It is what happens when we fulfill all the other vows. We witness through our prayers, our presence, our gifts and our service. It becomes the overarching umbrella of all that we pledge to do when we commit our lives to Christ.
The truth is that we all witness to something. Whether we like it or not, we are witnesses to whatever it is that we believe in. Unless we live a cloistered existence, when we interact with others, we share our witness. There are times when we witness to greed as we seek to get all that we can for ourselves. We witness to political strife and all the cultural angst of living in our modern world. We witness to the hatred and bitterness caused when we cease being good neighbors and make efforts to extort from our neighbors what we can’t get with any integrity for ourselves.
But we also witness to the good in our world. We witness to the power of love when we care for one another in sometimes surprising ways. We witness to the power of a kind word when we speak lovingly to those who are marginalized or hurting. We witness to the power of forgiveness when we demonstrate love instead of retribution for our enemies. We witness to good stewardship when we seek to care for our earth and its resources.
Ultimately, we witness to the power of Christ when we dare to be Christlike in our world. This past week, I was truly moved when I saw the picture that had gone viral. It was a picture of young Jenny Faber, who is an Iowa State football fan suffering from diplegia cerebral palsy, sitting in her wheelchair with (opposing team captain) TCU quarterback, Trevone Boykin, kneeling in front of it asking her, “What’s your name?”
Trevone said that God placed it on his heart to reach out to her, and it became a witness of what can happen when someone like Trevone reaches out to one of the “little ones” whom Jesus calls us to touch. That simple picture and those three simple words witnessed to what can happen when we sense that God is speaking something into our lives. Because of Trevone’s witness, a crowd funding campaign has begun to help Jenny’s family raise funds needed for her care and treatment. That was a witness that has really produced fruit.
So Church, what is your witness? Will you witness to the power of God to transform lives? What fruit will your witness bear? Will you witness to hospitality and love that reaches outside of our comfort zone? Will you witness to the power of Christ to reach back to us from the throng of “the least of these” our brothers and sisters? Remember, when we reach out to the least of these, they are reaching back with the arms of Christ to embrace us, so our witness is more than what we can do … it is what Christ offers to us as a gift of grace.
May our witness be to the power of Christ to save our world! By God’s grace, that will be my witness today, as well.