5-5-16 - Witnesses

Jesus was clear with his disciples before his final departure: they were to bear witness to what they had seen and known with him, and further still, they were to bear witness to knowing him, making him known to the people they met.

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

I may have used this line before – but sometimes I wonder if Episcopalians think we’re in the witness protection program. We will bear witness to our great liturgy, our friendly coffee hours, our beautiful buildings, not to mention the movies we’ve seen, restaurants we’ve enjoyed, grandchildren, children, and pets we’re besotted with… but when it comes to talking about our faith, or tossing Jesus’ name around? Silence. Who, me?

If we have to bear witness by ourselves, maybe we have reason to hesitate – we may not think our stories exciting enough, our experiences extreme enough, our words eloquent enough, our knowledge extensive enough. But notice what comes first in that sentence: “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you…” Jesus’ disciples weren’t any better than we are in those early weeks after the resurrection. They stayed huddled up in that room, they went fishing, they prayed and wondered what the heck they were supposed to do next.

But when the Spirit came upon them at Pentecost, suddenly they were empowered in ways they couldn’t have imagined before. Peter, so quick to deny Jesus after his arrest, now risked arrest himself because he could not stop preaching the Good News.

We think we have to figure out how to be witnesses. No. We have to be open to the Holy Spirit – invite the Spirit to fill us, empower us, equip us, embolden us. Then the stories will spill out. The “anointed appointments” will pop up in our lives. The “coincidences” will mount up.

We are Jesus’ witnesses. It’s his life we proclaim, telling how his life has intersected with and enriched and made sense of our lives. Come, Holy Spirit! Let the witnessing begin.

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