Adapted from Karoline Lewis
Mission and ministry in Lutheran education is certainly complex as teachers and students from diverse backgrounds and experiences explore who God is and what it might mean to live in a relationship with God.
In Growing deep it states Lutheran schools and early childhood services, as part of the mission of the Lutheran church, are communities of worship and service, sharing and living the good news of Jesus Christ. Sharing and living the good news of Jesus can sometimes be called ‘witnessing’. Jesus told his disciples when he appeared to them after the resurrection “You are witnesses of these things” (Luke 24:48).
It is interesting to reflect on the statement by Jesus, “You are witnesses…”. Jesus does not say to the disciples, “you will be witnesses” or “please be witnesses,” or even, “consider being witnesses if you have time.” Jesus says to the disciples “You are witnesses of these things.” Jesus is speaking to us as well as his followers when he says, “you are witnesses.” As it turns out, witnessing is not voluntary, but a state of being.
Of course, exactly to what things we witness requires some interpretive imagination. Perhaps “these things” is the resurrection of Jesus or, perhaps “these things” is the entirety of Jesus’ ministry. After all, Jesus’ whole life was witnessing to the total nature of God’s plan to rescue all people.
I suspect that for many of us, hearing that we are witnesses is not necessarily good news. Sometimes we forget that our words and deeds witness to how we imagine God to be. Sometimes we decline the opportunity to witness to others. Sometimes we feel as though our witness wouldn’t make a difference anyway and we deny the truth of who we are and who Jesus needs us to be.
“We are witnesses” is not only who we are but also how others see God to be. “We are witnesses” both points to our calling as well as our commitment to it. “We are witnesses” gives witness to our own selves, our own faith, our own belief.
“We are witnesses” does not depend on our acceptance or agreement or approval. “We are witnesses” just is and that is the good news. Left to our own devices, we’d make up every excuse imaginable to relinquish such responsibility and to escape this vocation. Maybe instead of trying to convince ourselves that we can carry out this calling as soon as we are adequately prepared or have more time, we could try it on and see what it feels like.
Sharing and living the good news of Jesus or being ‘witnesses of these things’ in Lutheran schools and early childhood services is not an optional part of following Jesus. It’s not an intermittent activity of faith. It’s a way of life. It’s who we are.
(based on Luke 24:36-48, 1 John 3:1-7)
Lord of Dawn and Darkness,
how grateful we are for your loving mercies.
You saw our fear and doubt, our suspicion, our mistrust,
and you banished them from our lives,
replacing them with hope, peace, love, and joy.
You called us to be your witnesses, to all the world,
unafraid of what others might think or say about us.
We have been invited out of our darkened hideaways,
into the light of your world as emissaries of hope and justice,
peace and compassion.
Be with us, as we participate in ministries of healing and hope
through the church, in our community, region, nation, and world.
Give us courage and strength to be your disciples
in all the circumstances of our lives;
for we ask this in Jesus’ Name. Amen.