"O Holy Spirit, descend plentifully into my heart. Enlighten the dark corners of this neglected dwelling and fill it with your cheerful beams." St. Augustine


"Faith without works is dead. . .how me your faith apart from your works and I will, by my works, show you my faith." James 2:17-18

I recently contributed to a debate on Facebook about witnessing our faith. It was a spirited discussion and my purpose was to elicit some self reflection on how we best embody a witness to Jesus Christ. For many, it is getting incensed about various ways in which culture demeans Christianity, for some it is by expressing a ritual-like kneeling in prayer in a public setting or making the sign of the cross and for some it is attempting to legislate values or laws that "represent a Christian lifestyle." While all of these avenues are a part of a faithful witness, none of them contemplates Jesus' expectation that we go into the world as disciples who honor God's name. During my years as a Pentecostal, I thought that saying the sinner's prayer, speaking in tongues, and quoting scriptures were the responsibilities my faith position required. Over time, however I discovered that those means of faith sharing tended to be self-congratulatory; I am better than you; I know more than you; look at me; I am loved by God (and you are not). Far too often these ways elevated me rather than humbling me, and when I spoke and cajoled with these tools, people were not invited to faith but instead, driven away from faith.


We evaluate so much of life through a prism of self-congratulation; I am doing what is best and those other people are not; I know what is right and those other people don't; I have the truth and they do not. Unfortunately, the fruit of such self-congratulation is pride and with it, we judge, alienate, discard, and discourage others.


The antidote to this is a heart that is not just humbling but serving. I found that in the midst of the poverty of church communities in Russia there is still an overwhelming desire to help those who face addiction, to bring youth together to learn and serve the troubled, to worship even when the law and the community stand in opposition to their dreams and goals. There was no self-pity and most certainly, no self-congratulation. There was just commitment to love, to represent a kindness that comes not in words, but in deeds and to live trustingly and willingly, not whining about what is lacking, but rather, celebrating what they have.


Our sisters and brothers in Ryzan, Ryzask and Kosimov don't have the privilege of kneeling after a touchdown, of screaming on a Talking Heads show about whether the right way to sign your Christmas cards is Merry Christmas or Merry Xmas (both are right: the X is the Greek letter Chi which is the letter the early church used to speak of Christ), or to lobby for a law to keep prayer in school. And yet, their witness is not only powerful, it is more effective. Why? They begin, not with self-congratulatory assumptions about Christian exceptionalism, but with kindness, compassion, goodness and encouragement. In the coming days may we see our faith through a prism of maturity that humbles us, inspires and transforms us so that we may embody the spirit that proclaims, "Speak the gospel at all times; if necessary, use words."


See you in worship,
Rev. Michael




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