Witnessing Something Changes You: Sermon for the 2nd week of Easter
Witnessing Something Changes You
† I.H.S. †
May the grace, mercy and peace of God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ change you, as you witness and bear witness to His Love. Amen!
As people, we remember critical times in our lives. For some can remember where they were on December 7, 1941, or for some others, November 22, 1963. For my generation, it was where we were when the Challenger, blew up, and all of us are marked by the date 9-11. Others have dates that are more personal, our birthdays and anniversaries, for my parents, April Fool’s Day, 1965 was pretty important as well. It was the day where they picked up an infant from and adopted him.
We remember those days, because what we witness those days changed us. IN some cases, like the birth and wedding for the better. Other days, like 9-11 change us forever, bringing us anxiety and re-calling exactly where we were, a memory we share with others who witnessed the same event, even if they were halfway around the world.
I imagine Thomas had one of those experiences, on a day, like this, just a week after the resurrection. The day that changed everything in his life, that took him from mourning into great joy, and awe, and a feeling of being overwhelmed.
We see that in the life of all the apostles in the first few chapters of Acts, as they go from men cowering in fear, to men who are willing to be jailed and beaten, to suffer and even die, because of what they witnessed,
Because when you witness something, good or bad, stunning or traumatic, it changes you….
And God promises to change us, because of what the apostles witnessed, and bore witness too. When that is revealed to us, it will change us, in the same way.
Change? I don’t need change
With all the anxiety regarding change, I think most of us don’t see the need for change. More precisely, we don’t want to see the need for change. We are willing to settle for life this way; we grow content in it.
Change might shake it up! We might lose the things we count on; we might be asked to make a sacrifice, or have some habit and sin removed from our lives. We might have to give up that resentment, or that pain that we hang on to, that gives us an identity. Change means giving up the sin that traps us, especially the sins that have such a hold on us that we try to justify, the sins that appease our insecurity, that help us avoid our anxiety, that put the blame on others. That gives us the illusion of safety, of security, and instead of choosing God’s comfort, we simply choose to be comfortable.
There is a big difference there, between being comfortable and being comforted. Being comfortable with life, often means we are comfortable in our sin.
After this week, I will take being comforted anytime, for the presence of God that brings us that comfort, that peace, a true refuge in time of troubles, that is what Thomas experienced, that is what Peter and the other apostles experienced.
A comfort that lets you get up and start moving again, sure that you are walking with God, who is in charge, who does love you.
I don’t see a change?
If we don’t see a need for change, that is a problem. It is likewise a problem when we see the change that God is making in your life. Sometimes it seems slow, ponderously slow. We wonder if God has made changes in our life if He is living up to His promises.
There are days it seems like nothing changes, we still live in the midst of trauma, many still live with their lives confused and challenged by finances or our relationships. We still might have days where we wonder where God is, and why things aren’t perfect.
Why don’t we have the faith of Peter and John, and the rest of the apostles? Why aren’t we like the giants of the faith? I mean how many of us would have the faith to continue to live our life of faith, when under great pressure?
Would you go back to the temple – to teach those who wanted to know more about God?
As a church, I’ve to see you do that, maybe not under the pressure of jail, but facing great discomfort, and caring for each other, and with those who came to mourn. We’ve gone back to the same pain, so many of us have felt, because others were there, needing the peace that we knew.
We’ve changed, we don’t hesitate, we run to that battle, even as the apostles ran to the temple. Because people need us, because people who go through this life without knowing God’s life, don’t even know what it means to be able to trust God, to depend upon His faithfulness. Everything gets set aside, to help other’s know Christ’s peace.
As I watched people caring for each other on Tuesday, I saw this. But so did a lot of our guests,
It is no less remarkable than the apostles escaping the jail and finding themselves in the courtyard of the Temple – sharing the blessing of Jesus to those who would hear, and be amazed.
So is the Holy Spirit!
So how does this happen, this transformation, this change that happens in believers? The very last verses tell us and gives us the hope of such a change continue to happen in our lives.
I say continue, because the change is occurring, or perhaps, we are becoming more comfortable with God in our midst that it is easier to see. Verse 30.
The God of our ancestors raised Jesus from the dead after you killed him by hanging him on a cross. 31 Then God put him in the place of honor at his right hand as Prince and Savior. He did this so the people of Israel would repent of their sins and be forgiven. 32 We are witnesses of these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, who is given by God to those who obey him.”
God, the Father allows Jesus to die, He raises Jesus from the dead, and Jesus ascends to the Father, and to a place of honor and glory for one reason, so that we, the people who wrestle with God, (for that is what Israel means) will become repentant, that we would be changed, and made holy as He forgives us.
This work of God is something we talked about last week, on Thursday when Chris shared, and on Good Friday as Bernie and I shared, and on Easter Sunday. It sustained us on Tuesday, and others on Thursday, Friday and yesterday as some of us gathered with Mark and Susan.
This death and resurrection of Jesus, to pay for our sins, to call us back to God we know is true, we have witnessed its effect. But so has the Holy Spirit witnessed it, for it is this truth that the Holy Spirit joins us to Christ’s death and resurrection in our baptism, and we walk given it, each and every day.
As we become more aware of it, as we look to Jesus, as we are aware that, Alleluia! He is Risen!…. and therefore….
And what that means, what the Holy Spirit is confirming in us, is that The Lord is with you!
And that changes everything, even as it did when Thomas cried out, My Lord and My God!… AMEN!