Be My Witnesses!

This sermon was presented at Resurrection on April 26, 2009, the Third Sunday of Easter, by Pastor Jim Kniseley.  The gospel text is Luke 24:3b-48.  Infant Aidan Alexander Tennstedt was baptized at 8:15 and infant twins Alanna Grace and Christopher John Orzechowski were baptized at 11:15.

 

Dear Friends in Christ,

 

Pastor Carol and I had a relaxing week of vacation and last Sunday morning we had the rare opportunity to worship in another congregation in Fredericksburg.  We selected the United Methodist Church in downtown Fredericksburg and worshipped at the 9:45 contemporary service in their new multi-purpose building.  We wanted to see if we could get some good ideas for how to incorporate overhead screens and bulletins, and how newcomers like ourselves would be treated.  We purposefully did not tell anyone we were pastors.  We had a very positive experience.  The associate pastor read the same gospel lesson as you heard and her sermon was on Doubting Thomas and how he came to belief and Jesus’ charge to all the disciples to go and tell everyone the good news of Jesus’ resurrection.

 

We maintained our anonymity pretty well, just introducing ourselves as Jim and Carol.  We thought we had gotten away with it pretty well until we came out of church and a police car stopped in front of us and the officer got out and came up to us.  “Hello Pastor Jim and Pastor Carol!”  It was Tom Evans, Jr., and our cover was blown.  At least he can testify to what pastors do on their Sundays off…

 

It’s intriguing to me that in the Year of Mark, when all of our gospel lessons are supposed to be drawn from that gospel, that our reading last week was from John and today’s reading is from Luke.  Do you know why?  The gospel of Mark in its original form stops on Easter morning, outside the tomb.  The angel announces that Jesus is risen, and the account ends with the women fleeing, afraid, and telling  no one.

 

Well, we along with Christians for the past 2,000 years want to hear more of the story and thankfully the other gospels give us the stories of people who encountered the risen Christ before he ascended to heaven. 

 

Let’s set the stage for today’s gospel account.  It is still Easter Sunday.  The women had been convinced by the angel that Jesus had risen.  The disciples were not convinced.  That afternoon two of the disciples were walking on the road to Emmaus and were joined by Jesus (whom they did not recognize until they stopped and had a meal together and they recognized him in the breaking of bread).  They rushed back to tell the other disciples what had happened, and this is where today’s account picks up.

 

Jesus simply is there.  And he says to them these very familiar words, “Peace be with you.”  It’s “shalom” in Hebrew.  It is a very meaningful and long-standing way to greet another person of the faith.  It means “may God’s be in you, guide you and keep you.”  We do it every Sunday here at Resurrection in our worship.  I just pray that when we have the sharing of the peace that none of us will miss the importance of actually using Jesus’ words.  It’s not “how are you?” or “good to see you” or “glad you are here.”  That’s nice and wordly and impersonal.  “Peace be with you” is about the nicest greeting one Christian can give to another.

 

This gospel account reflects the world we encounter today, especially about the truth of the resurrection.  Did you note that the disciples came to belief slowly?  Jesus asks them, “Why do doubts arise in your hearts?”  Jesus knew it was difficult for them.  Notice too that he is not chastising them for their doubts, but pointing out he knows they have them.  One day when I was 12 years old and in confirmation class,  the pastor asked a question of us all, “How many of you have ever doubted that God exists?”  Not one hand out of the 33 of us went up.  I will always remember how firmly he said this: “Then you haven’t thought about it!  Don’t ever be afraid to question and even doubt.  For your wrestling is part of your path to belief!”

 

Jesus showed them his hands and his feet and Luke continues, “And they still did not believe it because of their joy and amazement.”  And then Jesus called for some fish and he ate with them and then he did something very important.  He had a Bible Study with them, opening the scriptures to show them where it was written that the Christ must suffer and be killed and then rise again.  And that repentance and forgiveness should be preached throughout the world. 

 

Do you know that every Sunday in our liturgy we are given this same charge?  At the very end of the service, the pastor says something like, “Go in peace.  Share the good news.”  And you and I go from this place into the world to fulfill the command of Jesus to be his witnesses.

 

(8:15 service)  Today at this service we are reminded again of the importance of passing on the faith to the next generation.  Jason and Katie Tennstedt are here for the baptism of their son, Aidan Alexander.  Even before he can understand, they are bringing him here to God’s house and in the presence of this community, to enter into this covenant relationship.  The baptismal napkin that will be presented today has a wonderful story.  It has a symbol of Resurrection on it, lovingly crocheted by Mary Grace Niemi.  Mary Grace reminded us that it has been her privilege to crotchet 55 such napkins since she and Paul joined Resurrection in 2006.

 

(11:15  service)  Today at this service we are reminded again of the importance of passing on the faith to the next generation.  Andrew and Rachael Orzechowski are here for the baptism of their twin infants, Alanna Grace and Christopher John.  Even before Alanna and Christopher can understand, they are brought here to God’s house, and in the presence of this community, to enter into this covenant relationship.  The baptismal napkins that will be presented today have a wonderful story.  It has a symbol of Resurrection it, lovingly crocheted by Mary Grace Niemi.  When Mary Grace found out that you were pregnant with twins, she went ahead and made these. Mary Grace and Paul remember when their own twins were born (and I’ll bet they have lots of advice).  Mary Grace reminded us that it has been her privilege to crotchet 55 baptismal napkins since she and Paul joined Resurrection in 2006.

 

Our hope and prayer today is that you parents, you sponsors, and we as the community of faith will take seriously our charge to be his witnesses, and in the case of these little ones to raise them in the faith, passing on to them the stories of faith, and telling them through our words and actions how much we believe and trust that all that Jesus promises is true.

 

Amen.