This post originally published as: Brother Jed, Sister Cindy, and Me
They reappeared on campus each year, returning faithfully as did spring robins, blooming daffodils, and budding trees. As warm weather coaxed students to linger outside classroom buildings, street preacher Jed Smock and his faithful sidekick Sister Cindy drew crowds on the walkways between Sackett and Willard on the Penn State campus. They shouted and preached, proclaimed and condemned; emboldened, it seemed, by every act of ridicule and insult tossed in their direction.
I remember discussions, among members of my campus fellowship group, about how best to respond to the spectacle of Brother Jed and Sister Cindy. We couldn’t pretend we simply hadn’t noticed them. It was hard to ignore the wild-eyed recovering disco queen wearing a floppy hat while shaking a tambourine and stomping on the devil.
Some thought this pair and their brand of street theater created an opportunity to engage students in thoughtful conversation about what the gospel really said. A few brave souls attempted to out-preach Jed and Cindy, setting themselves up across the quad in a kind of battle-of-the-street-evangelists.Several thought we should embrace these two as members of the family, distant and perhaps crazy, but family members nonetheless.
Frankly, they embarrassed the living daylights me. I just wanted Jed and Cindy to shut up and go away.
I hadn’t thought about these two for years, until I read on Sunday about David, Israel’s king, and his bold proclamation of love for God. Near the end of his life, he sang a song of praise to God, describing His mighty acts of deliverance. In the words of Psalm 40, David said:
I have told the glad news of deliverance
in the great congregation;
behold, I have not restrained my lips,
as you know, O Lord.
I have not hidden your deliverance within my heart;
I have spoken of your faithfulness and your salvation;
I have not concealed your steadfast love and your faithfulness
from the great congregation. (Psalm 40:9, 10 ESV)
David was not embarrassed to speak up and tell others about God’s faithfulness and deliverance. He did not restrain himself from speaking up about God.
I think when I hear the word proclaim, I get a mental image of Jed and Sister Cindy on the steps of that Penn State classroom building and I think, “I don’t want any part of that.” I’ll probably never take to the streets and preach. Nor am I wild about knocking on doors to ask strangers if they want to hear about Jesus.
But here, in this space, I tell my stories of God’s faithfulness and deliverance. I aim to do so with compassion and humor. Since reading David’s words yesterday, I’ve been wondering about how bold I am in proclaiming the glad news of God’s deliverance here, where I have the opportunity to do so.
So here goes.
In general, I would say the historic words of The Apostles’ Creed summarize what I believe. But in my own words, in an attempt to proclaim boldly the story of God’s deliverance:
I believe that in the beginning there was God and that He made everything and it was good. This is a free country, and many people believe there is a different story which explains how everything that is came to be. But I believe that, ultimately, only one of two possible explanations makes sense: either something came from nothing, or Something always was.
I believe that Something always was; and He is God, and He is good.
As I walk this earth and look around, I see evidence that things are no longer good. Something went wrong. Everywhere I see echoes and whispers of God’s goodness, but I also see sickness and suffering and pain which cry out, “This is not the way things are supposed to be.”
I believe that sin entered the world through one man’s rebellion, and all the grief in this world flowed as a consequence of that original sin.
Sin separated man from a holy God and, though we try, we cannot attain His standard of perfection. Not only man, but everything in creation groans under the consequences of man’s rebellion against God. Creation itself cries out for deliverance.
But because God is rich in mercy, He sent His Son as a sacrifice as the only means of reconciling sinful man to himself. If there were any other way for God’s wrath against sin to be satisfied, then Christ’s death on the cross was both unnecessary and cruel.
By grace through faith in Christ’s death and resurrection, I have been reconciled to God; not because of anything I have done. And Christ offers this same forgiveness and the promise of eternal life to anyone who desires it.
Not only have I experienced forgiveness, but I have also known God’s provision and protection throughout many seasons of life. He walked with me through years of treatment for infertility and led me to the adoption of my children. He sustained me through the grief of my father’s death. He has taught me to extend forgiveness and receive it from others. I see ongoing evidence of God at work healing, repairing, and restoring brokenness in my life and in the world around me.
Because the gospel is about more than restoration of my personal relationship to Christ. It is about all things being reconciled to God. Christ came not only to forgive sinners, but also to establish His kingdom. He came to make all things new.
And he invites me to participate in His work.
So here I tell my stories, attempting to bear witness to God’s acts of faithfulness and His work of deliverance in my life. I’ve never had anyone disagree with me here, trying to shout me down on the internet, having taken issue with something I’ve said. Perhaps someday someone will.
I have no interest in creating a spectacle or of drawing a crowd like Brother Jed and Sister Cindy. I hope my words are not an embarrassment to the cause of Christ. But I also, like David, don’t want to restrain my lips.
I want to proclaim publicly that God is good.