Where Were You When…?

Me with Mom and Dad

The 50th anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy has captured our attention this week.

“Where were you when you heard JFK was shot?”

I was alive, but I had just celebrated my first birthday.

I have no first-hand memory of hearing the news. My memory comes from the collective memory of documentaries and the stories of others who remember where they were.

But through that collective memory, I can still be moved by the news.

This week’s coverage has brought me to tears on more than one occasion.

I’ve been fascinated by the CBS News live stream of original coverage of the events surrounding JFK’s assassination.

It is elegant in its simplicity, its straightforward fact-telling, its respectfulness.

There is no flashy “Breaking News” theme music, no slick graphics, no ticker of factoids running across the bottom of the screen.

Just basic information that calmly informs us about what has happened, what is happening, and what we know.

No commercial cut-aways. No regular programming. No heated debates and finger-pointing.

In the first hours of coverage, anchors would switch out just by standing up, moving to the side and allowing the person relieving them to take the seat with the microphone.  Live. On camera.

No theatre.

Just the facts.

Facts are powerful.

Especially those delivered by eyewitnesses.

On the 50th anniversary of JFK’s death, during my devotional time, I read the report of some other eyewitnesses.

“Whether it is right in God’s sight to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge; for we cannot keep from speaking about what we have seen and heard.” Acts 4:19

As I read this, a variation of the “where were you when…” question came to mind.

“Were you there, when…?”

No. I was not.

In answer to the hymn, I was not “there, when they crucified my Lord…”

But through the collective memory of scripture and eyewitness accounts, I can still be moved by the Good News.

And I don’t need flashy “Jesus Saves” theme music, slick graphics, or a ticker of factoids running across the bottom of the screen.

Just basic information that calmly informs me about what has happened, what is happening, and what is known.

No heated debates and finger-pointing.

The story itself is elegant in its simplicity, its straightforward fact-telling, its respectfulness.

It challenges me to tell my own eyewitness accounts.

It reminds me that I am an eyewitness to God’s unending goodness and his continued creative and redemptive work in this world.

My witness can communicate an elegant, simple truth to others, even if they were not there and did not see or experience first-hand what I have seen and experienced.

They can still be moved by the news.

And that experience can become their story to tell.

“Jesus said to him, ‘Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.’” John 20:29

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