Faith of A Mustard Seed

Barbara Woods Washington

Barbara Woods-Washington , M. Div.

“to appoint you to serve and bear witness to the things in which you have seen me and to those in which I will appear to you, delivering you from the people and from the Gentiles— to whom I send you to open their eyes, that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.”  (Acts 26:16-18). ‘Faith’ in Acts.

One of the most common terms used in scripture is the ‘serve’ (verb) and ‘servant’ (noun) word group.  For the incalculable number of times we see these two words in English translations, it is impossible to delineate the various words used in the written language of scripture. It is exciting to me to arrive at a text that is full of such rare linguistics; particularly with reference to text that is recorded as spoken by Christ.  It gives cause for the quest for deeper understanding of the Word of God.

‘Upereten’, used here for ‘serve’ is the rarest of the words used in New Testament which translate to this verb. The oldest reference to it’s usage is found outside scripture and is given to Hermes, the messenger of the gods who executes the will of Zeus.  This service is summoned by a higher authority.  It gives the one who is to serve a divine order to stand and act at the disposal of the will of God.  Unlike the service used for hospitality, or the service used for armies, nor the service used for the slave— this service is distinguished by the willingness to serve without prejudice to personal dignity and worth.  Still again, it is God speaking to Paul, giving purpose to the calling from ‘persecution service’  to ‘salvation service’.  To act on His behalf.  To make His cause his own.  “… for this purpose, to appoint you to serve”… the Will of God!

This “2020Vision for the Post Covid Black Church” is Reformation!  I am drawn to that point in History when Judaism No Longer saw the Need for a Priesthood!  (I know.  Right?)  The Crisis was Exile by the Babylonians.  The Temple was Destroyed.  Restoration included the exchange in Leadership from Priest To Rabbi!  (Take Jesus, who by his times, many addressed him as…Rabbi… “I know that you are a Teacher… Come from God!”)The “Self Serving Preacher/Pastor” of our times has moved way too far from “Salvation Service”.  Luther’s “95 Thesis”… this Vision is: “Reformation”.

The term ‘martura/witness’ (martyr) has the sense ‘to bear in mind’; ‘to remember’; ‘to speak of personal experience’; ‘proclamation of truths viewed or convinced’; to testify concerning things seen or heard’.  In New Testament, the original use of witness is seen in ‘The Twelve’ who can speak about their direct knowledge of the things that they have seen in their historical experience with Jesus— inclusive of betrayal and denial.  Here and now, to call Paul to witness to the things that he has seen Christ, is a new direction— revealed truth; faith based knowledge; conviction; confession.  It is in this vein that we therefore become “surrounded by ‘so great a cloud of witnesses…”.

To view the ‘Call of The Twelve’ and the ‘Call of Saul (Paul)’ as a parallel reveals that the ‘purpose’ of God for Salvation of (hu)man(ity) in Jesus Christ remains constant.  For ‘The Twelve’, the calling is to be with Jesus (in his historical earthly life and ministry);  be sent out to preach; and, have authority over unclean spirits.  For Paul, present with Lord is revelatory— it IS BY FAITH; as the mission remains— serve and witness.

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