Bread – Witnesses

August 3, 2012


Readings for Friday, August 3 designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: Judges 5:1-18; Acts 2:1-21; Matt. 28:1-10; Psalms 69, 73

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As I write this, I have in the background, through the window, the mountains of Colorado.

In Judges today, Deborah has been appointed by God a leader (judge) over Israel, and the Hebrews and the surrounding inhabitants of Canaan and other areas of the promised land are witnesses to God’s actions to establish Israel as His people in a specific geographical place at a particular time. See, it is easy to witness what is real. Our God is a God who involves Himself in the lives of His people, raises up leaders, and authors history as He writes it. Today, we have a historical account of Deborah because she is not a myth or a bedtime story.

In Matthew today, some women go to Christ’s tomb in order to “see” it. I am sure that among the reasons they went there, in addition of course to offering prayers and respect for the dead, was to do a “reality check,” to see that, yes, Jesus was dead and buried. In front of their eyes an angel (a) “descended from heaven” and (b) “rolled back the stone and sat on it.” Matt. 28:2 The angel did not report that he had done that; the women saw it happen. The angel then invited them to see the empty tomb which was revealed when the stone was rolled back. There was no room for error in the observation, because the stone was not already rolled back before they arrived, but it was rolled back while they were standing, watching it happen. Indeed, the women witnesses saw with their own eyes that the tomb was empty. While they were on the road, racing to tell the disciples what they had seen, they “met” Jesus and talked with Him. Less we be inclined to think that they were talking to an apparition or a ghost, the women reported that “they took hold of His feet.” Matt. 28:9.b. The women were witnesses of the reality of Jesus’ resurrection, not by hearing a report, but by fully engaging their senses – touch, hearing, and seeing. These are the same techniques we use every day in our “scientific” inquiry into reality. Our God is a God who is so real that He can be seen, heard, and touched by real people operating in real time and place.

In Acts today, the disciples are gathered and together receive the power of the Holy Spirit. This is not a phantasy play to describe concepts of religious fervor, but a real event witnessed by real people. And the people who witnessed this event were not even the people who received the Holy Spirit; the witnesses were “outsiders” with no agenda, no story to assert, no propaganda to promote. “And at this sound the multitude came together [devout men from every nation under heaven], and they were bewildered, because each one was hearing them speak in his own language.” Acts 2:6 Our God is a God who is so real that His power is so demonstrated in the lives of His disciples that the results are obvious to the senses of others. Events as reported by those who were the actual witnesses are real. To the extent that these witnesses report what they heard, what they tasted, what they saw, and what they touched, reality is staring us in the face.

But for us, who were not there when these events occurred, we are vicarious witnesses, people who see reality through the lenses and reports of others. Now that is not bad because the witness of actual historical events, the empty tomb, the descent of the Holy Spirit and the explosion of the Church following its empowerment by God, are all trustworthy. But, like Thomas, we like to engage our own reality.

So right now, I am engaged in my reality. I can see the mountains. I can touch the dirt and the stones. I can hear the wind whistling through the aspens. I can taste the rain which has been falling. I can see the sun rising slowly over the peaks, heralding a new day.

I am witness to the complexity, to the simplicity, to the order, to the majesty, of creation. I may have not have met Deborah; I may not have watched the angel roll away the stone from the empty grave; I may not have heard the disciples speak in my language or seen the tongues of fire descending upon them.

But I have seen the mountains…and the valleys. And in so doing, I have seen God. He is real; He is here; He is forever. To that, we are all witnesses, whether we want to admit it or not.

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© 2012 GBF

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