** just a note that this is the Sunday the congregation I serve celebrated our ongoing relationship with the Foods Resource Bank (FRB) as well as a safe, happy, and successful harvest.**
“This will give you an opportunity to testify.” (Luke 21:13) I often wonder how comfortable we would be testifying to the presence of God in our lives. What would we do if we were called upon to give our “testimony” as it is sometimes called. If challenged, could you tell others what you believe, why you believe it, and how it changes your life and affects how you look at the world. Our confirmation students did it not too long ago. I think the challenge in testifying is that our fear and self preservation gets in the way. We don’t want to be labeled as one of those “crazy Christians.” We all have encountered at least one in our lifetime. These are the well meaning folks in our lives that question when we took the “Lord as our personal Savior” or when/if we have been “saved.” They are anxious to invite you to Bible study, life group, service projects, outreach projects, Tuesday night grief meetings, Saturday kids church, Sunday night praise service, and on and on. These are all awesome and wonderful things. But it can also be intimidating. And I think that is some of what keeps us from testifying.
This past week was a challenging one for me. I was tired from fall supper, as I am sure all of you were. And then Tuesday came. Chris and I came over to vote bright and early and brought Ellen with us. We wanted her to see that voting is something important that mommy and daddy value; and we hope that she will vote when she is old enough. And then, being the political junkie that I am, I stayed up on Tuesday night/Wednesday morning until the very end. I wanted to see the outcome; although once Ohio and Florida were called I had a feeling I knew where the night would end. And I’ll be honest, my candidate did not win. And the struggle I had was not how to comfort my own self, but how to address a congregation full of people after a very divisive election.
No matter who you voted for, I hope we can agree that both candidates made this a divisive election. We saw it leading up to the election and I think we have seen it in the last few days. And it’s interesting because in the midst of it, I have seen people testify to their faith in many ways. I’ve experienced everything from affirmation of God’s love for this country (“Trump is the answer to our prayers”) to abandonment (“where was God in all of this?”) to fear of the apocalypse. I am not going to try and correct any of these feelings; it’s not for me to tell you if your feelings are right or wrong. But here is what I do know: our testimony should be that Christ is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow. And no matter who you voted for (or if you even voted at all) God loves you and God thought you were worth dying for. Another sentiment I’ve heard is “we’ve got work to do.”
This sentiment has often come in the context of encouraging the country to unite once again. To come together once again meaning that maybe we need to acknowledge our failures as a people while at the same time, giving Mr Trump (or any other newly elected official for that matter) the opportunity to lead and prove that they too want a united people. And in the meantime, we remember that our call of loyalty is to Christ alone. But yes, we’ve got work to do. What people may not realize is that we’ve been doing some work for a long time.
No elected official is going to change the fact that we all show up in this place at this time week after week hoping to discern God’s will for our lives, yearning to be fed and forgiven, and then sent out in the hopes of doing God’s work in this world through the power of the Holy Spirit. That is what we did before November 8th and that is what we will continue to do. If Jesus tells us that we will have the opportunity to testify about him to others, one of the best ways we do that year after year is through our relationship with the Foods Resource Bank as well as continued stewardship of the land God has given to all of us. Part of our call as Christians is to advocate for those who have less than us. We are called to stand with the marginalized. We are called to advocate for what is known as “preferential treatment of the poor.” We are called to tend to whatever God has given us with care, love, and devotion because everything we have and everything we are belongs to God.
So we testify to God and God’s love through FRB. For some of you, it may seem like or look like a check, or 50 bushels of grain. But, for someone benefiting from the programs that FRB has put into place, it can mean the difference literally between life and death. A woman in the Central African Republic now has new crop options to feed her previously malnutritioned child. The money she has raised for the sale of her crops may give her the ability to leave a dangerous environment full of rebels that want to mutilate her newborn daughter. Crops may give her a new start. Testify.
A man in Armenia has been trained on raising sheep. In an area that isn’t friendly to crops or sometimes to life for that matter, this man now has the ability to sell sheep’s wool and meat. The prospect that his children will not live in poverty like he did growing up is looking greater every day. Testify.
On the Palestinian West Bank, a family may now have a working well thanks to FRB. This means that their daughter no longer has to walk 5 miles each way to collect water. This means that she is no longer under the threat of sexual assault on her daily walk and that she now can attend school. We know that when our daughters are educated on the same level and extent as our sons, the world is a better place. Testify.
Locally, I know many of you that have been called by God to steward the land and the animals have done so with great care, love, and compassion. You consider the environment when choosing seed and pesticide; you may choose a no-till method so to enhance the soil; you may insure that some of your beef or pork gets donated to our local food pantry or other organizations that may use it. Testify.
Since Wednesday, we’ve been hearing “we’ve got work to do.” What the country needs to know is that we have been working. We may have been quiet about it, but we’ve been working. We’ve been working to show our neighbors in the next county and in the next country that we love them and that God loves them. No candidate will ever change that. And so maybe while we haven’t been super vocal with our testimony, we have testified about Jesus through our actions. And those opportunities to continue testifying will remain. No candidate, no politician, no one should ever stop you from testifying of the love of Christ.
We are in a hurting world, right now, brothers and sisters. And yes, there is a call to come together as the body of Christ. But, when even a small portion of the body of Christ is bleeding, we have work to do. People need to know that they are loved. People need to know they are valued. People need to know that they are seen and heard. People need to be given space to hurt, to heal, and to have hope. We can do that by continuing to be present with people here and globally. We continue to let people know they are loved by testifying to God’s love. And if this week has you questioning God’s love or God’s will, I am not going to tell you to get over it, or assure you that it will all be okay. What I will tell you is that God loves you, I love you, and nothing will ever change that. I’ll spend my dying breath testifying to that fact.