Nicole Havelka Consulting Blog
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Giving Witness: Why I love Jesus

The Language of God,” a new ad from the United Church of Christ went “viral” last Friday, April 16. You won’t see it during the commercial breaks of your favorite television shows. Instead, you’ll see by clicking on a link in a friend’s Facebook status or in an email message.

The minute and a half ad shows numerous images loosely categorized under heading like “Love,” Compassion,” “Mercy,” and “Justice.” It reminds us that God speaks those languages every day, not (usually) as a booming voice in the sky, but through regular people like you and me. Passing along this ad is an easy way to pass that message along.

My Iowa Conference colleague, Rev. Jonna Jensen, said in a sermon yesterday at the Southeast Association meeting, that giving witness is the traditional way we pass along these stories. But, those of us in the mainline Protestant church have gotten away from giving witness, even though we have great stories to tell.

I think there are a couple of reasons for this phenomenon. We’ve just come from a time when it was pretty safe to assume that everyone already knew Jesus’ story. Almost everyone went to some church. And, even if you didn’t, you were familiar with the Christian story because it was so embedded in our culture. More recently, those of us who espouse a more progressive Christianity have resisted giving witness because we do not want to be confused with some of our more conservative Christian Evangelical brothers and sisters who sometimes use their witness in manipulative and damaging ways.

But, sisters and brothers, the time has come to shed those inhibitions we have about giving witness. God has worked powerfully in our lives and we SHOULD NOT keep that story to ourselves. In an effort to model the giving of witness (behind the relative safety of my computer screen), let me tell you a little today about why I love Jesus:

When I was a deeply cynical young adult, God led me to a UCC church that welcomed me despite my abrasive attitude and told me it was OK to have questions about my faith. God then spoke to me, an angry and frustrated mess, through the 2000-year-old gospel text and called ME to be a minister of that gospel. When I was in seminary, I learned that Jesus’ welcomed people in outrageous, even radical, ways: He ate dinner with sinners and healed the sick and was kind to people with whom no one else would even have a conversation. I realized what it means to believe in a God that would become a human just like us to stand beside us. laugh with us, cry with us and suffer with us to death. Jesus transforms me each and every day, calling me to be full of more grace and mercy and hope and love than I could ever muster on my own.

You may have a story like this. If you do, share it and pass along this great ad that the UCC just created. If you don’t have such a story, take a moment to listen to other people’s stories and try to believe that there are churches out there that want to be tolerant rather than exclusionary, and transforming rather than rigid.

Maybe you even want to try one of our churches some time. I did and look what happened to me!

2 Comments

  1. Rev. Havelka, It's always good to hear news from Iowa. I was raised in the SE Association at Denmark UCC. I was ordained there in 1977 and presently serve Wayside UCC in Federal Way, Washington. I thought the ad was powerful and so did our youth. We are a small congregation but have a dedicated group of young adults. They have started a program called PLUSS (Peace, Love and Understanding: Spiritual Studies) It is an inter-faith discussion group that meets in the Seattle area. Let's hear it for the church of today.
    Rev. Dennis Hollinger-Lant, Pastor
    Wayside UCC
    Federal Way, WA

  2. Hi, Dennis, it's great to hear that your young adult group is going so well. (I love the name!) That kind of inter-faith discussion is something that young adults are hungry for, but is rarely done in our churches (despite that the UCC is a denomination that would naturally create space for such a dialogue). I'd love to hear more about that group so that we can learn from it and maybe create a version here in Iowa.

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