The Testimony of Your Heart – Br. Curtis Almquist
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St. Philip, Deacon and Evangelist
In the calendar of the church we remember today one of Jesus’ early followers named Philip, traditionally referred to as a Deacon and Evangelist. Most likely this Philip is not Philip the apostle, but rather a namesake, one of seven appointed by the apostles to distribute bread and alms to the widows and the poor in Jerusalem. We hear in our reading from the Acts of the Apostles, Philip travels south of Jerusalem to Gaza, and en route encounters an Ethiopian who is trying to make sense of the prophecy of Isaiah. Philip was obviously prepared and ready to give witness to how Isaiah was pointing to Jesus.
The church has remembered this story about Philip; however it’s less to do with the conversion of this Ethiopian. After Jesus’ resurrection, multitudes of people were converting to Christ. The importance of this story is more about Philip. He was prepared. Jesus had talked almost endlessly about being prepared almost endlessly in his teachings and parables. “Be prepared.” “Keep awake.” “Be ready.” Be ready for an encounter that awaits you. We read in the First Letter of Peter: “Always be ready to make your defense to anyone who demands from you an accounting for the hope that is in you.”[i] Be ready. If you claim to be Christian, why? Not why did you become a Christian, but why have you remained a Christian? What is the good news – what is it of Jesus’ “good news” – that keeps you a follower of Jesus today?
This awareness is the makings of a testimony, and that’s important for two reasons. For one: our own sake: the practice of the presence of God now. How is God breaking through to you now? How are you aware of God’s presence and God’s provision in your life now? This is to live our lives, not mindlessly but mindfully aware of how Jesus is making good on his promise to be with us, always: Jesus’ presence and his provision.[ii] Why are you still professing to be Christian? Practice his presence, and you will know his provision.
Secondly, it’s so important to have a “live” testimony in our heart and on our lips because we don’t know when we will be called upon to be “on.” All of us our missionaries. “Always be ready to make your defense to anyone who demands from you an account of the hope that is in you.”
Prior to my coming to the monastery, I was a parish priest in the Diocese of Chicago. I was a Curate, and my Rector put this discipline to a daily practice. The Rector and I would both be present for the weekday liturgies. Following the reading of the Gospel we would meet in the middle of the sanctuary and reverence the altar. In that split second while we were bowed, our backs to the congregation, the rector would announce in a whisper which of us would preach, now. The rector would whisper to me something like, “I’ve got it!” or he would say, “You’re on!” (Sometimes we playfully fought a little for just a second. I would sometimes say, “no way am I going to preach on that,” and he would respond with something like, “You want a paycheck this week?”) Anyway, that became our practice week-in and week-out. I initially found this incredibly intimidating, to have all of about three seconds to turn around and deliver a homily. But the rector’s practice was to always be ready to share the good news amidst so much bad news that people face in the course of a day. Wherever he was, with whomever he was, the rector was prepared to share the good news of Jesus.
This is a very helpful practice for all of us: to be ready with a testimony to your faith in Jesus Christ. Here’s a good question to start the day. What is your testimony that would be cogent and credible to someone within the church, and to someone outside the church tradition… which is most everyone we meet these days on the street? No spiritual gobbledygook. If someone asks you today in Harvard Square or in your hometown why you are a follower of Jesus Christ, what’s the word, the authentic word in your heart and upon your lips? What is your testimony in real time? So we read in the First Letter of John, “Those who believe in the Son of God have the testimony in their hearts.”[iii]
[i] 1 Peter 3:15.
[ii] Matthew 28:20.
[iii] 1 John 5:10.
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…answers to prayers…love…moments of synchronicity where ones’ mind is at work and Gods’ PRESENCE appears alongside…BUT at age 70, I only have ‘one’ internal experience that outweighs all of these…
…while sitting and waiting to punch out at work and my head leaning back on the chair and eyes closed the WORD אב IN BRIGHT YELLOW WITH COPPER BACKGROUND SLOWLY ROLLED ‘UP’ INSIDE ME AND THAN SLOWLY FADED … this was so powerful that i stood up in the office and said, “…what was that…”?
…never had any internal visions, especially in color, but this is now with me everyday! …when I pray I always say ‘father’. …studied Hebrew for several years but this occurrence in Hebrew was REAL!
I thought this was wonderful! I enjoyed the story of the curate who might expect to be “on” at any given moment. Such a great testimony.
I have been avoiding putting my testimony into works, thus giving me the excuse not to share my faith. Thank you, Br. Curtis, for giving me encouragement to move forward.
Wow, what a thought provoking message and a great challenge. Something for me to ponder on and develop during this day. Blessings,
That’s Grreeaaat !
Wow! Thank you Brother Curtis. Your message stopped me cold when i read it yesterday. Only today can i really think about how to live it. As always, i am so grateful.
Dear Br. Curtis, I so cherish your testimony. I remain a Christian as Jesus conveys to me like no other how to live this life in the here and now. I also remain a Christian as the Bible expands my horizons as to what is possible – it provides fodder for seeing and believing in the miraculous in my day to day life. And I also remain a Christian thanks to you and your brothers, and other very special Christians who feed my faith by your words of wisdom. To you, I am ever so grateful for you enrich my life.
God, through Jesus and the Holy Spirit, is always with us, always available to us. We are the party that get’s preoccupied, wanders off, loses touch. God is always up to something new so opportunities for discipleship, for faith, for witness should not surprise us. Being “present” is a useful, oft used counsel for Christians – but it can be primarily inward. “Be ready” emphasizes the active nature of being a Christian. Jesus was an activist — the pre-eminent manifestation of “readiness.” We, like Philip, need to “be ready”!
Thank you, Br. Curtis!
Love – as Julian of Norwich says, “Love is the meaning.” Thank you, dear Curtis, forrcalling us all to life.
Sharing this beautiful message today. Thanks