May 19, 2012

You Are My Wtnesses

(Teaching notes for Ascension, 2009 revised 2012, by Rev. John Gishler)

The Ascension of Jesus marks the end of Jesus visible ministry on Earth until His coming again in the End Times. There is a lot of interesting speculation in some churches as to whether or not we are currently entering this End Time. This speculation can be a distraction unless it motivates us to re-focus on the work that Jesus gave to us as our Baptismal ministry. The Readings tell us our ministry is to proclaim repentance and forgiveness in Jesus name to all nations. (Luke 24.47)

  1. Will you proclaim the good news of God in Christ?
    1. This is one of the questions you were asked at Baptism
    2. The Readings (Acts 1.1-11; Ephesians 1.15-23 and Luke 24.44-53) define this as the mission of every Christian
    3. No exceptions for when this will offend people or result in your following Jesus to a painful death
    4. Many people have compromised on this and taught political correctness instead – this is abandonment of ministry
    5. The consequence is many churches are divided and have lost their way and their spiritual authority
    6. They are not “…clothed with power from on high…”( Lk1.49)
    7. This power from on high is the Holy Spirit – the Teacher
    8. Paul prays for the Ephesians to be given the “Spirit of Wisdom and revelation, so you may know Him better” (1.17)
    9. We may need to repent, be more obedient and wait till we have this power before we can be effective witnesses

  1. A witness has special knowledge
The Readings tell us that “… Jesus opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures.” (Luke 24.45)
    1. The Disciples were all devout Jews who knew the Scriptures
    2. Could not see the pattern of God reaching out in love
    3. Could not see how important each person was to God
    4. Could not understand that God wanted a love relationship
    5. Could not see the problem as the holiness of God the problem of human sin as a barrier to that relationship
    6. Could not see the need for a personal savior to remove guilt
    7.  Could not grasp the possibility of God providing a sacrifice that would pay for the sins of the whole world – to big
    8. Like us their idea of God’s love was too small
    9. Our minds have trouble understanding the idea that Jesus could really die for the sins of the whole world.
    10. We have trouble believing that God could love us that much.
    11. We have trouble believing that God could forgive us.
    12. We have trouble accepting forgiveness from God.
    13. The witnesses Jesus is commissioning, are the ones who now understand these things and          believe them.
    14. This is what they ‘know’. This is what they are to witness to help other people whenever they can.

  1.  A witness has an obligation to share. In the readings Jesus commissions all His followers to be             witness to all nations starting in Jerusalem. (Luke 24.47)
  1. Are witnesses because they have experienced God’s love
  2. This love is so great they cannot keep it to themselves – have to tell
  3. Have unique new information – Good News of forgiveness and ESL
  4. Have a love and loyalty oblation to share with all humanity
  5. The idea of sharing the Good News of repentance and forgiveness in Jesus name with other nations would have been completely new.
  6. Book of Acts describes the fierce opposition from some of the leaders of the Jewish Synagogues
  7. Persecution and death for Christians was normal until 315
  8. In our time Christians are regularly killed in some Moslem counties
  9. One young girl at Columbine High School was given an opportunity to deny Christ and live – she refused and was shot – proof of evil
  10. In our time many Christians feel discriminated against and unable to oppose criticism by atheists and secular humanists
  11. In fact our culture now gives greater importance to the secular value of inclusiveness than the Christian value of holiness – lie of our time
  12. This week the Roman Catholic Bishops urged more engagement
  13. We all need to reflect on how we are engaging / witnessing

  1. Jesus said ‘you are my witnesses’
It is an awesome responsibility – not to be undertaken lightly (as we say in Marriage). If we really know God’s love, then we are compelled by love to overcome obstacles and be a witness. If we are not sure, we have an obligation to read our Bibles and pray until we have an experience of the Holy Spirit. This is what gives us the ‘power from on high’ to be a witness. We witness by:
    1. Who we are as a sign of God’s love and forgiveness (story of Carol searching for her ministry of doing vs being a witness)
    2. What we do with our time and money – our priorities
    3. What we say by our actions and words – the little things

The takeaway - Being a witness is not an option – the challenge is to be a good witness in a difficult environment.

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