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Sunday, April 22, 2012

You Are Witnesses

Christians are given both good news and a call to action as witnesses to Christ’s resurrection when Jesus appears to his disciples (and to us.)

Vicar Erik Doughty, Third Sunday of Easter, year B; text: Luke 24:36b-48

Last week I preached good news from the Gospel according to John for doubters (among others); and I spoke of faithful community where the crucified and risen Christ chooses to appear for our sake.  This week we have good news and a call to action from the Gospel according to Luke, all in the six words, “You are witnesses of these things.”

Good news, because – well – Christ is risen!  Immediately prior to today’s text, the risen Christ has just showed up to dispirited disciples on the road to Emmaus, becoming known as the risen Lord in the breaking of the bread.  Those disciples run back to Jerusalem to their friends and even as they are still bearing witness to the Risen Christ, that same Risen Christ appears.  “Got anything to eat?” he says.  And he eats a piece of broiled fish.  Having had a little nosh, he explains about his suffering, death, and resurrection, and assigns them the role of martyr – legal witness – regarding all this.

We get that same assignment, and a call to action, as those who have listened in on that conversation with the disciples.  “You are witnesses,” Jesus says.  To what things?  Well – “You knew me as a fellow human being; you know I have been in your shoes, shared your struggles.  You saw me learn and grow; you have seen me discern my vocation.  You saw me die, abandoned completely; you know I have suffered the worst humanity can do.  You have seen me as resurrected Lord, and know God’s love bears his children through death into eternal life.

You know death is defeated, that you may live your daily lives in hope, not fear.  You know of the resurrection of the body; that your matter MATTERS to God.  You know your Lord always shows up among disciples gathered; no one is left alone.

You are witnesses of these things.  Your own knowledge, your own faith, your personal salvation is a small but important part of Christ’s work.  So in your own daily life you are called to bear witness to Jesus, crucified and risen.

You are witnesses of these things.  You are to know and you are to remember and you are to get out of this safe gathering of like-minded disciples, go out of this upper room above the undercroft, and SHOW and LIVE  and TELL the good news revealed to you in Jesus.  Good news is not only for you; what you have heard and seen is for sharing.

Now, I realize bearing witness about resurrection and life is not simple.  It can be a real challenge to be witnesses!

David Sedaris, in his book Me Talk Pretty One Day, talks about learning the French language.  One day in class a fellow student who is Muslim asks what Easter is, so the French teacher has the students try to explain – in French:

“The Poles led the charge to the best of their ability.  ‘It is,’ said one,  ‘a party for the little boy of God who call his self Jesus and . . .’ She faltered and her fellow countryman came to her aid.
‘He call his self Jesus and then he die one day on two . . . morsels of . . . lumber.’
The rest of the class jumped in, offering bits of information that would have given the Pope an aneurysm.
‘he die one day and then he go above of my head to live with your father.’
‘he weared of himself the long hair and after he die the first day he come back here for to say hello to the peoples.’
‘he nice the Jesus.’
‘he make the good things, and on the Easter we be sad because somebody makes him dead today.’ ”
    – David Sedaris, Me Talk Pretty One Day

Students are different from disciples, but we all, like Sedaris’ fellow students of French, sometimes struggle to find language to convey they mystery of faith.  No words will express faith or resurrection completely.  No one person’s life, either (aside from Jesus’s life) will bear full witness.  We will never be perfect witnesses because faith is a gift and a mystery.  Even so, Even so, Christ hands us responsibility to bear witness with our language and with our lives – our individual and communal lives – that Christ is risen.  Despite the challenge, you and I are witnesses of these things.

I don’t have answers for you at this moment about how exactly we should be witnesses here at Mount Olive; and in fact that is appropriate.  Figuring out how this congregation may bear witness at the corner of Chicago and 31st to Christ’s resurrection is the sort of thing a congregation and its leadership thinks about in a visioning process, and it’s the sort of thing that the directors we elect today at our congregational meeting will strive to consider and express in their work with us.

But that does not let the rest of us off the hook from speaking and living witness to the resurrection when as we go home to our various neighborhoods and suburbs, in whatever life holds for us.  Who knows how God will show forth resurrection through you?

Brothers and sisters, we have gathered here because the Holy Spirit has called us all to this place together.  We have gathered here because it is good to be together and to worship God together.  We have gathered together because justice, comforting those who mourn, feeding the hungry, figuring out together what God is calling us to – in short, standing in the light of Jesus Christ’s resurrection  – which someone’s life and words witnessed to US – is what gives us life and hope.  Christ’s defeat of death means that we may live!  That is amazing and wonderful stuff!  That has to affect our lives from the molecules to the legislature.
“Now,” Christ says, “Go out of here, out of this room, go live fearless, justice-embodying, God-loves-everyone, Christ-is-risen lives.”  It’s fantastic, so share it!  You are witnesses of these things!

Christ is risen!  Alleluia.

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