It is said that most people can remember exactly where they were when they received news of some kind. These moments of recollection often involve a tragedy of some sort. Many of you remember where you were when you heard that President Kennedy had been shot. I am sure we all can remember where we were and what we were doing when we heard the first news of the events of September 11, 2001. I know I do.
But not all of these events have to be tragic. I can remember, as if it was yesterday, a crisp fall evening in 2004 when a short toss of a ball broke the “Curse of the Bambino,” and the Boston Red Sox won their first World Series in almost 90 years. These events leave a mark on us, but it is what we do with that mark that matters.
This morning we heard some very challenging words from Jesus concerning what we are to do when these types of events strike. Jesus is speaking of the destruction of the Temple, and his disciples ask two pertinent questions: When? What will be the sign? Jesus then goes on to describe three things that will happen in the future; imposters will come and try and trick the faithful; war and conflict will rage on; natural disasters will be prevalent. Jesus gives them some assurance that the “end times” are in the future and that they will not happen all at once. He also tells them that he does not know when it will happen; only God knows, so we really should not worry. But, and there is always a, but with Jesus, this will be an opportunity for us.
Jesus says in verse 13: “This will give you an opportunity to testify.” But he warns that our testimony should not be canned or rehearsed but should come naturally from a life spent living their testimony. In our rather stoic, New England, Yankee sense of religion, we do not like to speak about our faith. In many ways, this is a problem when we consider church growth. In a recent survey, 80% of people who come to a church for the first time come because someone has asked them to come. They did not find an ad in the Yellow Pages; they did not even read something on a church Facebook page, nope, someone asked them to come with them to church.
It is an exciting phenomenon to watch, people will go to a movie or out to dinner at a new place and after, they cannot wait to tell their friends about it. They post on Social Media, check-in, take pictures of their food, or their happy faces while eating that food, but when they come to church on Sunday, it’s as if they don’t want anyone to know. I encourage you to whip out your phone right now, come on, do it, open your Facebook app if you have it, and check-in that you are here. Take a picture, quote something from the sermon or a song, you are testifying!
But, we do not like to talk about our faith because we were taught that in polite society, you do not talk about politics or religion. But the problem with that is, we now do not know how to talk about politics or religion in polite society, in fact, I would suggest that the reason we no longer have a polite society is that we do not know how to talk about these topics.
These days religion is known for two things, what is wrong and who or what you should be afraid of. Some preachers love to talk about the “end times” because it makes people fearful, and when people are afraid, they will usually do whatever anyone in authority tells them to do. I do not spend much time reading the Book of Revelation, and I know for a fact, except for quoting a few verses here and there, I have never preached a sermon from that book. Revelation is, in my estimation, and incomprehensible book to the human mind, the one most taken out of context and is frequently used to bind up the faithful but to scare the life out of them.
But back to this idea of testimony. Jesus tells us in this passage that all of this bad stuff that is going to happen will allow us to testify, and I believe the time has come. You all know this, we are living in a world that devalues some human beings over others. Some churches go out of their way to make it know who is and who is not welcome in their place of “worship.” These are our opportunities to testify.
A few days ago, I was talking to some folks about my view of what Communion means. I have shared with you before that I believe that the bread and juice cease to be simple elements but that a change happens when we ask the Holy Spirit to come upon them. Their elemental nature remains the same, but the is a shift in their essence, and they are no longer just simple food that feeds us physically, but they become sanctified, and they feed us spiritually. In this discussion I mentioned that one of the reasons, it’s actually the number 1 reason, I left my previous denomination was the idea of closed Communion that only those deemed worthy by a set of rules, that no one follows, by the way, is worth to come to the table. My testimony is that this table is open to all people without the condition.
To put it simply, in a world where the church is known more for what we are against than what we are for, our testimony is that God loves you and that God welcomes you into his presence.
Our testimony needs to be the testimony of Paul in his Letter to the Romans:
For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:38-39)
We begin each service with “God Moments.” These moments have touched me in such a way that wherever I go next, I am going to try and work these into the service. These are the moments when we share when we testify to what God is doing in our lives. It might be something as simple as passing a test or something a great as healing from some illness; it does not matter what it is; what matters is that God is still moving and acting in our lives, and we want to tell the world about it.
We have zero control over the future; what is going to happen is going to happen for the future is unknown to us. We cannot predict what will happen or when all we can do is live in the moment, care for one another in the moment and testify to what God is doing in our lives in the moment. And, invite someone to church!