A sermon is a prepared, edited, and (usually) spoken work of prose or poetry that, ultimately has as one of it's goals the proclamation of an aspect of God. What separates it from a testimony is the preparation. The purpose of both is the same, but a preacher studies the Bible, studies what other people have said about his or her chosen text through the reading of commentaries, and works as a writer of books and articles does in polishing and adjusting what is said until the exact point they want to make is clear.
Folks, today is going to be a testimony day for me. I have been in the presence of God. I did not notice it at the time, I was busy focused elsewhere;
• Focused on the words of doctors;
• Focused on the telemetry screens giving heart rate, intra-cranial pressure, respiration rate and such;
• Focused on signs of movement and of the return of the person I know and love.
It took a conversation with a colleague of mine, a chance meeting when I happened to see her in the parking lot of her church as I drove by, and pulled in, to show me that I was not focused on God because I just knew he was there. I have not focused on the ground much either, or on the air that I breathe. But I know they are there, too.
God has been with me. Has been with Donna, has been with Josiah and my mom. God is with you all too.
We can see the power of God all we want--in an earthquake that moves New Zealand closer to Australia--in a rainstorm that obliterates the view out Donna's hospital room to the degree we can't see the Sheraton 3 blocks away. Seeing God's power is easy.
But I have seen God's grace and love this month, too.
• in the talents and the knowledge of the doctors and nurses who have taken care of Donna so well;
• in the over 11,600 visits to our CaringBridge website by friends and family all over the country, and even a few international entries;
• by the cards and gifts and donations which are such a comfort to me;
• by the love and grace shown to me by Donna's work colleagues, who to a one say that this year's performing Arts' Institute feels different without her there, works a little less well with her not around;
• and lastly, I have seen the face of God through your love and grace and attention to our physical needs. As Sheryl has said, it is time for the congregation to pastor to the pastor.
And through what you have done, what I knew to be true, that the face of God is shown to his people through his other people, has been demonstrated again and again, and again.
I will never believe that it was in God's plan to give Donna a brain tumor. I just do not believe that God is in the business of causing his people pain without their assent, and in the face of Biblical literalism, I say that God does not punish with disease. But God is absolutely in the midst of this trial which has been laid onto us, onto Donna. As I sit with her, encourage her, get mad at her and love her, I hope that I am the face of God for her, and that as her awareness increases, she sees that face in the others around her.
There is a long row to hoe yet. She shows every sign of returning, after a time, to her old self. But soon we will need to begin to attack the brain tumor itself, and her default, her chosen and base attitude is aggressive. We will make it so, in the words of Jean Luc Picard, but it will be harrowing and difficult. God's face will shine even more brightly in the days to come, I have no doubt.
God did not cause this, but God is in the midst of this with us. And because he is still here, we are still here.
This is my testimony.