Living with the Resurrection VII

We Are Yours

Technology has opened the door of possibility over the course of the past century. Some of this has been obviously good, some not so much. One thing that has improved, at least in some ways, is the ability we have to preserve visual memories. Beginning with the earliest pinhole type cameras to emulsion plate large boxes to the modern point and shoot film or digital cameras. We have also seen the evolution of motion pictures, the ability to record life as it moves and breathes. Both forms have given us a sense of permanence when it comes to visual memory. We can experience a moment again and again simply by watching a video or looking at a photo. 

Those advances continue through today. In the span of my lifetime, we have gone from film cameras, to camcorders, to cell phones that do the job of both digitally. In your pocket or purse, most of you have a device capable of recording hundreds of pictures and hours of video footage. You now have the ability to look at several years across your life simply by scrolling up and down on a touchscreen. These images are a form of testimony. They show us what is most important to ourselves. What kind of pictures do you have? Family? Vacation photos? Favorite car? Whatever you find the most of is most likely the thing or things you find most important, the thing you really want to be able to take with you and hold on to. It is likely the testimony you find most important.

Our scripture in Acts finds Jesus and his disciples together on the Mount of Olives, apparently finishing up a picnic meal together. Jesus is preparing some final words for the disciples, a going away speech as it were. For his disciples, this has been some ride for the past month or so. One writer says, 

Transitional moments can be exciting and scary. They can also initiate new beginnings in the aftermath of trauma. The disciples have just undergone a whirlwind of events, from the crucifixion of their leader to their experiences with him as resurrected Lord, and now they await a new phase of relating to him not in body but through the Holy Spirit.[1]

As they are gathered there waiting with Jesus, he tells them about the road ahead. He gives them some final instructions telling them, 

… 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 end of the earth.

The Holy Spirit will become their teacher and guide on how to be the witnesses of Jesus—those whose verbal and non-verbal expressions point to the truth found in the Way of Jesus. The point of the Holy Spirit’s coming is to offer guidance for how to live into these things but also the Holy Spirit marks us (Ephesians 1:12-14) as being followers of Jesus. The coming of the Holy Spirit into their lives changes the direction and trajectory of where they are going. But what does that life look like? What are they doing?

They will become/be witnesses. 

Witness is a legal term in this case. It is one who offers formal, public testimony on behalf of and in defense of another. If you look at the early Jesus followers after Pentecost, this was exactly what they did. The stood up among their peers, in their synagogues, in the public square and they declared to the people the things they saw as Jesus’ disciples. They declared the experiences they had as they followed Jesus from town to town. They spoke of what they were taught by Jesus and continued to be taught by the Holy Spirit. The declaration of Jesus before his ascension held true. The disciples and the early Jesus followers carried their message, their testimony from the little backwater Roman province of Judea/Palestine to the farthest reaches of the known Roman Empire and beyond. And they did all of it by offering the testimony of their experience with Jesus and continued experience with the Holy Spirit.

When I think about this in regard to our practice of discipleship today, I wonder, as I mentioned last week, are we doing it right? So much of our supposed testimony is not really what have I experienced as a follower of Jesus or what has the Holy Spirit taught me. Much of it is simply divisive, often political rhetoric aimed at deciding who gets to be in and who gets to be out of the local Jesus club. Do you have the right political affiliation? Did you vote the right way on this issue? Do you have the right logos, right words, right colors on your clothing? How much of our testimony is really the personal, nitty-gritty here is where the Holy Spirit found me and how the Holy Spirit led me to change my life and here is where I going testimony? Do we really have that much of that kind of relational, interactive, formal, public testimony on behalf of and in the service of the Way of Jesus?

I am afraid we are not his, but we are still ours. We are still holding on to tribal us versus them thinking. We are still holding on to our fear of the other and letting it be the decisive driving force in our way of life. We are still letting choosing the political affiliations, the voting issues, the logos and words and colors and all the other nonsense that gets in the way of being disciples and protects us from having to face the harsh reality: we are fearful, selfish children who refuse to grow up into being disciples for fear of what we think we are giving up. We are not disciples. We are children of God. We are guardians of self and what we see as self-interest.

We have a choice to make. 

To be a disciple is to give up self for the role of being a messenger. Our message is the testimony of what the Holy Spirit has done to change our lives and how the Holy Spirit can go about changing the lives of those around us. The problem is, if we haven’t chosen to be changed, if we haven’t made a change of direction with our lives and our perspective on life and our way of life, we have nothing to talk about. Anything we say will be false testimony and the Holy Spirit cannot use those words to reach anyone. The choice is ours, to truly belong to Jesus and the way of Jesus and offer an authentic testimony or simply have nothing really to say.