“Are You a Witness?”
24:36 While they were talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” 37 They were startled and terrified, and thought that they were seeing a ghost. 38 He said to them, “Why are you frightened, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? 39 Look at my hands and my feet; see that it is I myself. Touch me and see; for a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” 40 And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. 41 While in their joy they were disbelieving and still wondering, he said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?” 42 They gave him a piece of broiled fish, 43 and he took it and ate in their presence. 44 Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you—that everything written about me in the law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms must be fulfilled.” 45 Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures, 46 and he said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, 47 and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things.
Grace and Peace to you from our Lord and Savior, Jesus who is the Christ. Amen
Do you remember the television show Archie Bunker? There was an episode where Archie saw a mugging in an ally. His son-in-law whom he called meat head, urged Archie to be a witness when the case when to court.
He said: "Do you know what you gotta go through if your are a witness? I’m a working man. I don’t get paid if I show up absent. To go to court, you gotta put on a shirt and tie, drag yourself downtown and hang around till the case comes up. You forget what you was gonna say, and the other lawyer can make a monkey outta you."
Witnessing can be a terrifying event. Witnessing in court. Witnessing for your faith. Witnessing, telling about the life and work of Jesus Christ can be a terrifying thing.
Jesus in our gospel lesson tells the disciples that they are witnesses to all the thing concerning Jesus.
The scripture says: “Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, 47 and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things.”
The disciples were told they were witnesses to all these things. They were witnesses to Jesus suffering on the cross, the resurrection, the repentance and forgiveness of sins should be preached in Jesus name. As the disciples are witnesses to these things so are we as modern day disciples.
I would like to look at just aspect of this forgiveness of sins. Forgiveness of sins should be preached in Jesus name. At the beginning of our worship service, we have the confession of sins. We confess our sins and then in the name of Jesus, I pronounce your sins are forgiven. We speak about repenting, or turning away from our sins as we accept this forgiveness from Jesus.
Forgiveness and repenting are difficult things to understand. Sometimes we are more interested in the sins of others than in our own sins.
This story tells of that condition;
"An old man walked daily through his village wearing a patched and tattered coat of many colors. A visitor to the village stopped and asked, "Why do you parade through the streets wearing such a garment? What does it mean?"
The old man replied, "Each colored patch represents the sins of my neighbors. I don’t want them to forget them.
Then the visitor asked, ’What is the white patch between your should blades?’
Reluctantly the old man answered,’That is my own sin. I put it where I cannot see it."
Repentance and forgiveness in Christ means that I am more concerned about my own sin than my neighbors. Remember the conversation Jesus had about the log and the eye.
It says in Matthew 7, “3 Why do you see the speck in your neighbor’s eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye? 4 Or how can you say to your neighbor, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ while the log is in your own eye? 5 You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your neighbor’s eye”.
We should be more concerned about our own sins, our own repenting. We should look to Jesus about forgiving our sins.
Not only are we concerned about our own sins, but we must be concerned about the wrong or the harm we do to others. We must learn to seek forgiveness from others and we must be willing to forgive others their wrongs to me.
A story from an unknown author says this about forgiving:
"By: Author Unknown
A story tells that two friends were walking through the desert. In a specific point of the journey, they had an argument, and one friend slapped the other one in the face.
The one, who got slapped, was hurt, but without anything to say, he wrote in the sand: "TODAY, MY BEST FRIEND SLAPPED ME IN THE FACE".
They kept on walking, until they found an oasis, where they decided to take a bath. The one who got slapped and hurt started drowning, and the other friend saved him. When he recovered from the fright, he wrote on a stone: "TODAY MY BEST FRIEND SAVED MY LIFE".
The friend who saved and slapped his best friend, asked him, "Why, after I hurt you, you wrote in the sand, and now you write on a stone?"
The other friend, smiling, replied: "When a friend hurts us, we should write it down in the sand, where the winds of forgiveness get in charge of erasing it away, and when something great happens, we should engrave it in the stone of the memory of the heart, where no wind can erase it".
Learn to write in the sand."
Can we be writers in the sand?
Are you a witness for Jesus to acts of forgiveness? Can you forgive another as you have been forgiven by Christ?
As we receive forgiveness from Christ, then we are able to forgive those around us.
Repentance for us means that we are sorry for our sins and will try to do better. Sometimes we cannot. Other times we can be truly sorry for the sins we commit against another.
We need to be sand writers forgiving the hurts done to us. We need to be truly sorry.
"Two little boys were playing together one afternoon. They had not been playing long when the larger boy took advantage of his weaker playmate. Georgie, the smaller one, too proud to complain, withdrew some distance and sat by himself, manfully winking back the ready tears.
After a short time, the larger boy grew tired of his solitary play and called, "Say, Georgie, come back. I’m sorry."
Georgie, warned by previous experience, did not respond to the invitation at once.
"Yes," he replied cautiously, "but what kind of sorry? The kind so you won’t do it again?"
The kind so you won’t do it again? Isn’t that a good question for us to ponder. Are we sorry for our sins, sorry enough so we won’t do it again? Or are we sorry today and then tomorrow we do it again? Repentance means to turn away from our sins. Repentance means to be sorry that we won’t do it again.
We are to be witnesses to the forgiving power of Christ in our lives and in the lives of those around us.
A closing story speaks about the powerful effect of forgiveness.
"A.J. Cronin, a doctor turned novelist tells this true story. An American family named Adams, had 2 teen-age daughters and a 6 year old son, Sammy. When WWII came, the family decided to take in a orphan boy from Italy named Paul Piotrostanalsi. They did everything possible to comfort this pale, spindly-legged, frightened refugee, but the boy responded quite negatively and showed no sign of gratitude to the family except Sammy. He adored Sammy, the two were always together. Paul went swimming against orders in river which was contaminated and came down with a septic infection that nearly killed him. The doctor wanted Paul isolated from the rest of the family, so they made a bedroom for him in the attic. Paul was far too contagious to see any one, except the doctor and a nurse who wore special clothing.
One morning the father had found the nurse had fallen asleep outside the attic door. He opened it and found Paul was not there. He ran to Sammy’s room and found Paul sleeping in bed with Sammy, his arms thrown over the boy’s shoulder and he was breathing on his neck. Sammy was much younger than Paul and had not been the strongest little boy. Though everything was done for him, poor Sammy never had a chance; he died.
When Dr. Cronin visited the family a year later, he was amazed to see Mr. Adams working in the garden with a small boy. It was none other than the little refugee!! Overcome by a sense of bitter injustice, Cronin exclaimed, "All I can say...he’s lucky, this Paul Piotro...whatever his wretched name is!!"
Mr. Adams put his arm around the boy’s shoulder and said with a quiet half-ashamed smile, "You’ll have no more trouble with his last name. He's Paul Adams now. You see, we’ve adopted him."
The Adam’s family were truly sand writers.
Can you be one too?
Let us pray:
Father, your love for us surpasses all our hopes and desires. Forgive our failings, keep us in your peace and lead us in the way of salvation. We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
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The Bible texts of the Old Testament, Epistle and Gospel lessons are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Church of Christ in the USA, and used by permission. Sermon contributed by Rev Tim Zingale, St. Olaf Lutheran Church, Fort Dodge, Iowa on April 24, 2006.
Do you know what you gotta go through if your are a witness?