Monday, May 22, 2017

Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and More

"But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth."  (Acts 1:8)

What does it mean to be a witness?  We are all witnesses each day because we all see things and report on them to others.  We tell others about our life experiences so we are all witnesses to what happens in life.   We want to share with others about those things and want others to share with us about what is going on in their lives.  If something happens to us that we think is significant or important, then we want others to know about this event so they will understand its impact on our lives.

That is basically what Jesus was telling his disciples as he was preparing them for the day when he would leave them.  Go, and tell others about what you have experienced during the time I was with you all.  Those were the instructions that Jesus gave the disciples as he prepared to leave and return to heaven.

Jesus' closest friends had experienced many things during the three years of ministry with him.  They had seen Jesus heal many people, raise some people from the dead, and had heard him teach all about the Kingdom of God and what it meant to live in it.  So, Jesus was now leaving them and he was telling them to tell others about what they had experienced and learned while they had been with him.  That is one of the reasons why the New Testament exists.  It is a recollection and interpretation of the stories, experiences, and teachings those closest to Jesus had received during Jesus' earthly ministry.  Bible scholars call this collection "The Jesus Tradition".  We have this collection of memories of Jesus to reflect upon as we decide what they mean to us as we live together in Christian community.

Jesus told his disciples to begin at home and expand from there as they shared with others what they had experienced with him.  Jerusalem was home base for them so they were to begin there and then expand through the region called Judea.  They were even supposed to go to those with whom they had animosity or could not agree, such as the Samaritans.  From there, the world was their parish.  They were to carry the Gospel to all who would listen to them.

We share our Christian experience and witness with others beginning with those whom we know well, letting them know what we have learned so that it may benefit them as it has us.  We use all that modern society has shared with us to share our witness with others...the telephone, email, social media and maybe even the old fashioned method of letter writing to tell our story.  We tell it to those who know us best and we tell it to others in the world who may not know us at all.  Our story is personal to us but it is also global because it is a story of truth and beauty that all need to hear.

The reason we can tell the story to others is because we have been empowered by the Holy Spirit to do the works that Jesus asked us to do.  The Spirit gives us the courage to act and speak and to do it in a way that will encourage others to listen and learn.  We speak as the Spirit gives us the language to use and we rely upon the Spirit as our source of strength and knowledge.

So, go out and tell the story to all who will listen.  It is a story that needs to be shared with all, beginning with those who know it best and continuing to those who have never heard it at all, even in this modern age of communication sources that astound and amaze us.