Pastor's Sermons

Sermon for Easter 3 ~ April 19, 2015

Luke 24:36b-48

Last week at the pastors study conference, we spent a few of the sessions telling our stories, and stories of congregations.  We could tell them because we were there.  One friend told the story of being 36 years sober … how AA led him to the church and how that changed his life.  He was there.  I told about some of the marvellous things that you are doing as a congregation.  I know.  I was there.  Another pastor told me about how we first met at Luther Village family camp in Ontario.  We were sitting side by side in our tank tops and the kids were pointing and laughing and  calling us the “hairy brothers.”  I forgot, but he reminded because he was there.

 

The Witness of Luke

 

Luke tells us the story from disciples who were there. Every time we hear the Gospel we get a little piece of a witness statement.  Each account is coloured by how the person felt, what was noticed and what they were trying to say.

 

So Luke tells us that Jesus appeared among the disciples.  They had different reactions: some were uncertain, others speechless, some awe-struck.  I guess some of them even forgot a few things. But Jesus says as he meets them in their gathering, I told you I would be back.  It’s me and I’m hungry… got anything to eat? I told you this was the way it would be.  Now you are witnesses.  What a story you have!

 

He is not talking about being a motivational speaker, a preacher or a debater.  You are witnesses, he says.  That’s all, witnesses.

 

We are witnesses all the time.  We talk of things we know, watch or follow:  sports, headlines, recipes that worked, fabrics we like, cars we prefer, wines that are the best.  We are witnesses.

 

On Tuesdays, a whole team of people are outside beautifying the property as a witness to the wonder of God’s creation.  At the Tuesday Bible study, members share pieces of their stories in response to a topic.  The Wednesday reading group folks often say, “I identify with this author because…,” and then tell a story.  Friday quilters sew together messages of warmth that tell of the caring of God’s people.  The Men’s breakfast group witnesses to facts of history, personal experience and world events in broad discussions.  Witnesses, witnesses everywhere.

 

A witness shares a story from a personal point of view.  No judgments.  No grades.  It’s just a witness.  And someone else receives the news one way or another.  The roots of the old English term “Gospel” means the good story or good news.  It’s as simple as that.

 

Witnesses

 

Sharing our lives and our stories; what Jesus did all the time, is how we grow and build community.  These stories: the witness of your lives, often have four elements.  They are:

 

   A Beginning.  What do your opening pages hold?  Where did your story start? What characters played a part in setting the stage for your life?  Maybe baptism or a Christian upbringing is part of your story, or maybe not.

   Obstacles.  What difficulties have you faced?  Where were the twists and turns in your story? Did you have a dark night of the soul?

   Hope.  Who or what gives you hope?  Where did your story take a turn for the better?  Maybe God’s care came into focus in some way.

   A Future. Where will your story take you in the days to come?  How is faith involved in your concluding chapter?

                                                (thanks to Rev. Ron Bjorgan for identifying these 4 elements)

 

Sometimes we share our whole story with someone, or maybe just a small piece.  Either way we are a witness.

 

Bishop Greg tells the story of his optimism for the church, of God’s people slowly opening themselves to new ways of doing and seeing things.  He talks and jokes and laughs with the pastors because he feels support. He sees change and he trusts that the Lord cares for the church, will not let us go, and keeps saying, “follow me” as we move into an ever changing future.

 

When it comes to our faith, a witness is not pushy or demanding.  It’s the telling of how we sense God in life.  Because Jesus calls us “his witnesses” our lives point to his love, his presence, or his promises.  A witness is a story from a personal point of view.  No judgments.  No grades.  Just a witness.

 

When we get up and come to church — it’s a witness.  When we sing, when we pray, when we tell someone that God cares, when we help, when we give, when we make time — it’s a witness.  When we leave here and go home to our week affected by the love of Christ; when we are kind to the stranger, the clerk, the waitress — it’s a witness.  When we whisper a prayer at a meal, when we tell someone we go to Hope Lutheran Church, when we extend an invitation — it’s a witness.  When we show respect for the elderly, treasure a friendship, welcome a stranger —  it’s a witness.  Because without Jesus, we wouldn’t be who we are.   — That’s the witness.

 

You Are Witnesses

 

We are witnesses because we are God’s own people.  Like the first disciples, we are not perfect. But we are witnesses.

 

Every so often we have new members join our church, or new people visit.  They have stories too.  I have heard some of those stories.  So can you.  They are often a witness to God’s gentle presence in life.  A witness encourages, inspires, and raises us up to a new perspective.

 

We gather like those disciples did, and Jesus says: You are my witnesses with your stories and with your lives.  You tell them.  You tell them in so many ways… that I am here.

 

He is Risen. 

 

Amen.

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