A Testimony from the Mesa
Last week I was at Ghost Ranch, a beautiful Presbyterian Conference Center located in the mountains north of Santa Fe. It is well known for its scenic views that Georgia O’Keefe painted during her life in the Southwest. I was there for a conference with the Synod of the Southwest learning about Preaching Difficult Texts. Anna Carter Florence, our teacher for the week, used scripture, poetry and discussions to help us think about preaching using testimony. She says, “A sermon in the testimony tradition is not an autobiography but a very particular kind of proclamation: the preacher tells what she has seen and heard in the biblical text and in life, and then confesses what she believes about it.”
Testimonies invite us to share God’s message to us in a unique way by encountering the text in relation to the intersections of our own life and the biblical text, which means that everyone has a message to share, both you and I included. As the week progressed over meals, amazing hikes, and discussions, we all shared some of our own testimonies.
During one afternoon hike through a beautiful canyon I wondered what testimonies these beautiful rock formations, mesas and valleys have to preach to us. Would they proclaim the awe of God’s hand at creation by telling us about how water and wind formed tall pillars of rock and deep canyons and tall mesas. God does make beautiful land when we take a moment to admire it.
Would they share about the bushes and trees that live between the crevices holding on during wind storms with their strong and deep roots. Each there to remind us that during hard seasons hold on because God will provide the nourishing rains and support you need.
Maybe their message would be about change as they saw dinosaurs come and then become extinct, animals living off the brush and grasses. They might point out the stories of natives living off the land, cowboys and ranchers fight for the ranch land and water rights. Change is hard, conflict sometimes seems impossible to see past but there is a steadiness about God who promises to show us the way through even when we don’t know how or why it is happening.
Or possibly the message is about the hundreds of people who come to the ranch for classes, hiking or respite from their busy lives. The land tells their stories too of heart aches from loved ones lost and the joy of children, burnout and hard work, exhaustion and new-found energy, tears and laughter, loud singing and silent meditation. God’s message is that you can’t avoid what you are going through, but lean in to the difficult moments and trust that God’s forgiveness, grace and truth will show you the way.
You too have some amazing testimonies of how God has been working in your life. I invite you to share them with others or with me. I would love to hear them.