Sabbath: God’s Day Off

Scripture: Genesis 2:1-3; Exodus 20:10-11

A couple years ago I was invited to lead a workshop on self-care for newer pastors in our conference.  It’s a funny thing, realizing that the part of your job you are apparently known for among your colleagues is your ability to not do it sometimes.  I wasn’t quite sure how to feel about it, but I do actually care about this topic, so off I went to Richmond to lead this workshop.

Self-care is a pretty big buzzword these days, not just in the ministry world, but also in the secular one, perhaps especially in the world of things targeted at women.  It may conjure up images of bubble baths adorned with candles, getting a pedicure or a massage, or a day spent at a winery with friends.  Nothing wrong with any of those things in moderation, of course, but those things are not what we talked about in this workshop.  Instead, what we talked about was setting boundaries around our time.  Saying no when no needed to be said.  Not checking your email on your day off.  Committing to being at home to eat dinner with your family at least most nights a week.  Leaving the office early to get some exercise when you have to be back in the evening for a meeting.  These are the kinds of things my colleagues were struggling with, and while some of the details may be particular to pastoral ministry, I think the struggles themselves are not.

This sermon series we are beginning today is, likewise, not about whether your nails are done or you’ve had the chance to take a nice bubble bath lately.  But it is about learning to set some boundaries around our time.  And it’s particularly about this one boundary that God seems to explicitly expect of us: this idea that one day a week, we are supposed to just stop our work, say no to all the crucial things that demand our time and energy, and simply rest.  This is the idea we call Sabbath, which comes from a Hebrew root meaning “to stop.”  The practice of Sabbath is a form of self-care, though it is not the only form, and it may even seem like a strange form, this day that forces us to slow down and get even further behind in our work and lives.

If you were Jewish (depending heavily, of course, on what kind of Jewish you were) you might have a strict set of rules to follow in order to set and keep this boundary in time.  Don’t walk more than a certain distance.  Don’t turn the lights on and off, if you are orthodox.  Set aside your electronic devices, for some Reform Jews.[1]  That’s the funny thing about Sabbath, is that rest can actually end up taking a lot of effort.  It’s not just about doing whatever we want.  It’s fundamentally restrictive, because it rests on this idea that we need to actually be stopped, that we’re not just going to do it on our own.

Often Christians seem to think that when Jesus came he did away with all these silly rules, but that’s not really true.  Jesus certainly pushed back on multiple occasions against a legalistic interpretation of the Sabbath, one that lifted following the rules over and above responding to urgent human need.  “The Sabbath was made for humankind and not humankind for the Sabbath,” he said (Mark 2:27), but we do tend to conveniently ignore the first part of that, the fact that Sabbath is still something God has made for us.  I think we ignore it less because of our Christian theology and more because it’s not our natural inclination to want to stop.  We are more inclined, at least in our culture as I experience it, to push the limits, to squeeze thing in, to produce, produce, produce.  Here in America, we’re good capitalists that way, right?  I mean this for myself, too, despite that fact that I was the one teaching that workshop.  Life simply gives us so much to do; people simply expect so much from us, whether they are our boss or our family or our friends; honestly, sometimes we just expect so much from ourselves.

I don’t assume that anything about this series over the next few weeks is going to make it magically easier for you to set this boundary that God expects us to.  But maybe what it will do is give you some idea of why it might be a good idea to try; why the practice of Sabbath might in fact be not just a rule but a gift.

Historically, we don’t know a lot about the origins of this thing called Sabbath, whether it was a uniquely Jewish practice or one they held in common with other surrounding cultures in the Ancient Near East.  What we know is what we read starting in Genesis, that God created the world in six days.  God created the light and the darkness, the water and the dry land, the sun and the moon, the fish and the birds and the animals and human beings.

And on the seventh day, God rested.  Though the Bible doesn’t say, we might imagine this as a time when God got to sit back and simply enjoy what God had created.  It does say in Genesis that because God rested, God “blessed the seventh day and hallowed it.”

We read throughout the rest of the Pentateuch, those first five books of the Bible, that it’s precisely because God did this that we are supposed to do likewise.  The verse we heard earlier from Exodus 20 comes from the Ten Commandments: “Remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy…for in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but rested the seventh day; therefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day and consecrated it.”

We can guess that God rested on that seventh day of creation not because God needed a break, but because God knew we would: by resting a consecrating that day, God provides a model for us to imitate.  And in fact the orthodox Jewish understanding of Sabbath, with all its rules about turning lights on and off and transporting an object and threshing and baking, is fundamentally an understanding that forbids acts of creation on the Sabbath.[2]  I’ve found this a useful way to think about what I do or don’t do on the day I call my Sabbath.  My ideal rule of thumb is that I shouldn’t be doing anything productive.  Not checking my work email, not cleaning the house, not checking things off my to-do list, even my personal one.  Now, am I practicing this perfectly?  Far from it, especially now that I have a kid, and I honestly don’t know when else some of this stuff is going to get done.  But thinking about that rule of thumb does at least give me something to check myself against when I feel myself straying too far from it.

But recently I came across another understanding of Sabbath and why it should be part of our lives.  It comes from a story in Exodus, the first place in the Bible that Sabbath is mentioned.  It’s the story of the manna, how the Israelites crossed the Red Sea and found themselves in the wilderness with nothing to eat, and in response God rains down bread from heaven.

God tells the Israelites to collect the bread each morning for six days, just enough for the day.  But on the sixth day, God says, what they gather will be double.  On that sixth day Moses tells them that the next day is to be a day of rest, and they will not find manna on the ground, because “the seventh day is a holy sabbath to the Lord” (16:23).

Or, depending on how you translate the Hebrew, “the seventh day is a holy sabbath FOR the Lord.”  In other words, it may not just be that God once upon a time created the world in six days and rested on the seventh.  It may in fact be that this is actually God’s ongoing rhythm of life: work, create, provide for six days, and rest for one.  Maybe the Sabbath is actually God’s weekly day off.[3]

Maybe that idea makes you a little bit jittery.  In a way, it makes me nervous too.  The idea that God is on call 24-7 is pretty well ingrained in me from childhood, and who knows what is going to happen to us if God takes a break from working and creating and providing manna?  Maybe it’s even an idea that makes you mad.  After all, there’s plenty going on down here on earth we need God to take care of – maybe even that God needs us to be taking care of.

But this idea of God continually resting on the Sabbath is one that shows up in Jewish tradition, not just one person’s obscure translation.  And even if I don’t necessarily take it literally, there is something appealing about it for me.  The thing is that if we think of the Sabbath this way, it’s not just that we’re being expected to imitate a model laid out for us once.  Instead, we’re being invited to live life according to a divine rhythm, one that provides for work and rest and labor and enjoyment.[4]  It’s a rhythm we were made for, since we were created in the image of God.  It’s a rhythm that invites us to trust in God’s abundance even when we’re not out there frantically gathering our manna.

If even God isn’t too important to take a day off, then who are we?  If God spends God’s seventh days doing nothing but enjoying what God has created, then why not us?  What makes us think that we don’t have the time to do that?  What makes us think that every last space on the calendar exists to be filled?  What makes us think that the world will fall apart without us?

I’ve seen a meme going around recently that says, “I knew a pastor who said he never takes a day off, because Satan doesn’t.’  I said to him, ‘I think you need a better role model.’”  And again, it’s a message that’s not just for pastors.

I said before that Sabbath can feel restrictive, just another set of rules to follow, a burden Jesus supposedly freed us from.  But I think maybe we consider ourselves “free” from this burden at our own peril.  The Sabbath is meant to be received as a gift, a time to sit back and enjoy the fruits of our own labor as well as what God has given us.  That’s why our observant Jewish siblings welcome the Sabbath like a bride and queen, by lighting candles and singing songs.  And in fact, it the day is meant to be experienced as a foretaste of the messianic age, the world as it was created to be, what we Christians might call the Kingdom of God.

And the Kingdom of God isn’t a rat race.  It’s not a to-do list.  No one is measured by output or billable hours or how well they’re keeping up with the Joneses.  The Kingdom of God is trust, and delight, and manna in abundance, and each person valued simply for being God’s good creation.

And maybe we have to stop – physically stop – to remember that.  In Sabbath, that’s what God invites us into: in this burden that is really a gift.

 

 

[1] https://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/95907/jewish/The-Shabbat-Laws.htm

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Activities_prohibited_on_Shabbat

[3] David Frankel, “The Priestly Conception of Sabbath in Exodus 16.” Biblische Zeitschrift, vol. 59, no. 2, 2015, pp. 225.

[4] Frankel, p. 229.

In God’s Image

Scripture: Genesis 1:24-27

Last week we celebrated Pentecost, which we sometimes call the birthday of the church: Jesus has just ascended back into heaven and the disciples are huddled, waiting and praying, in this upstairs room somewhere in Jerusalem, when all of a sudden the Holy Spirit arrives with the sound of a great wind and the spectacle of tongues of fire.  It’s one of the big holidays of the Christian year, although Hallmark has not quite figured that out yet, and it’s always fun to celebrate the Holy Spirit with bright colors and good music and a chance to talk about how we encounter her in our own lives and how we, like the disciples, are transformed and sent.

But it’s possible that if you’re the kind of person who likes to think a little more deeply about these things, all this Pentecost talk of the Holy Spirit might make you take a step back and say, wait a minute.  Just who, or what, is this Holy Spirit, anyway?

Does the Holy Spirit show up for the first time on Pentecost, or has she always been there, maybe just taking a backseat to Jesus for a while?  Is she in the Old Testament too?  What does she do?  Is she part of God?  Or one way that God shows up?  Or somehow related-to, but separate-from God altogether?

And maybe eventually if you’re that same kind of person who thinks about these things, you might go a step further and say, OK, so then where does Jesus fit in to all this?  How do these three divine entities we talk about in church go together?  What is their relationship to each other?

By this time you’ve gotten into some serious theology and it’s likely that you have decided you need a strong cup of coffee before trying to sort all of this out.

These questions, of course, all lead us to a central Christian belief in what we call the Trinity: a God who is both three and one, for which we sometimes use the word triune; that God exists in three persons, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, each of whom are fully God in themselves, and yet these three make up one God.

Again, this kind of theology is not for the undercaffeinated.

I don’t think it’s an accident that the Sunday after Pentecost in the Christian liturgical calendar is Trinity Sunday, a day set aside for us all to delve into the mystery of what it means to worship a triune God.  Trinity Sunday isn’t one of those days I tend to observe every year, because honestly I feel like there’s only so much I – or anyone – can say with any authority on the topic, but I do feel like it’s useful to come back to every once in a while.  After all, this idea of a three-in-one God is fundamental to who we are as Christians, something that unites us with other Christians of all denominations around the world and makes us distinct from other religious groups who don’t profess the same, from Jews and Muslims to Unitarians and Mormons.  And so we should probably have a working knowledge of what it means.

When I was in fifth grade, I had a good friend who was Jewish. For Jews, as for Muslims, a belief in one God is fundamental to their belief, and the Christian belief in a three-in-one God tends to not quite do it for them.  I remember that I was talking to my friend one day at recess and she asked me, “How can you say you believe in one God, when you believe in three?” I think we were on the swings at the time.  These are the conversations I had at recess.

What would you have said to that?  How would you answer that question if someone asked you now?

I actually have no recollection of what I said to her at the time.  What I do remember is that after that, I did what I thought I was supposed to do as someone who loved Jesus, and that is I prayed every night for a while that God would help my friend understand.  It’s only looking back that I realize how silly that prayer actually was: well-meaning, of course (and I was only eleven) but still, how could I pray for her to understand a part of my religion that I couldn’t even claim to understand myself?

It’s possible, especially if we’ve grown up in church, that along the way we’ve learned or absorbed certain images and metaphors to help us understand or explain the Trinity.  The Trinity is like an apple: skin, flesh, and seeds.  Or the Trinity is like water, which can be liquid, ice, or vapor.  These metaphors can be helpful, but only if we don’t take them too seriously.  At some point, they all break down into one sort of classical trinitarian heresy or another, because the Father, Son and Holy Spirits are not just three parts of one whole; nor are they simply three different modes in which God might exist at any given time.  (Come to Bible study today to learn more about heresy!)

Anyway, nowhere in the Bible is it spelled out what you are supposed to say to your Jewish friend when she asks how you can possibly believe this.  That’s because the Trinity, as a fully formulated doctrine (or even a word) isn’t in the Bible explicitly at all.  Instead it’s like we have these clues we have to put together.  At the very beginning of Genesis we read about the spirit of God hovering over the waters of creation, and throughout the Hebrew Scriptures we learn of God’s Spirit entering people and endowing them with certain skills, powers, or prophetic insight.  In the Gospels we read of Jesus, the Son of God, who claimed oneness with the Father, and who promised the presence of a Comforter or Advocate who would remain with his disciples even in his own absence.  In Acts we read of the Holy Spirit resting like a tongue of fire on each believer.  Paul maybe gets the closest to putting it all together when he writes in 2 Corinthians “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all” (13:14).

But never does anyone write, OK, this is exactly how the Father relates to the Son and the Son relates to the Spirit and the Spirit relates to the Father and they all relate to each other, and this is how they can be both one and three. Instead we are left to read the testimony that is there, of God at work in us and around us known in three entities yet of a God who is still somehow one – and we get to work it all out for ourselves.  Or at least try.

These are the kinds of things the early church fought about, and in fact it is out of that conflict that some of our earliest creeds come from.  Are you familiar with the Nicene Creed?  It’s not one we say a lot here, but if you’ve ever been to a Catholic mass, it’s likely you’ve encountered it there.  It goes like this (excerpted):

We believe in one God,
the Father, the Almighty,
maker of heaven and earth,
of all that is, seen and unseen.

We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ,
the only Son of God,
eternally begotten of the Father,
God from God, Light from Light,
true God from true God,
begotten, not made,
of one Being with the Father. …

We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life,
who proceeds from the Father and the Son.

The Nicene Creed was the result of a little church meeting called the Council of Nicaea, back in 325 CE, called by Emperor Constantine to resolve an ongoing controversy about how exactly Jesus was related to God the Father, determining that he was begotten, not created, and of the same substance as the Father.   Later the Athanasian Creed delved even deeper into the three-in-one question.  The catholic faith, it said, is this: that we worship one God in Trinity, and Trinity in Unity; neither confounding the Persons, nor dividing the Essence. For there is one Person of the Father; another of the Son; and another of the Holy Ghost. But the Godhead of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, is all one; the Glory equal, the Majesty coeternal. Such as the Father is; such is the Son; and such is the Holy Ghost.

Somehow as a church we’ve moved from fighting over things like this to fighting over more mundane matters, like who can get married in the church sanctuary.  It does seem to me that today we’re mostly happy to live and let live as far as all this deep theological stuff is concerned.  What concerns us is how we agree to live our lives together.

I’m certainly not suggesting we revive age-old disputes about trinitarian orthodoxy and heresy.   But I do believe that the theology we profess shapes our lives individually and together.  And I do believe that how we understand this mystery we call the Trinity makes a difference.

So I want to go back to Genesis, where we first encountered the Spirit of God hovering over the waters of creation.  The pattern of these first verses are undoubtedly familiar to many of us: God creates the earth, sky, and birds and fish all in the course of five days, and then on the sixth day, God says, “Let us create humankind in our image, according to our likeness” (1:26).  And so, the Scripture reads, “God created humankind in [God’s] image, in the image of God [God] created them, male and female God created them” (1:27).

Again, I don’t think the idea of being created in the image of God is new to most of us.  What does that mean to you, to be created in the image of God?

To me it means, the way I usually think about, that God has called each one of us good, in all of our quirks and particularities: not that we are a physical reflection of God such that we imagine God with two arms and two legs and a large and small intestine, but that there is something of God’s own beauty and goodness reflected in each one of us.

But let me ask you this question again.  What does it mean to be created in the image of a triune God?

Obviously none of us is three-in-one, not in the way that we profess God to be.  We may very well be multifaceted sorts of people.  We may fulfill different roles in our lives: friend, parent, employee.  But none of those things really get at what it means to be triune.  When we talk about a triune God we’re not talking about qualities of God or roles of God or different kinds of relationships we might have with God, we are talking about God who is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit: who is fundamentally both three and one.

I’ve said before, I think, that what I find most meaningful about this doctrine that otherwise sounds a little made up, is that it gives new meaning to the saying God is love.  It doesn’t just mean that God loves and wants us to love too.  It means that God actually is love, fundamentally, inherently, on the inside, because God consists of the loving relationships between the three persons of the Trinity.

John Wesley preached that to be created in the image of God who is love means to be created to love and be loved, that this is our first and true nature and purpose, the thing that is both broken in us and restored through our sanctification.

It says something to me that even God can’t be God alone, that God is community, and if we are in fact created in the image of this God, then we are created for community too.  None of us can do this alone: not faith, not life.  We are meant to be in this together.

You know, if someone asked me today how I can believe that God is both three and one, I’m honestly not sure I’d have a much better answer than I did at fifth grade during recess.  I would at least probably pray for my own understanding first.  But the fact that I don’t really understand how any of this can be bothers me a lot less now than it did then.  I’m comfortable with the idea that maybe I’m not really supposed to know.

Most good theology, I think, can’t be recited in a creed or summed up in a formula.  Just being able to say the right words – if they are even that – doesn’t really mean much.  Good theology is sometimes more like poetry than the words of a creed, which is why I sometimes prefer the words of St. Patrick to the Nicene Creed.  But even more, I think, good theology is something that needs to be lived into.  And if I’m living my life in a way that professes that God is love, that I am made for love and community, that that is the image of God my journey of salvation is leading me back to, then maybe my trinitarian theology is better than I know.

And as for the details, we can keep figuring all of that out, as long as we do it together.

 

We Are Witnesses

Scripture: Luke 24:46-53; Acts 2:1-21

Sometimes when life is hard we all need some (healthy) escape mechanisms.  One of those for me in the past couple months has been getting into a new show on Netflix, Kim’s Convenience.  (Any of you know it?)  It’s about a Korean family, first and second generations, who own a convenience store in downtown Toronto, and it’s also about family dynamics, sometimes cultural and generational differences, friendships, and everyday life.  I love this show for a few reasons.  First of all, it’s easy to watch.  Sometimes I do like shows that require a lot of emotional investment, but that hasn’t really been what I’m in the market for recently.  It’s hilarious, often subtly so, which makes me appreciate it more.  And I also really like the diversity of the world that is represented in the show.  Its characters are Korean and Chinese and Indian and black and white, and while cultural differences between these characters are often a topic of conversation, they’re mostly not a huge deal, either – this diversity is simply a natural part of their urban life, in a way that seems very true to life to me but that you don’t often see depicted on TV.

I started watching Kim’s Convenience because people in one of my Facebook groups were talking about how much they liked it.  This happened to be a group of young women pastors and they especially liked the character of Pastor Nina, the new young woman pastor of the Kims’ mostly-Korean church, who is not Korean herself.  They were talking about the show, so I decided to try it for myself.  These days whenever anyone I know is looking for recommendations for a new Netflix show, I always tell them Kim’s Convenience.

This sermon isn’t really about a TV show.  You probably have some you could recommend to me too – or if not a show, then a restaurant, or an event, or some sort of discovery that has made your life easier and better.  We discover lots of things by word of mouth and pass them on.  That’s also how things happened in the aftermath of Easter: one person encountered the risen Christ and went to tell more people, who encountered Jesus for themselves and went to tell even more people.

Today is Pentecost, our celebration of the coming of the Holy Spirit in wind and flame and the beginning of the church’s mission.  Seven weeks ago now we were celebrating Easter with its good news of an empty tomb and risen Christ. In between those two events, as Luke tells the story, the women who first arrive at the tomb go and tell the apostles, and Peter comes to see for himself.  Later that day two disciples are walking on the road to the town of Emmaus, processing everything they’ve heard, and Jesus appears and starts walking along with them, though they don’t recognize him until they stop to break bread together.  Once they do, they also return to Jerusalem to tell the others.  And once the whole group is gathered back together, Jesus appears again, letting them touch him and eating fish to prove he’s not a ghost.  One person encounters Jesus and goes to tell others, and they encounter Jesus for themselves, and they go and tell others.

But we still have to get from resurrection to Pentecost.  We have to move on in the story from Jesus’ physical presence with his followers to the church on its Spirit-powered mission.  And that means Jesus has to leave.  Not completely, of course – because the promised Holy Spirit will be his ongoing presence with all of his followers.  But he can’t be there in the same physical way he has been. He has to return to his Father in heaven, which we call his ascension.

Before Jesus goes he has some final words for his disciples.  First, he tries to sum everything up for them and connect the remaining dots.  “Remember what I told you before,” he says to them, “about how all of this had to happen according to what is written in Scripture: that I had to suffer and die and rise again in three days, and that repentance and forgiveness should be proclaimed to all nations in my name.”

And then he reminds them: “You are witnesses of these things.”  Just in case they’ve forgotten, they were there!  They’ve actually seen this stuff happen.  They have known Jesus in his life, in his death, and now in his new life again.  But it’s not just a reminder: it’s a commission.  Just like they’ve been doing, spreading the word from one to another, their ongoing job will be to witness – not just as people who have seen the story unfold, but as people who testify to it, people who are going to make sure others get to hear and see it too.  This life of witnessing that begins on Pentecost is the whole basis of the book of Acts, which Luke writes as the sequel to his Gospel.

And in Jesus’ closing words to his disciples I hear a reminder and commission to myself and to all of us as well: We are witnesses.

But then I have to stop there, because the problem is I haven’t actually been a witness to all of those things the disciples were.  I didn’t get to know Jesus during his life on earth – none of us did, which is probably why we have so many disagreements about what Jesus would do today.  I didn’t watch him die on the cross, or meet the risen Christ on the Road to Emmaus, or watch him ascend into heaven.

I haven’t seen those things.  Instead, I have learned about him and his story through the words of others: words written in the Bible, stories told in Sunday School, hymns sung in worship.  And so, I wonder: how am I supposed to be a witness to any of this when I haven’t actually witnessed it in the first place?

I haven’t experienced the life and death and resurrection of Jesus, firsthand.

Or have I?

Maybe I didn’t meet Jesus as he lived 2000 years ago in Palestine.  But I have met him in people today.  I’ve met him in strangers who have welcomed me into their homes and lives in faraway places, in members of our homeless community here who have given their last Metro tokens as an offering to the church, in people who take risks and make sacrifices and give their lives on a day to day to loving others.  I’ve met him in the people who call themselves his body, in the church that raised me to follow him and the church that helped me recognize my call to ministry and the churches that have loved me and taught me since.

And maybe I wasn’t there at the cross on Good Friday to witness Jesus’ suffering.  But I’ve seen the way he still suffers today through the suffering of people he loves: through migrants seeking refuge at our border; children afraid to go to school for threats of lockdowns and active shooters; people weighed down by the weight of grief or physical or mental illness.

And maybe I wasn’t there at the empty tomb, or on that road to Emmaus, but I have known the truth of resurrection: in the lives of addicts who become sober and homeless neighbors who get housing after years on the street, in the possibility of things I never thought were possible, in the way I’ve experienced renewal in my own life in other times of grief and pain.

These are things I have seen, and known, and experienced for myself, and that makes me a witness.

What about you?  What are you witnesses to?  How have you seen God at work, or how have you met Jesus in our world today?

Jesus final words to his disciples are also a reminder and commission to us: because we’ve been witnesses of these things, our job is to become witnesses to these things.  Not because we’re supposed to tell other people about Jesus as part of being a good Christian – but because, just like when we find a great new show or book or restaurant or activity – just like those first disciples who met Jesus for themselves and ran to tell the others – we’ve seen and experienced something we think other people should know.  We don’t have to recite a script we’ve been given.  No one is asking us to tell people things we haven’t seen for ourselves.  Let’s tell them what we have seen; let’s tell them what we’ve discovered and want them to discover too.

What I really like about Jesus’ last words to his disciples here is that he doesn’t just talk what they’ve already seen.  He reminds them that the Scriptures tell of the Messiah’s death and rising again, and “that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations.” In other words, they not just witnesses to what has already happened, but also to what is still happening, to what is about to happen, to what God is yet calling them to.  Because that is part of the resurrection story too, a story that God isn’t done with yet.

And our witness isn’t just about words.  The Greek word for witness is martys – what does that sound like to you?  As one commentary I read pointed out, that same word in the New Testament goes from meaning someone who sees something, to someone who testifies, to a martyr, someone who risks and sacrifices all for that truth they’ve discovered.  Our witness is how we live our whole lives as a sharing of what we have heard and seen and experienced for ourselves.  It’s how we take risks and make sacrifices in love and service to others.  It’s how we help break down the barriers between people that God is trying to remove, and how we let God break down those barriers in us.  It’s how we cling to our faith in God’s resurrection work even in the face of suffering and death.

We are witnesses.  We have seen and known God at work in our lives and our world.  And our job is to witness to love and mercy and resurrection – in our words, in our deeds, in our whole lives – so that others can know.  And maybe they will experience them for themselves, and go and tell others.  And maybe, then, the world will never be the same.