Lent 2020: Devotional On Witness By Jessica Vittorio

Jessica VittorioJessica Vittorio is a member of First UMC Dallas and a lay delegate to General Conference 

Before the events of the past few weeks began to truly unfold, I wrote a devotional on “Witness.” My original piece was focused on the importance of active and vocal witness leading up to General Conference, but – if I’m being honest – it pales in comparison to the obvious questions before us now:

How do we witness in a time when our churches are more isolated and distanced, both physically and emotionally, than ever? And what’s the value in these new and alternative forms of witness?

As I’ve meditated on these questions, there are times when they’ve felt silly. Of course, alternative methods of witness carry weight! How could they not? But then I think back to the Bible – I mean, Jesus’ final commission to us was “Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations. …” (Matthew 28:19). Go and make being the key verbs there; not sit in your apartment alone and binge-watch Netflix.

So how do we go and make in a time of social distancing?

It’s time for us to reimagine “going and making,” redefining them from physical acts to  emotional ones – acts of intentionality and compassion as opposed to ones of physical presence. There are countless ways we can continue to engage in our communities and congregations without being physically present within them. Our witness is often communicated most effectively through our actions – after all, faith without works is dead.

We now have abundant time to pray for those near us and around the world, to send letters of support to those who may not be able to interact with anyone physically, to communicate electronically with those that we may not have had time to slow down long enough to reach out to, to refocus our priorities from the hustle and bustle of our normal lives to the beauty and wholeness that exists in our families and immediate environment.

We have been presented a gift – the chance to focus the efforts of our witness not on what may happen three months down the road, but rather to focus on what is happening today. It’s an opportunity to bring our full presence to the table in our witness … instead of the portions of it we would normally bring when our plates are full and our schedules are chaotic.

And the best part is that the world needs our witness now more than ever – people are yearning for messages of hope and grace in this time of crisis, and – as children of God – we have the once-in-a-lifetime chance to be witnesses to the peace and comfort that comes from our relationship with Jesus.

What I’ve always loved about the concept of witness is that it highlights the unique value of each of our journeys and respects that the true beauty of God is only fully exhibited through the coming together and sharing of these experiences in tandem. Someone will benefit from my witness in a way that they will not benefit from yours, and vice versa. We need all of these collective experiences to attempt to paint the full picture of God’s grace and love – and we need it now more than ever.

The beauty of the Methodist church, and our history of connectionalism, is the recognition that our strength and connection to God is amplified by the power of our collective witness. This collective witness has carried the message of God throughout tumultuous historical periods, vast geographic distances, through peace and crisis – but only because we recognized each as new opportunity to share and expand that witness in new and alternative ways.  

Published: Tuesday, April 7, 2020