General Albert Orsborn was the sixth international leader of The Salvation Army. He lived through the devastation of the Second World War in England: the air raids, shelters, bombings, death and destruction. In 1947, General Orsborn held meetings in Berlin. He saw the devastation that the war had brought to that city and was overwhelmed with emotion. Only two years earlier, these people were seen as the enemy, but now his heart was broken by their plight. 

He later wrote, “I cried to God to help me, in my own spirit and to let his Spirit work within us all, to bring us together, to bridge what seemed to be, in all reason, an impassable gulf between our respective conditions of living … God revealed to me that not only that day, but always, we have no hope of being a blessing to other souls unless our lives become a part of the Saviour’s sacramental consecration.” Before he left Berlin, he began to write the song My Life Must Be Christ’s Broken Bread (SASB 610). This song is the loving expression of sacramental living in service to others. 

General Orsborn’s revelation occurred 70 years ago, and we are still called to sacramental service. In this series, we have been reflecting on living sacramentally in light of themes from the Gospel of John. Here, we consider what it means to bear witness to the life-transforming gospel embodied by Jesus. One biblical example of a witness is Mary Magdalene (see John 20). She encountered the risen Lord and was the first to share that message with others. 

In John’s Gospel, three people went to the empty tomb and had three different reactions. Mary arrived at the tomb early in the morning. She discovered that the stone had been rolled away from the entrance. Mary knew that something was wrong and ran to tell the disciples (Peter and John, the beloved disciple). At that time, Mary did not believe that anything supernatural had occurred. 

Peter and the disciple Jesus loved ran to the tomb and examined the rolled-away stone and the strips of linen, and then returned to the place they were staying. The Bible records, “They still did not understand from Scripture that Jesus had to rise from the dead” (John 20:9). The evidence of the empty tomb did not lead to a full understanding of the Resurrection. 

In John’s Gospel, we are presented with three different reactions to the empty tomb. Information about the tomb or about Jesus does not change a person. What is important in John’s Gospel is not information, but an encounter. 

As the biblical account continues to unfold, we are again with Mary Magdalene outside the tomb, and she is crying. Mary first encounters the angels, and she repeats the story she has told the disciples. “They have taken my Lord away, and I don’t know where they have put him” (John 20:13). 

Mary next encounters Jesus and, at first, does not recognize him. She believes that Jesus must be the gardener. It is when Jesus calls her by name that Mary finally recognizes him. Mary has a personal encounter, and she believes. 

After Mary responds, Jesus commissions her to go and be a witness. She went to the disciples with the news, “I have seen the Lord!” and tells them what Jesus had said: “I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God” (John 20:17). The good news is that we are also called to be part of the life-giving, abundantly loving family of God. 

In Simply Good News, N.T. Wright states we are called not to give good advice, but good news: “The good news of Jesus is there not only to remind us of it but to transform us with it so that we, in turn, may become transformative people.” 

By living sacramentally through the power of the Spirit, we display the transformative love and new life that we have in Jesus. By doing this, we offer an opportunity for others to have a similar life-changing, grace-filled encounter. 

For General Orsborn, it was living sacramentally on behalf of the war-torn people of Berlin. For us, it is living sacramentally for our families and neighbours, for refugees, the poor and those who feel discarded and unloved. It is more than helping them; it is witnessing to them of the life-giving relationship that can be found in Jesus. 

With Mary, let us all say out loud, by our sacramental lives, “We have seen the Lord.” 

This is the final article in a five-part series on sacramental living. 

Part 1: An Encounter With Jesus

Part 2: Light in the Darkness

Part 3: Called to Abide

Part 4: Becoming a Living Mercy Seat

Major Steven Cameron is the corps officer at Yorkminster Citadel in Toronto. 

Photo: Pearl/ 

This story is from:

Leave a Comment