Aloha Friday Message – November 11, 2016 – Can I Get a Witness?

1646AFC111116 – Can I get a Witness?

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Luke 21:13 13 This will give you an opportunity to testify.

GNT Luke 21:13 Ἀποβήσεται δὲ ὑμῖν εἰς μαρτύριον.

¡Que la bendición esté siempre con ustedes y que Dios los bendiga, Amados! (May blessing always be with you and may God bless you, Belovéd!) This short passage comes from the readings for the Thirty-Third Sunday in Ordinary Time. It is in this passage that Jesus tells the Disciples – and us of course – about what will happen when the end of the world is near. It is one of those “eschatological texts,” verses or passages that describe the “end times.” There are, not surprisingly, many points of view about this. All of us can recall events during the 19th and 20th centuries when the “Second Coming” was proclaimed and a date fixed for the return of Christ and the end of the world. We who are reading this post at the moment are quite convinced that those predictions and proclamations are wrong because the World has not ended – not for us, anyway.

I don’t have any intention of getting into that debate. Many denominational preachers have exact calculations based on scripture – primarily in Daniel, the Gospels, and Revelation – and often point to current events as being fulfillments of that time table. This occurs regardless of the admonition by Jesus that “But about that day and hour, no one knows …” (See Matthew 24:36, Mark 13:32, Matthew 25:13, and Acts 1:6-9.) Nonetheless, as in this passage in Acts, we are told to be watchful and in 1 Thessalonians 5:3-8 as well (You really should read that one right now.), or 1 Peter 4:3-10 (Especially relevant in this time of turmoil and uncertainty), or Revelation 3:1-6 (Addressed to the ancient church at Sardis; this is the Church I think of when I write “WAKE UP America!”). Instead, today I want to tell you about that word witness. Now, some of you may wonder why I bother to put all this Greek stuff before your eyes. Not many of us (including me) are fluent in Biblical or Koine Greek. I just want you to see it in context so that you can – with your own eyes – see (witness) that it is there and findable. It is a very important word throughout Scripture.

The first time we come across a word meaning witness is in Genesis 21:30 30 He said, “These seven ewe lambs you shall accept from my hand, in order that you may be a witness for me that I dug this well.” This “Sevenfold Oath” gave rise to the name of the well at Beersheba in the meeting between Abimelech and Abraham. The word witness is used in this instance as a legal term indicating that these two men were in agreement that this well belonged to Abraham. They made a Peace Treaty, and the seven ewe lambs were what “sealed the deal.” Whenever Abimelech or anyone in his kingdom saw the ewes or their descendants, or used their wool, or ate their flesh, they reaffirmed the treaty – the covenant – between Abraham and Abimelech. There are about 140 uses of this word witness in the Authorized King James Version and around 120 in the New American Bible, Revised Edition. The Hebrew word there is לְעֵדָ֔ה (lə-‘ê-ḏāh,) {lə-ay-daw’} which translates testimony, witness, evidence, opportunity to testify, and martyr. It is always plural and always of laws as divine testimonies. In the Septuagint (the Greek Translation of the Old Testament), the word used is μαρτύριον (marturion) {mar-too’-ree-on}. If you look at the Greek phrase under our opening verse, you will see I have it underlined. This Greek word is used – in one form or another – throughout the New Testament (Koine Greek) and in the Septuagint as well. μαρτύριον (marturion) {mar-too’-ree-on} testimony, witness; evidence, proof; opportunity to testify; from Old English martyr, from Late Latin martyr, from Doric Greek martyr, earlier martys (genitive martyros), in Christian use “martyr,” literally “witness,” probably related to mermera “care, trouble,” from mermairein “be anxious or thoughtful.” (See Online Etymology Dictionary)

Marturion is the root of our word martyr. We first see this word in Paul’s account of the martyrdom of St. Stephen in Acts 22:20 20 and when the blood of thy martyr Stephen was shed, I also was standing by, and consenting unto his death, and kept the raiment of them that slew him. ~~ Authorized (King James) Version (AKJV) KJV reproduced by permission of Cambridge University Press, the Crown’s patentee in the UK. We also see it in Revelation 2:13 in the Letter to The Church at Pergamus. Some translators use the word martyr, and some use the word witness. Here are some examples from other places in the New Testament.

John 15:27 27 You also are to testify because you have been with me from the beginning.

καὶ ὑμεῖς δὲ μαρτυρεῖτε, ὅτι ἀπ’ ἀρχῆς μετ’ ἐμοῦ ἐστε.

Matthew 24:14 14 And this good news of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the world, as a testimony to all the nations; and then the end will come.

Καὶ κηρυχθήσεται τοῦτο τὸ εὐαγγέλιον τῆς βασιλείας ἐν ὅλῃ τῇ οἰκουμένῃ εἰς μαρτύριον πᾶσιν τοῖς ἔθνεσιν· καὶ τότε ἥξει τὸ τέλος.

Romans 1:9-10 For God, whom I serve with my spirit by announcing the gospel of his Son, is my witness that without ceasing I remember you always in my prayers, 10 asking that by God’s will I may somehow at last succeed in coming to you.

μάρτυς γάρ μού ἐστιν ὁ θεός, ᾧ λατρεύω ἐν τῷ πνεύματί μου ἐν τῷ εὐαγγελίῳ τοῦ υἱοῦ αὐτοῦ, ὡς ἀδιαλείπτως μνείαν ὑμῶν ποιοῦμαι

Acts 22:14-15 14 Then he said, ‘The God of our ancestors has chosen you to know his will, to see the Righteous One and to hear his own voice; 15 for you will be his witness to all the world of what you have seen and heard. 15  ὅτι ἔσῃ μάρτυς αὐτῷ πρὸς πάντας ἀνθρώπους ὧν ἑώρακας καὶ ἤκουσας.

A witness (n.) is one who testifies. To witness (vt.) is to see personally in present reality. Martyr is one who gives up life for the sake of a promise to God. To martyr someone is to kill them because of their faith. In this day and age, in places around The World, hundreds – perhaps thousands or even tens of thousands – are responding to Jesus call, “Can I get a witness?” Stephen said yes. Paul said yes. Peter, James, John, and Bartholomew said yes. Who among us can say yes? Who will shed her/his own blood for Christ?

Not many are ready to be martyrs. Not all are called and prepared as was “My Old Friend, Abraham.” I know some Priests who could be called bloodless martyrs or “white martyrs.” These are people who give their lives to Christ and the Body of Christ so completely that every act, every breath, every moment is offered up as a sacrifice of adoration, thanksgiving, and praise on behalf of The Faithful and of sinners. One was a missionary in Africa, another a missionary in Chinle, AZ. I also know a whole family – with many children – whose lay-missionary work is entirely dependent on God’s mercy shown through the generosity of others. Almost daily we hear of people who are martyred – not only Christians, but Muslims, Buddhists, and persons of other faiths – across Africa, Afghanistan, Myanmar (Burma) where the Rohingya-genocide occurs, Thailand, Indonesia, Guatemala, and San Salvador – all experience martyrdom, oppression, persecution, even genocide.

American Christians often cry out that we are victims of persecution. It is certainly not anything like what the experiences of millions of people elsewhere in the world experience! We hear claims that we are oppressed in our Religious Freedom because of the abuse of our FIRST AMENDMENT RIGHTS. The US Constitution certainly does provide for protection concerning religion, verbal and written expression, to assemble for cause, and the right to ask for rectification of the perceived oppression. If we were to look into who is actually being martyred here, we’d find mighty few examples. Most of what we complain about doesn’t rise even to the level of bloodless martyr. Our idea of being a witness for Christ, pretty much stops at getting up in a tent-revival meeting and answering the altar call. But there are remarkable exceptions. Many of us – whether Catholic or Evangelical fundamentalists, or Buddhists, or Jews, or you-name-it-faiths – are content to quietly go to services and live unmolested about our faith when in society. We often barely have courage to “Stand Up for Jesus.” (↔ Music Link). What’s that you say? You disagree?

“Hey! Wait a minute! YOU of all people should know that we who receive these messages make our faith known daily. And you just said, not everyone is called to be a martyr.” You’re right of course. I’m “preaching to the choir.” Yes, all of us are called to witness for Christ. Not all of us are called to witness to Christ and struggle against sin “to the point of shedding blood,” as the Apostle Paul reminded us in Hebrews 12:4-11. If, then, we are called to witness – to testify, to give evidence of our faith, to be a witness to the Power of The Spirit, how will we, how do we, how can we do that better?

The World’s most favorite Saint, St. Francis of Assisi allegedly quipped, “Preach the Gospel at all times and only if absolutely necessary, use words.” Well, whether or not he actually said that, it certainly is an ultra-brief summary of the New Testament’s admonitions to share the Gospel. I only wish to encourage you to take the dare that the Apostles took: Be the Kingdom of God. If ever we find ourselves pulling our heads into our shells like a frightened turtle at a time when we have an opportunity to testify, then we are hiding our faith, denying Christ, and missing out on the blessing of being a witness. Being a witness means being ready to “lay down one’s life for a friend.” Sometimes that’s just as simple as saying, “I’m a Christian, and I believe that _________ is wrong because it is contrary to what God has told us.” If we’re willing to compromise on something that simple, if we have to deny our cross and turn aside from The Way, then we are not the witness Jesus called upon to leave The World behind to become The Kingdom of God.

The next two verses after Sunday’s reading are Luke 17:20-21 20 Once Jesus was asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God was coming, and he answered, “The kingdom of God is not coming with things that can be observed; 21 nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or ‘There it is!’ For, in fact, the kingdom of God is among you.”

If the Kingdom is in you, shouldn’t everyone be able to see it all the time? It is and opportunity – and a reason – to testify. Can I get a witness?

Whatever, whenever, wherever, whoever, however, if ever, forever — at your service, Belovéd!

Unless otherwise indicated, all scripture passages are from the New Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition (NRSVCE) New Revised Standard Version Bible: Catholic Edition, copyright © 1989, 1993 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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Aloha Friday Messages by Charles O. Todd, III is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License

Biblical languages inserts from Bible Hub (Bible Hub: Search, Read, Study the Bible in Many Languages) Visit at http://biblehub.com

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About Chick Todd

American Roman Catholic reared as a "Baptiterian" in Denver Colorado.

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