Sermon for Easter 3 ~
April 19, 2015
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.
Witness of 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.
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!
not talking about being a motivational speaker, a preacher or a debater. You
are witnesses, he says. That’s all, witnesses.
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.
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,
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.
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:
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.
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.
Where will your story take you in the days to come? How is faith involved in
your concluding chapter?
to Rev. Ron Bjorgan for identifying these 4 elements)
we share our whole story with someone, or maybe just a small piece. Either way
we are a witness.
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.
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.
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
witnesses because we are God’s own people. Like the first disciples, we are
not perfect. But we are witnesses.
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.
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.