What's Your Testimony?
Back before my son, Ian, turned into "eat everything in the house–dribble the basketball at all times IN THE HOUSE–headphone permanently stuck to his head TEENAGE" Ian, there was my son the eight year-old.
When Ian was about that age and in Sunday School class one day, after a Bible story was read he heard another child very appropriately say "that story was about God."
The teacher then asked Ian what he thought about the story. As any self-respecting preacher's kid would do, Ian rather disgustedly piped up and said, "God, God, God, all we ever talk about is God!"
God, God, God, all we ever talk about is God.
One of my favorite days when we talk about God happens to be this Saturday morning when the deacons, ruling elders, and staff in our church all gather to hear the faith stories of new session members and deacons. We don't ask those sharing their story to give an "I believe" statement that rivals the Nicene Creed, but rather we ask them to tell us how God has been active in their day-to-day life through the years.
They are asked to share how the "word is made flesh" in their lives, what some Christians call (get ready for it) "testimony."
I know testimony is a word that makes some of us uncomfortable. Talk to me about mission and I'm all ears. Talk to me about community and you have my attention. Mention the word testimony and I would rather re-watch the Green Bay/Dallas game from a few weeks ago.
We don't like the word "testimony" because we all know what it's like to have someone force their personal testimony upon us, and we don't want to be like those people. We Presbyterians reason that we like to show God's love, not talk about it. We can identify with the old joke from Flip Wilson who once said he was a Jehovah's Bystander. Explaining, he said, "they wanted me to become a Jehovah’s Witness, but I didn't want to get involved."
Those of us who don't like "testimony" are faced with a conundrum though, because our sacred text (see specifically the John the Baptist lectionary reading coming up on January 19) is one gigantic testimony to the nature of God. God's people don't just use actions to show God's love, they use words to talk about God's love.
If something is as important to us as our faith, why wouldn't we talk about it?
This hit home for me again a few weeks ago. I was lamenting to a colleague about how I don't enjoy talking about money with those who have previously pledged to the church but for some reason did not this year. My friend shared a story about another minister who had the same problem but finally realized that it was not a burden at all to talk about money if he really believed in the mission of the church and really believed in where the money was being spent.
In the same way if we really believe in what is God is doing in our lives, and in the world, let's talk about it. Let's share it.
The great theologian Karl Barth once said anybody who stops on the sidewalk and points upward will draw a crowd of onlookers, each one looking up to see what's captured another's attention. That is really the main mission of the church – to simply point toward God. Words are even acceptable to use.
So how about reclaiming the word "testimony?"
God, God, God, all we ever talk about is God? I sure hope so.
Grace and Peace,