Original Posting At https://jacobjuncker.wordpress.com/2018/03/25/our-commitment-witness/
These thoughts started a conversation that was had at Lee Memorial United Methodist Church on Sunday, March 18, 2018. The discussion was based upon a reading from Acts 1:4-8 and Isaiah 43:10-13.
I have developed a handout to accompany this teaching and, hopefully, further the discussion in your home or small group. You can download it here. Note: the questions on this handout are often different from the questions raised in the discussion.
It is, one of the most powerful statements, I think, found in our Discipline:
The people of God, who are the church made visible in the world, must convince the world of the reality of the gospel or leave it unconvinced. There can be no evasion or delegation of this responsibility; the church is either faithful as a witnessing and serving community, or it loses its vitality and its impact on an unbelieving world. (para. 130. Faithful Ministry in The Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church: 2016)
It is a call to bear witness–the final vow we make as we become members of a local congregation in The United Methodist Church.
As Christians, our words, actions, and attitudes provide evidence (or not) of the transformative nature of the gospel. Regardless of the faith one claims, our words, actions, and attitudes boldly proclaim what we truly believe. Said differently, we live—our words, actions, and attitudes—are shaped by the things we truly believe in.
What do you believe in?
How do you understand the good news of God’s love? And, how does the way you live bear witness to that news?
Our vow to witness calls us to shape our lives—the way we move and think in the world—around the good news of the Gospel.
As much as our vow to witness is a call to say and do and feel something, it is also a call to self-reflection. How are my words, actions, and attitudes providing evidence for the good news I’ve heard and claim to believe? By making a vow to witness, we commit to living out—embodying in our personal life and communal life together—the good news.
So what is the good news? What does that news mean for you, me, and the world? And, how are we living it out?
I think our witness should look something like this (a triptych I drew for a recent D.Min. project, you can find an explanation of the triptych here):
The Gospel—indeed, the whole thrust of the Scriptures—is about restoring relationship. The good news is that the brokenness of this world can be healed. In fact, it is already happening.
God’s mission is to restore the relationships broken by our sin—to reconcile all relationships that sin estranges. God’s purpose in Christ is to restore humanity’s relationship with God and to teach humanity how to live at peace with one another and with Creation. Indeed, Christ has entrusted us with this ministry of reconciliation, which is why there’s still open space at the table. In the triptych, we are invited to sit at the table and to bring others with us as we seek to offer the world a glimpse of what is yet to fully come.
In the book of Revelation, the author provides us with a glimpse of God’s consummated plan:
God’s dwelling is here with humankind. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, Death will be no more. There will be no mourning, crying, or pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.
God’s will is to one day live side-by-side with humanity as it was in the beginning. God’s purpose is to restore all our relationships that a new earth might be born out of our restored relationships. As we relate in the way God intends “there will be no more mourning, crying or pain” for all will be at peace and we will sit at the table together.
This is the reality, I believe God is calling us to bear witness to in our lives and ministry—to strive toward righteousness; to relate to God, others, and creation in such a way that all might flourish and find life. Let’s be honest, we are far from perfect at it; but, we strive nonetheless for this is good news worth sharing, a reality worth living now and into eternity.
The first recorded words of Jesus in the gospel of Mark are “Now is the time! Here comes God’s kingdom! Change your hearts and lives, and trust this good news” (Mark 1:15, Common English Bible). The first words of Jesus, in Mark’s gospel, is to proclaim the nearness of God’s kingdom.
Brothers and sisters, God’s kingdom of peace—where there is no more mourning, crying or pain, where all is right with God, with one another, and with Creation, where all is at peace—is near. It is no farther than an arm’s reach, a step, a thought away, if only we would change our hearts and lives and walk into the new kingdom God so desires to bring on earth as it is in heaven. This new reality could truly come, if only we would bear witness to it.
If you’d like to read more about the triptych, and one understanding of God’s mission in the world, check out the paper I wrote here. It depicts and explains, briefly, God’s mission and how we can participate in it.
 cf. 2 Corinthians 5:14-21.
 Revelation 21:3-4, Common English Bible.