Wednesday, April 14, 2021
Katie Snipes Lancaster
Scripture: Psalm 19:14
Let the words of my mouth
And the meditations of my heart
Be acceptable to you,
O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.
Spiritual Practice: Witness
The spiritual practice of “witness” or what we might call “testimony” can be intimidating. It means talking to another person about your faith. It doesn’t just mean renting a megaphone stand on the street corner, or cornering a stranger on an airplane (someone tried to convert me in 2011 on a bus ride to Indianapolis once, and I said “Yes, I love Jesus, can I get back to writing my sermon for this weekend, this is a critical 3 hour time period I have set aside to write, please?”). I have a little collection of books about the practice of testimony, and have thought “well, would Kenilworth Union Church even be interested in something like this?” The idea of talking about faith—outside the safety of the walls of the church—is intimidating to many of us. And yet we all want this church to thrive, to grow, to reach beyond just the “us” that is already defined by those who are or have already been present (online or in person). And we desperately want our children and their children to know the grace, peace, kindness, tenderness, and wideness of God’s love. So at some point we do open our mouths and talk about God to someone else.
I love the book “Testimony: Talking Ourselves into Being Christian,” by Thomas G. Long. He cracks open our assumptions about witnessing, and suggests that when we talk about God to one another, we hear again who God is: our own articulation of God’s presence is a gift to us and to the world. It doesn’t have to come with judgement, an “agenda” or a laid out path to “conversion.” It is simply God-talk, and as Long says, “Like a monarch butterfly in a field full of gray moths, an honest word, a loving word, a faithful word sings and soars and stands out by its very contrast.”
Long tries to “imagine how Christians talk in the world from sunrise to the close of day” wondering “if the world knows us by the sound of our voice.” Do we speak generosity and gratitude? Hospitality? Grace? Love? Do we speak the peace of Christ? A deep peace that passes understanding? Does our voice give us away? In other words, as the old hymn suggests, “they will know we are Christians by our love.”
How do you talk about God with your closest companions? Your friends? Your spouse? Your children? Your neighbors across the fence? What love and grace do you speak as a blessing to the world? How might “witnessing” be a (risky, beautiful, vulnerable) spiritual practice for you this week?
God, give us something good to say,
A good word,
Some good news,
A little glimmer of your love,
Awakening within us,
and thereby given as a gift to another.
Give us a welling up,
A story to share,
A testimony to your tenderness in our midst.
Let your love be spread,
Song by song,
Story by story,
So that your grace and truth
might come alive within our community.