Let Your Life Speak Sunday October 11, 2009 Romans 12:2
As many of you might know, after I graduated from High School, I decided to enter the Youth Evangelism Service for a short-term missions experience. It’s the same program that Zach Hazlett from our church is now taking part in.
It’s a program that has the participants go through a 3 month training period, then go with a small team of people to a foreign country for a period of time helping churches and missionaries in their projects and ministries.
–As part of my training, we were encouraged to develop something called a ‘personal testimony’. This was supposed to be a tool to use, something like a monologue between 5-10 minutes that we could share with the people we met on the street or in an airplane or in other situations we might encounter.
So we took some time to reflect on our lives and prepare our testimonies.
And then, each of us had to share our testimonies in front of the other participants as part of the training.
And through the training period, as people shared their stories, it became clear that some of us had ‘really powerful’ testimonies that took half an hour or longer to share, including tears and Kleenex and lots of hugs afterwards.
Others had ‘regular’ testimonies that just filled the required 5-10 minutes, with no tears and no Kleenex, just the occasional joke and a few favorite scriptures.
Finally, there were those of us who could barely talk for 2 or 3 minutes, much less 5-10.
These were the people who found it exceptionally difficult to talk about themselves or about God, especially in front of a group of people.
Believe it or not, I was probably part of that last group. J
Talking about God does not come naturally for me.
Talking in front of people does not come naturally for me.
But I try to no longer conform my life to the pattern I was comfortable with—rather my life has been transformed by the renewing of my mind; and it has been given to me to testify on a weekly basis to the saints gathered at Millersburg Mennonite Church, in the hope that together we will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.
We might not be used to thinking about a sermon as a form of testimony.
We tend to rank how people share about God in terms of whether what they shared was ‘really powerful’ or ‘nice’, or ‘interesting’ or even ‘boring’. (kind of like a sermon).
We’ve been trained to think that sharing our faith has to be some kind of 5-10 minute monologue spoken either to a godless stranger throughout the week or a group of Christians on a Sunday morning or a Wednesday night.
Many of us might have learned to think of testimony as I did in my discipleship training—that is, something that we have that someone else doesn’t.
But regardless of who we’re addressing, our goal is something like a tearful acceptance of the truth, followed by a shared sentimental prayer and then a lasting relationship based on mutual Bible study and deep accountability.
Am I close this morning?
Is that anything like what you think of when you think about sharing your faith?
Or are you more comfortable sharing your faith through your actions, without words? MDS trips, going to Honduras, giving money here and there…and never needing to say a word.
Neither extreme is helpful. Words without actions are hollow shells; and actions without words to explain them are incomprehensible.
Last week I shared the story of a woman named Margaret, an Anabaptist woman in the 1600s who was chained to her kitchen floor by the authorities but kept escaping her chains to share the love of God in kitchens all across her village.
And we also heard a moment in mission—which I think fit perfectly for the morning—a moment in mission from Judge Tom Lee; a powerful voice for the state in our village.
He was seeking volunteers who are willing to connect their lives with the lives of kids in Holmes county in a mentoring program—a program specifically designed for the purpose of sowing hope into hopeless situations.
*If you didn’t catch the irony or you weren’t here…let me say that again.*
…The man whose job 500 years ago would have been to chain Anabaptists to their kitchen floors was here last Sunday, asking for our help! J
!!!It’s no longer dangerous to spread the good news!!!
Instead, it’s just…awkward…and…time consuming.
We have been silenced but not by tongue screws; we have been bound but not by chains.
But, if we believe the gospel is good news for everybody regardless of the language they speak or the ability of their brain to comprehend, then it follows that we cannot limit the sharing of the gospel to a prepared monologue spoken to like-minded people at the time and place of our choosing.
In the words of Walter Brueggemann,
The contemporary American church … has little power to believe or to act…Our [minds have] been claimed by false [ways of perceiving] and idolatrous systems of language and rhetoric.
We have despised our memory of the past and we have ridiculed our hope for the future. Therefore everything must be held in the now. (Prophetic imagination, 1).
We have abandoned our faith tradition in pursuit of other gods, false ideologies, and untrue, untrusting ways of life.
We suffer from amnesia.
And we will not have power to believe or to act until we recover our tradition of faith and permit that tradition to speak through us, setting ourselves and others free.
This is not a cry for traditionalism but rather a judgment that the church has no business more pressing than the [recovery] of [our] memory in its full power and authenticity. And that is [as] true among [we] liberals who are too [cool] to remember, [as it is among we] conservatives who have overlaid the faith memory with all kinds of hedges that [protect us from the simple truth]. (prophetic imagination 2).
We cannot believe or act in Christian ways until we reclaim our memory of what God has done in our past.
Otherwise our stories have no home, and we continue to unwittingly spread the myth that our lives are our own, to do with as we see fit.
Without the ability to speak of God’s faithfulness in our past, we have no basis on which to proclaim our hope for the future; and with no future hope, all we have is the always-urgent NOW, dictated to us by the clock on the wall and the big important issue or event of the day.
But Paul writes, commanding his readers to conform no longer, to let ourselves be transformed by the renewing of our minds so that we might test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.
Therefore, let us leave behind us our propagation of myth…the myth that we are in control of our lives; the myth of attainable perfection, the myth that our actions will speak for themselves or that the gospel can be captured by any monologue, no matter how well-crafted.
Let us exercise love and extend grace as we hear and share what each of us brings for the worship and the glory of God.
Let us put away our selfish refusal to be humbled by hearing the simple stories of those who gather with us, no matter how they’re shared.
Let us speak truthfully about what we have experienced and seen, offering it to the community for the edification of all… yearning to know what is true and good.” (“Practicing our Faith” 92).
Let your life Speak!!
Listen to the stranger. Hear your neighbor. Share in their story and their hope.
And let your life speak! Not only in words or actions, but in unbridled hope, rooted in the memory of God’s provision and pressing on to attain the prize.
In the words of Jeremiah,
You must go to everyone God sends you to and say and do whatever He commands you.