Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Testimony



We are putting no obstacle in anyone’s way, so that no fault may be found with our ministry, but as servants of God we have commended ourselves in every way: through great endurance, in afflictions, hardships, calamities, beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, sleepless nights, hunger; by purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, holiness of spirit, genuine love, truthful speech, and the power of God; with the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and for the left; in honor and dishonor, in ill repute and good repute. We are treated as impostors, and yet are true; as unknown, and yet are well known; as dying, and see—we are alive; as punished, and yet not killed; as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing everything.  (2 Corinthians 6:3-10) 


After a discussion in my Adult Bible Study class, I keep thinking about this passage. In the denomination in which I grew up, a testimony was a statement one gave, the story of one’s faith. A person might be asked to share their testimony in a specific setting. In being asked to give a testimony, it was generally understood to that one was to speak of the arc of realizing one’s sin, coming to awareness of the need for God’s mercy, throwing one’s self on that mercy, and proceeding to live a changed life. 

In thinking about Paul’s words to the Corinthians above, it occurs to me that he is giving his testimony to them. His witness, however, is not in the story of his faith shared. Rather, what Paul points out to the Corinthians are his actions. He gives an accounting of how he lives and works, the way he acts and the choices he makes. This is his testimony- his actions reveal his true priorities.
The Greek μαρτυρία (marturia) is often translated as testimony in the New Testament. When it is used for testimony, it often means as a witness in the legal sense- as in one is giving a testimony before a judge. This means others used the testimony (maturia) of the disciples and apostles to examine their motives and means. It also means that false or implicating testimonies were used against Paul and others to harm or halt them.

And, yes, the term μαρτυρία is related to another term for witness, one that we translate as “martyr”. 
 
Understanding that most people don’t really want to be martyrs, we are not off the hook for being witnesses. Bearing false witness, in this instance, means having a testimony that is incongruent in its parts. The words of your testimony- the story of your faith- match up with your daily actions? Even in your doubts, is there a through line that someone else can clearly perceive regarding your motivations, your loyalties, your priorities, and your faithfulness? 

Like Paul, our testimony is not the story we tell in our best clothes to people who are predisposed to take us at our word. Our testimony is what we do and say with our checkbooks, in our homes, when we’re aggravated, when the car breaks down, when we are lied to (again), when we despair of change in the larger world. 

How’s your testimony? Is it the witness you want to give? What needs cleaning up? 

Sunday, July 22, 2018

Yes And (Sermon)

Sermon for 18 July 2018, Feast Day of Mary Magdalene

Some of this sermon was inspired by this book: God, Improv, and the Art of Living.

The person who helped with the sermon works for this theater company: https://www.tbatheatre.org


Wednesday, July 18, 2018

The Idol of Virginity

CN: This might not be for you if you're uncomfortable with the idea of me having sex. Hi, Dad! :)






There's an article circulating the internet right now where the TL:DR is "real" Christian men prefer debt-free virgins without tattoos. Some men (and women) may prefer this in a wife. Nevertheless, the blanket prescription that living your best wife life depends on retaining your virginity, rejecting college, and continuing to live with your parents until marriage is not only false, it's dangerous.

I'm going to digress.

There was a point in my life where I was taught and I believed that retaining my virginity until my wedding night was the highest virtue I could attain. I was certainly expected to go to college. I could change my own tires and learned how to figure out when I was being upsold unnecessarily at the mechanic's shop. I worked in a grocery store, a hotel, as a tutor, a babysitter, and an office assistant. In the two years that I was at a four-year school (graduating when I was 20), I never even drove to the beach for a weekend. I broke up with a guy who pressured me to have sex with him because that was not in the plan. The plan, the big plan, beyond graduation and everything was to be a virgin when I got married. It was the Right Thing To Do.

Then I met a guy. I moved to Nome, Alaska, worked for a radio station, did my first tequila shots, saw the Northern Lights, and met a guy.

I liked this guy. I liked him a lot. He was interesting, smart, generous, and had a great dog. We stayed up very late talking, had intensely competitive Scrabble games, and cooked for each other.

But here was the kicker: he didn't care that I was a virgin.

By this I mean, he neither celebrated it nor denigrated it. To him, it was one part of me, just like the fact that I would never beat him in push-ups, but that I would always kick his butt in Boggle. He told me that it would be wrong to be excited about something that was just a choice I had made since he wouldn't have been offended or put off it if I had made a different choice. Being a virgin was just part of me, not all of me. Accepting all of the parts of me was what made love, love.

It took me a while to see this for the grace that it was and is. The party I wanted for having held on to a specific social construct of purity was an idol that I had built with help from certain denominations and role models in my life. None of them had ever talked about the worth of my friends who had been raped, molested, or simply chosen differently and what they would bring to a relationship. Or, worse, it might have been mentioned that a truly, godly man would see past those things.

SCREW THAT NOISE.

Showing grace and love to a partner means loving who they are. In the Mr. Rogers's way, "I like you just the way you are" isn't that you're perfect, but that you don't have to earn my affection. I care about you as you.

When you love someone, you love who they are- which is a combination of the good and bad things that have happened to them, the choices they have made, and the paths they didn't choose. In love, we don't celebrate the pain in a person's past, but we do love who they are in the wake of healing. In love, we don't idolize isolated skills or choices, but accept them as part of what makes the beloved just so.

So in my life, I've only had sex with one man. It's the same man who likes that he's been the only one, but wouldn't care if there had been 1 or 50 before him, because he loved who he met and how her experiences had shaped her.

Since I'm not a Christian man or any kind of man, I'm going to speculate on what they might like. I think a real man (or woman or person!) will love and appreciate a person for who they are. Part of loving someone is knowing that the person is going to grow and change and accepting a future together is agreeing to be part of that change and trusting that the person in question will love you as you are evolved (sanctified) into the future that's ahead of you.

Putting "virginity" (typically a social construct about the absence of penis in vagina sex) on a pedestal is idolatry as much as any other kind.

Love yourself. Be kind to yourself. Move slowly and make choices, with the Holy Spirit, that minimize your regrets. Forgive yourself and get help to deal with the pains that happen to you.

And remember that a person who is worth sharing a life, a car, vacation time, and a bed with will graciously do all these things to you as well... and to themselves.




I have written about a similar topic here.