Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy scriptures, the gospel concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh and was declared to be Son of God with power according to the spirit of holiness by resurrection from the dead,
Jesus Christ our Lord, through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith among all the Gentiles for the sake of his name, including yourselves who are called to belong to Jesus Christ, To all God’s beloved in Rome, who are called to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Romans 1:1-7
Do people know who you are?
If you stood and began to address a group, any group, would those who are present be able to identify you? Or more importantly would what you say carry any weight because of who you are?
I once attended a church function where there were going to be a lot of clergy present. At one point, someone came into the room and began to bark orders as to where we were to stand and sit and how the process was going to go. He gave us our marching orders and then turned and left the room. After he left, several of those present looked at each other and said… “who the heck was that?”
In the text from Romans, Paul avoids this kind of confusion and questioning by starting off with his credentials. And Paul’s credentials did not so much as tell us WHO Paul was, but they told who WHOSE Paul was. And Whose he was, was Jesus’. Paul was a person called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God.
We also are Called by Christ, and set apart to be God’s witnesses in this world. Let us make sure that when we encounter others that they know more about WHOSE we are than they know about us.
Some years ago, with the help of the younger generation, I secured a Facebook account. I didn’t use it. Never opened Facebook. If during that time people unfriended me, I was blissfully unaware. When I retired in 2013, I began to check out Facebook. About all I knew to do was press like. Even then I wasn’t sure where like was going in cyber space. Such timidity limited my being social on that medium.
Through art, we are able to break bread with the dead, and without communion with the dead a fully human life is impossible.
A Moment in Time
What draws me to stay on Facebook are pictures. I welcome seeing folks together, observing where they are, peering in on what they are doing. One day I opened Facebook and there to my surprise was a wonderful picture of someone celebrating another birthday. I was jolted. Although the individual was radiant, smiling, and effervescent, this person had died several years before. Unless someone intervenes, as long as Facebook exists, that picture, frozen in time, will show up each year, acknowledging another birthday—a birthday for someone who has ceased with birthdays. It’s happened several times now. May it continue!
Here is yet another way to connect with the communion of saints … on Facebook. Who would you like to show up on your Facebook page? Wouldn’t it be glorious to gaze upon a long gone loved one? To just one more time capture the gleam in their eyes, the color of their hair, the particular features which made them … them? And why stop there? Scroll back through the years, well before you and I were around.
We Lutherans observe the 500th Anniversary of the Protestant Reformation this year. Let’s go back to Wittenberg and study there Martin, Katie, Phillip, the Princes and the Popes. “We have this cloud of witnesses around us,” declared the writer of Hebrews. We are surrounded by them. We are strengthened by them; bereft without them.
Cloud of Witnesses
Let’s be intentional about those deep, abiding spiritual witnesses. What fun it would be in worship, right in front of our brothers/sisters in Christ, to address such questions as these:
- Who from the cloud of witnesses helped you answer the call to love Jesus?
- Who in the cloud of witnesses is still encouraging you to run the race of
- What obstacles have you had in running the race of faith?
- Who might one day name you as part of the cloud of witnesses who encouraged
To answer such questions, is for us in the body of Christ, a real way to be … social.
On the thirteenth day after Christmas, Christians celebrate The Epiphany of Our Lord, which means that the Epiphany of our Lord is always on January 6. The word Epiphany means manifestation. It is on this day that we celebrate the arrival of the magi in Bethlehem to pay homage to the Christ child. It is also on the days after the Epiphany that we recount Jesus’ baptism in the Jordan River and his first miracle of changing water into wine. Of course, we know that Jesus manifests himself in so many ways to his disciples in the world today; but during these days prior to the beginning of Lent (which comes in early February this year) we have the opportunity to reflect upon how it is that we, as Jesus’ disciples, can make him known to others in our communities and throughout the world.
Even if you find it difficult to verbally witness to others about Jesus, you still have numerous opportunities to witness through your actions and deeds of kindness to others. One way to start that requires no risk-taking is by praying for those who are experiencing prejudice, abuse, or neglect; and what about those who are depressed, or ill, or grieving. Praying for them by name is empowering both for you and for those for whom you are praying. Make a habit every day of praying for others by name, because this personalizes our prayers and brings us closer to those who need to know that they are important to God and to us.
Another way to witness about Jesus to others does require some risk; but it is worth it. Be a volunteer in the community; you can certainly start in your own congregation with the ministries that Grace supports. Doing something to actually bring hope to another person helps us to understand Jesus’ compassion and love for humanity. It also helps to widen our own perspective of what it means to be a good neighbor, even to those whom we either don’t know, or hardly know. The more we do for others, the easier it becomes to take those risks to manifest, or make Christ known in both deed and word.
If you have made no other resolution for this year, make this one: To be bold in your witness on behalf of the one you call Lord.
Yours in Christ,