I read an article recently in which a pastor deliberated the pros and cons of wearing a clerical collar. On the positive side, it reduces wardrobe decision-making, claims a pastoral identity in public places, and offers a witness. This, the collar announces, is a minister of the gospel.
Which made me wonder: how do we recognize a “run-of-the-mill, Bible believing, worship attending, small group participating, missionally engaged United Methodist Christian” if we meet one on the street? There is not a wardrobe choice for most of us. We don’t wear our church nametags to the church building, much less to work. With the exception of a few honored among us, there is no UMW mission recognition lapel pin to put on. Some of us may, in certain settings, wear church tee shirts or knit shirts but probably not to make a statement about who we are. It’s more likely laundry day.
How would you know a Christian if you saw one on the street? The Bible, and Mr. Wesley, both seem to suggest it has something to do with the way we live. There are qualities of Christian life that may be present in non-believers as well – things like compassion, justice, kindness, gracefulness, a servant heart, peace, joy, love. Things like that. The difference between one who lives that way in allegiance to Christ and one who lives that way because it makes for a good life is the answer given when asked “why?” The believer gives witness that we live that way responsively. We live that way not to be better people but because God in Christ is making us to be truly human people.
Witness is not easy. And it involves something more than a wardrobe choice. It is a way of life. It is a spoken word. It is a deliberate intention to bring Christ into the moment. And it is what Jesus commands us to do – with one another and the world. We witness where we are and go from there into all of the other places that Jesus sends us. But we start where we are.
We’ll spend some time on this Sunday as we gather for worship. There will be a baptism. New members will join their witness to ours. We will hear two versions of the same story from Luke (Acts 1:6-8; Luke 24:44-49) in which Jesus commands us to witness to him. And we will think about what that looks like in our lives as we “begin in Jerusalem.”
Hope to see you Sunday. Your presence will be a witness to others present as well as to those who ask you later “what’d you do Sunday morning?” Come be a witness.
Grace and peace.