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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Saturday, January 18, 2020  

Today’s Scripture Reading | Acts 10:34–43

Then Peter began to speak to them: “I truly understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him. You know the message he sent to the people of Israel, preaching peace by Jesus Christ—he is Lord of all. That message spread throughout Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John announced: how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power; how he went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him. We are witnesses to all that he did both in Judea and in Jerusalem. They put him to death by hanging him on a tree; but God raised him on the third day and allowed him to appear, not to all the people but to us who were chosen by God as witnesses, and who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one ordained by God as judge of the living and the dead. All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.” (NRSV)

When I was in college, a stranger made his way into the dormitory in which I was living. (Don’t worry: nobody got hurt.) Since I had had an encounter with the intruder, when the police arrived, I was asked to give a description of him. Going in, I felt pretty confident. I mean, I had seen this hundreds of times on TV, right? Here’s what I found out: I stink as a witness. Apparently I am one of the least observant people on the planet, and I have a hard time putting words on what I do see.

While witnessing seems like it should be easy—whether it’s about a stranger in a dorm or faith in Jesus Christ—it’s often not. Peter’s testimony in this passage, here to the house of Cornelius, is straightforward and clear. He is a witness, par excellence: logically and succinctly taking his listeners through the life of Jesus of Nazareth and claiming his own place as one who is to proclaim the message of that life. I know that I am nowhere near this effective. Even with the luxuries of having been raised in faith and the opportunities to study and teach theology, I stumble. Despite what I know and believe and have experienced, I can get bashful and tongue-tied when trying to speak candidly about my faith.

Perhaps the key (as it is in so many things) is to not overthink it. Do I know the story of Jesus? Yes. Have I experienced that story intersecting with mine in significant ways? You bet. Can I see the Spirit at work in the world? Why, yes. That’s all I need to say, without worrying about how it will be received or how I will be assessed because of it. That’s someone else’s job. Mine is to witness.

God, who shows no partiality, help me to be an effective witness to your Son, Jesus. Make me bold, clear, and honest. Thank you for teaching me about you in such an abundance of ways. Amen.

Written by Susan Quaintance, Director, Center for Life and Learning

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