Date: October 23, 2016
“CALL YOUR NEXT WITNESS”
SCRIPTURE JOEL 2: 23
32; LUKE 18: 9
GRACE COVENANT PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH, ASHEVILLE, NC
October 23, 2016
The Rev. Dr. Marcia Mount Shoop, Pastor
ones with fresh visions
No more shame
The survivors will flourish
a witness’ silence abates
O to inhabit
such a world
Strange and wonderful
uch it, to see
To witness such a world
A world where old men dream dreams
And women speak bold truth.
It is a world th
at stretches out ahead of us in the narratives our faith tells us
God will make things right, that God assures justice, and that the haughty
brought down from their destructive throne
and the humble will be healed, the
survivors will flourish.
And we are called to testify to this vision, this dream, this predicted state of spiritual
equilibrium, of souls well with God.
We are to
witness to the truth of redemption,
to the reality
of the power and
promise of God’s transforming love.
When I say “we
” I mean you
and me. Sounds like a
task for us
Christians, but witnessing is not an untroubled task.
In fact, sometim
es it can feel
like an impossible task, or if not impossible, a futile task.
How do we bear witness to a loving, healing God in a world of such pain, such
brutality, such betrayal? What are we bearing witness to in a faith tradition that has
ted history and a languishing present, even a doubtful future?
It can be hard to parse out our own language in the Christian faith when so much of
it has been appropriated to prop up the institution, rather than to tell people about
how our lives have b
een changed by Jesus. There are times when I feel like the
church went and stole Jesus and altered him so much that he is someone I barely
In a world where we can actually purchase a bobble head Jesus playing footb
sandals and a white ro
be, you know we’ve distorted the Prince of Peace in some
pretty profound ways.
And the bobble head isn’t the worst Jesus impersonator we have in the world today.
Jesus the warrior, Jesus th
, Jesus the line drawer, Jesus the
Jesus the chief maintenance man of the institutional
Jesus was even put to work justifying the Holocaust.
What does it mean to witness to such a malleable savior, to such a shape
God? Is witnessing just a way for ea
ch of us to justify our desires for a God made in
Societal horrors like the Holocaust, chattel slavery, genocide of first nations people
all riddle the act of witnessing with questions of reliability, veracity, and even
If the way
our savior and our faith has been employed for harm does not chill our
blood, then we are not paying attention
. Witnessing is a troubled and troubling
And it is a
task we are required to perform as people who follow Jesus.
A small group of Jews
gathered to pray in a synagogue in Europe during Nazi
occupation. Their prayers were interrupted by a Jew they knew to be pious
was, like many Jews in Europe at this time, going mad. He came in forcefully to the
prayer gathering and admonished those p
raying after he had listened quietly to
their prayers. “Shhh! Don’t pray so loud! God will hear you and then know that there
are still some Jews left alive in Europe.”
The horror is not that God has disappeared or been shown to be an illusion. This
s man’s madness comes from the fact that God exi
sts in a world in which Jews