The Witness of Our Souls

Rev. Dr. DeWayne L. Davis

This Week at Plymouth, December 15, 2023

My soul is a witness.

—Cole Arthur Riley

During this Advent season, we have intentionally reflected on the weekly themes of peace, hope, joy, and love that many Christians use to mark the season. Just like with so many religious traditions and liturgical practices, nothing suggests we must observe these themes. They arose from the collective reading and discernment of Scripture about how best, through ritual and liturgy, to reenact the incarnation of God’s living presence within and among us and God’s promise of life and liberation to come. And yet, we would be remiss if we forgo the opportunity to reflect and illuminate such profound concepts as peace, hope, joy, and love amid cynicism, consumerism, and individualism. But is anyone listening? And why would anyone listen to us?

Recently, a dear friend who has long since given up on the church and engagement with any faith tradition demurred at the way Christians appear to resort to “fearmongering and force” in their witness. They concluded, “It doesn’t look like they believe that God or Christ has any power.” I fear far too many people of faith have not confronted or made peace with their grief and doubts about our expectations of Divine action and response to the world’s brokenness. Perhaps our overreliance on reason and persuasion robs the experience of Advent of a more powerful reality: the witness of our souls. If our liturgies and proclamations of this season have any effect, they won’t come through fear or force. It will come through our testimony of the place and power of hope, peace, joy, and love in a world hungry for good news.

I’ve noticed that all of the preachings on the Advent themes so far have begun with the witness of the preachers’ souls. They have shared with the hearers the reach, impact, and effect of their encounter and experience of hope and peace, including their dialogue with and questions of Scripture and tradition and their expectations for how to make those themes come alive in our faith and work. In the witness of their souls, they keep alive the promise and power of hope and peace right now. What a powerful antidote to cynicism, futility, and mendacity! Through the witness of our souls, we make room for more dialogue, more reflection, and deeper engagement with the loftier desires of our hearts that can potentially transform a world determined to oppose the forces of good and justice. I pray you let the witness of your soul herald the good news of love, light, and justice in our midst. May it be so.